“What’s wrong with him?” – A Matter of Type and Style! (summary)

April 8, 2014


The 3rd session I watched on the Harrogate Online website was delivered by Bita Rezaei, DoS at Hermes Institute of Science and Technology and CELTA Trainer at CELT Athens. Bita is based in Iran.

The title of her session got me thinking if she would talk about theories related to learning styles that we’ve all seen at some point in our careers (VAK, multiple intelligence, typology of learners, etc.). However, she started out by stating that her talk would be based on Carl Jung’s system of personality types, which was later extended upon by Isabella Myers-Briggs. Bita used Nietzsche’s quote to introduce the idea of different personality styles:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Bita then presented a hands-on activity for participants to evaluate their attitudes towards 2 situations:

  1. You are going out to a party with your partner. When you meet at his place to pick him up to the party, you notice he’s wearing something strange/inappropriate for the occasion. How would you react to that? Would you be direct or indirect?  
  2. Your friends are planning a picnic. Would you be in charge of everything and plan every small detail or leave something open for unexpected outcomes?

What caught my attention was that she went beyond learning styles observed in the classroom to broader preferences which are applied in HR departments and can be adapted or modified so as to develop professional skills. These attitudes are used by everyone, but one is usually preferred and better developed. As you take this personality test, you will get a 4-letter type formula which is based on these preferences: Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and iNtuition, Thinking and Feeling, Judging and Perceiving.  Click here to take the online test.

But how can this affect the way teachers plan lessons and select activities? Bita gave the example of a brainstorming activity. Your E students are usually those who have their hands up as soon as the activity starts while your I students tend to avoid answering at first and work out the solution before giving an answer. According to Bita, teachers should bear in mind that each of these preferences have their own strengths and weaknesses, which should be taken into account when selecting activities for a group of students. In the end, the key to all that remains in planning, balance and choice.

Click here to watch the full talk.

Do you work or just teach? Career Perspectives in EFL (summary)

April 8, 2014


The 2nd talk I watched online from the IATEFL Harrogate website was delivered by Rubens Heredia, a teacher trainer from Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. Rubens talked about career perspectives in EFL – what do do? where to go? and how to get there.

Rubens started out by mentioning that he majored in Law and accidentally became an English teacher. He faced many difficulties and little support at the beginning of his career on what he could do to develop as an English teacher.

His presentation was divided into 3 parts: The Land (market scenario for English teachers), The Destination (the different paths teachers might take) and The Route (how to get wherever you want to go).

The Market. According to Forbes, some of the most sought-after skills in the jobs market are: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, judgement and decision-making and active listening. Rubens agrees that these are also valid skills for English teachers. Institutions have been looking more for teachers who may need to learn technical skills, but have the right attitude.

The Destination. Rubens says that he had no idea what a teacher could do after his/her first years teaching. Some teachers get the feeling they are stuck doing the same thing, but there are different options available. In order to become a Teacher Trainer, for instance, you should possess extensive teaching experience, teaching qualification (at diploma level), commitment to learning and people skills. One of the biggest challenges you have as a teacher trainer is giving constructive feedback and having the knowledge to work with people. You could also get into writing or work with academic management. According to Rubens, and I strongly agree with this statement, people often forget that the skills we need as an academic manager are different from the skills we already possess as teachers. Interpersonal skills and conflict management are the most challenging skills for managers.

Rubens also mentioned that the fact that you’ve been a teacher for 20 years, doesn’t mean you’re “stuck as a teacher”. The problem is being a teacher who hasn’t developed in 20 years.

The Route. Rubens presented the KASA framework to exemplify what teachers should bear in mind when deciding where to go in their careers. There is a large variety of courses and teaching qualifications available face-to-face and online. However, apart from mainstream courses, teachers can also take part in in-house courses, SIGs, ELT events, conferences, read methodology books and do self-reflection. According to Rubens, other important skills include: adaptability to change, flexibility, clear goals and time management, independence and self-direction.

He concluded by saying that “You have to take responsibility for your own development instead of solely relying on the institution you work for.”

Watch Rubens Heredia’s full talk HERE and download the slides from his session.


Frames for Teaching Teachers (summary)

April 8, 2014


The IATEFL Conference 2014 ended last Saturday in Harrogate, UK. There were over 2,000 teachers from all different parts of the world sharing and learning for five days. April 1st was dedicated to the Pre-Conference Events and the regular programme started on April 2nd. I had the chance of attending the IATEFL Conference last year in Liverpool for the first time as a participant and speaker. If you haven’t been to an IATEFL, start saving for the next one which will be in Manchester, April 2015.

This is my second year as an IATEFL registered blogger, which means I am responsible for posting summaries of some of the talks I watched online. So, if you didn’t attend the conference this year, you can watch some of the sessions, interviews and plenaries on the Harrogate Online website.

One of the talks I watched was delivered by Gabriel Diaz Maggioli, Director of the MA Tesol of The New School in New York. The idea for his talk Frames for Teaching Teachers came out of a talk with a colleague in another conference. They wanted to create a framework that would allow trainers to do teacher training without necessarily having to focus on a certain topic.

