Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting Unstuck: Stretching Out of Our Comfort Zones - Plenary Talk by Marjorie Rosenberg

28th March 2015, Saturday morning, Marjorie Rosenberg kicked off the 22nd International Annual Convention of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace ‘Back to Basics’ with her plenary talk ‘Getting Unstuck’.

She started by asking the simple question: how many of the attendees feel stuck or have felt stuck in their daily routine as teachers. No matter whether some of us are new in the profession or have decades of experience, there are times that we feel that we are coming to a dead-end and nothing seems to get us going.

She went on to list eight distinct categories where teachers can stretch out from their comfort zones and explore areas that would be a possible way forward by looking at answers from colleagues around the globe.

I. Using new methods – using TPR with adults: the results may surprise you. Giving students the responsibility for revision rather than distributing a pre-planned schedule. Using unplugged teaching (teaching through conversation, no technology, no coursebook, student-driven). Using riddles from literature to help students write.

II. New subjects – Getting new groups with different needs and interests and addressing different topics derived from the students.

III. New Technology – Using Prezi, MentorMob, Vocaroo helps teachers create ‘learning playslists’. Bitstrips lets you design cartoons, very inspiring with young learners. A wiki can be an especially helpful tool with university students.

IV. Continual Professional Development – Search for new ways to develop yourself professionally. Take on new certificate courses and earn diplomas. Use social media websites, blogs, read methodology books and attend webinars and conferences. Learn another language; this will help you see from students’ aspect how knowledge can be acquired.

V. Stretching out of your learning style – Implementing activities contradictory to your own learning style, i.e. doing more kinesthetic activities although you are a visual learner.

VI. Colleagues – Having colleagues observe your classes and vice versa to give each other feedback. Having business breakfast and coffee meetings for teachers.

VII. PLN – Set up networks of professionals and friends, i.e. Facebook, Twitter. Join Facebook and Twitter groups and exchange teaching ideas.

VIII. New area of ELT – Finally, there are numerous areas of ELT that allow teachers to stretch out of their personal comfort zone, get inspired and become motivated and implement new ideas into their teaching. For instance, they can use new technology and teach over Skype or Hangout applications. They could start blogging, writing supplementary materials, editing, becoming active in a teaching association and collaborating with colleagues. Technology can be used as a means to develop communities and run online courses. The options are endless.

To support her suggestions, Marjorie introduced us to specific ideas like eltchat, a Twitter-based chat where ELT topics are suggested, voted on and discussed. Eltpicshas a Flickr account where photos from teachers for teachers are uploaded. Teachers can download and use any picture from that account as long as the source is acknowledged. Disabled Access Friendly Campaign is a site where lesson plans by volunteers are collected and its aim is to raise awareness of mobility disabilities. Simple English Videos by Vicki Hollett focuses on language difficulties that learners often face and they are presented on short videos. Trying something new, a Facebook page started by Theodora Papapanagiotou where new ideas are exchanged.

Marjorie finished her plenary talk by showing us the TED Talk ‘Try something new for 30 days’ by Matt Cutts. He talks about how his life has changed by doing one new thing for a month. Teachers and, generally, anyone who feels stuck in their daily routines and hesitates to take a step further out of their comfort zones can find quite a few new ideas to get unstuck. Sometimes, it only takes one simple thing.

Marjorie’s plenary talk was most inspiring and motivating, informative and entertaining. She kept a full room of attendees electrified and made the best possible opening to our convention. We hope she will honour us again soon.

By Georgia Psarra

Photos by Margarita Kosior

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