The 2nd ELT Malta Conference (6-7th September 2013) Inspiring Teachers
An eventful and colourful weekend to say the least.
The conference room was abuzz with the chitchat of us teachers -no escaping the fact that we’re a talkative lot – exchanging ideas and engaging in acts of self-pity for working so hard this summer as we hustled to our seats. Teachers who love and live English, not just make a living out of it. There is this important distinction to be made. The latter were greedily wolfing down magniums and bronzing themselves at the beach, while we, at 7:30 in the morning – a bit too early to be doing so; but we’re self-confessed geeks – were rummaging through the ‘pile ’em high sell ’em cheap’ ELT books on display. Amazing what €5 can get you – a phrasal verb book, a book of business idioms. A few of us also had the cheek to haggle for a better price and ask for a receipt.
Then the action started and we threw ourselves into the action with gusto.
Our academic department and trainers had the privilege of attending plenaries by heavyweight TEFLERS, the likes of Jeremy Harmer (renowned for The Practice of English Language Teaching – a life saver if you’re doing your CELTA), John Hughes (author of several course books) and Adrian Underhill (author of the much acclaimed Sound Foundations). ’nuff said; they are to TEFL what Grisham and Baldacci are to the legal thriller genre. A snazzy powerpoint, a smooth talker with a biting sense of British humour, practical tips and ideas oozing forth from an expert and you have yourself an enthralled audience of teachers and teacher trainers. We’re not an easy lot to please and we’re not easily impressed or moved. Some of us are dinosaurs in the field, we’ve seen it all, pretty much heard it all. We’ve seen our hair line recede and our beard turn from white to yellow over the years of teaching. The ageing ladies among us have also come to boast a few unwanted hairs on their upper lip, the fruit of trying to teach the use of the present perfect vs past simple for far too long. It’s draining on the mind and and the body you know.
But we were genuinely impressed in no small measure.
I personally found Underhill’s plenary extremely interesting; I had always thought of pronunciation as the phantom of the EFL world, so bloody abstract and intangible. Why bother teaching pronunciation to English learners when there is so much grammar and vocabulary to cover? Just brush phonology aside and don’t dare mention it to students lest you open a can of worms. In Underhill’s own words, pronunciation is in fact the Cinderella of English language teaching, often bullied into oblivion by its two evil step sisters, old grumpy Ms.Grammar and the subtle yet equally conniving Ms. Vocabulary. The good news about it is that pronunciation can actually be taught in an audible and physical way – and Underhill showed us how we can do just that.
A truly refreshing two days. Continuous professional development as it should be for inlingua trainers.
You, our learners will also reap the benefits.
Donovan is a member of our academic dept.