Gabriel says that frames help us tackle 3 kinds of teacher knowledge: knowing about, knowing how and knowing to. The last one is about knowing when to do what, a very important characteristic for trainers to pass on to trainees. According to Gabriel, when we become trainers, we have to unpack all this knowledge we’ve acquired throughout the years. And the way we develop the ‘knowing to’ is through reflective practice.

The audience had the chance of doing a hands-on activity based on one of the 20 frameworks he created and presented on a worksheet. Frameworks should involve 4 conditions: reflective learning, community building, higher order thinking and they should be experience based. Gabriel also mentioned 3 types of reflective learning: reflection in action, reflection on action and reflection for action. He defines reflection for action as a commitment to doing something which was learned from relflection.

The aim of teacher training should be for trainees to construct and create and not only to reproduce the content of a TT course. The frames presented at this session were used with trainees with no teaching experience who then became novice teachers. Click HERE to watch the full talk. His slides can also be downloaded from this link.


Possible changes for a possible future (year 3)

October 15, 2013

For the third year in a row on Teacher’s Day in Brazil, I try to post something inspiring for teachers who sometimes struggle with all the difficulties inherent in our career. This year, I decided to post a video which is truly inspiring and which goes beyond approaches and techniques for the classroom, instead, it talks about human connections and relationships.

Cultura Inglesa Madalena Teachers at ACINNE Conference.

Cultura Inglesa Madalena Teachers at ACINNE Conference.

I’ve just spent three days in a conference for English teachers in my hometown, Recife. I was inspired by other teachers who shared their knowledge and classroom experience with other teachers. I was also pleased to see that so many teachers, including teachers from Cultura Inglesa Madalena, where I work, decided to spend a long holiday listening and learning with other teachers.

The video below is from a TED talk given by an educator who has been working for over 40 years. Rita Pierson has spent her entire life in or around the classroom, having followed both her parents and grandparents into a career as an educator. For Rita, everyone has been affected by a teacher or an adult in their lives.

She suggests that “teachers should first seek to understand as opposed to being understood.” And then she gives the example of her mother who was an educator all her life and left a legacy of connections and relationships that could never disappear.

“Teachers become great actors and we come to work when we don’t feel like it, but we teach anyway. We teach anyway because that’s what we do.”

I believe teaching is all about relationships and truly connecting with learners. It is difficult to see education happening when this bond doesn’t work or there is a gap to fill or a bridge to cross. One of the main roles of educators is to bridge this gap and reach learners who, due to external factors, are left aside in the learning process.

As Rita concludes: “Teaching and learning should bring joy. Is this job tough? You bet ya. But it’s not impossible. We can do this, we’re educators. We were born to make a difference.”


Can Leaving It All Behind Be The Start Of An Incredible New Career? [Guest Post]

August 26, 2013

As you are reading this blog you are obviously already interested in teaching English as a foreign language and presumably therefore in seeing the world through teaching. Sadly though, whilst many people dream of taking the leap, a lot of them never do.

Before I “discovered” TEFL I had a normal job, working in an office. I was an IT guy, and I never really disliked my job, but it certainly wasn’t my calling in life. I think that’s probably true for a lot of people though isn’t it?

Photo by Robert Oakden

Chiang Mai by Robert Oakden

What’s Life For?

Not having your job is actually a dangerous thing because it gives you less reason to take a leap, and to really change your world for the better you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Fortunately, eventually I lost interest in the whole “real job” thing and I started to question what I really wanted to do with my life.

I knew that I wanted to travel – the world is just too beautiful not to want to see it all. So I took a breath, handed in my notice and took my wife away for a year we would never forget.

First stop: Thailand, Asia… After that, who knows?

Life Planning

So my wife and I went on our travels. At this point we were just relying on savings – we didn’t have any plans for when we got back, but sometimes you just have to suspend planning and focus on right now.

We enjoyed the travelling immensely and we did our best to get involved in the culture. We picked up volunteer work every now and then too.

Discovering Teaching

So where did TEFL teaching come into it? Well quite simply; 6 months into our trip and we knew that we didn’t want to come home and settle back into “regular life”… not just yet anyway.

A bit of research later and becoming TEFL teachers became the obvious choice
So we found an online TEFL course and trained remotely

TEFL As A Career

Getting your first job can be pretty daunting, but we had one big advantage because we were already in Asia – which meant we could actually go and meet the teachers and see the schools. We based ourselves in Kuala Lumpur (we had found our way down to Malaysia by this point) and after a lot of searching we found a great school to work at.

TEFL is a great way to see the world because you can literally take your career anywhere you like. We used to think of it as a way to spend a year or two travelling, but the reality is that you can actually make a career out of it.

My wife is now training to be a regular Teacher, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle down. In a year or two the plan is to go and live in Europe for a year and do some more teaching – and after that, who knows?

What I have realised as a result of our travels is that whilst working as a TEFL teacher may not ever lead to an executive career, it gives you the opportunity to do something amazing, and when you do eventually decide to settle back down, there are always teaching opportunities back at home.

 beach view in ko lantaAbout Me

My name is Robert Oakden, I am a traveller and world citizen. I have worked as a TEFL teacher, freelance tutor and writer. I now work for ICAL TEFL, who provide online TEFL courses. And I will almost certainly be jetting off somewhere amazing in the near future!