Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate was like ELT groupie heaven. Unfortunately, I added loads to my collection of sightings but far fewer as actual encounters. If I had been presenting, I think, I’d have felt more like I could overcome my “EFL speck of dust” feeling and talk to them.
However, don’t expect this humbleness to last. Next year, when I actually manage to submit proposals on time, I fully expect THEM to be seeking me out 🙂
So, in no particular order…
I saw him talk at TESOL Spain but not at IATEFL. Here there were just a couple of fleeting sightings. Herbert does little to satisfy the ELT groupie as, even when you Tweet him and write a sincerely flattering blog post, he is too lofty to notice. I didn’t see his talk as it clashed with something else I wanted to go to, rather than because of a boycott. It was on remembering vocabulary while the TESOL talk had been on Critical Thinking. It seems Herbert has more of a range in his talks than the one suit and tie I have so far seen three time. It is clear the great man’s millions are not going to his tailor.
Two sightings but I wasn’t brave enough to introduce myself despite having some legitimate reason to. First he hosted the Extensive Reading Foundation Awards of which The Tomorrow Mirror is a finalist for next year’s awards so perhaps he might have liked to meet next year’s winner of the Elementary category. Actually, I have a 50/50 chance of winning seeing as I’m only up against one title, tricksily set in Japan where Readers are massive.
Anyway, Jeremy was a fantastic host. An acting background is immediately clear and you could tell he was enjoying himself.
The ERF Awards were a Jeremy Harmer experience of the Rolf’s Cartoon Time type but, I’m sad to say, the second sighting was more of the fish paste kind. (See below under Scott Thornbury).
For some reaso,n I am terribly intimidated by Scott Thornbury, no matter how many people tell me he’s a very nice guy. Even in the we’re-all-equally cool-just-by-virtue-of-being-on-the-ELTjam-guest-list, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him at the party.
I retain this intimidation despite the redundant session that I saw Scott and Jeremy do at IATEFL. It took the form of a dialogue rather than a debate since they both agree on the fundamental principle of ELT – how great they both are.
“So Scott, when was it you realised you were brilliant?”
“Well, Jeremy, about the same time you were discovering what a huge contribution you were making to ELT.”
Jim’s talk on Demand High sadly coincided with my mid afternoon energy slump and the auditorium’s soft lighting didn’t help. I really wanted to have paid more attention than I did to the Father Of EFL Teacher Training and the author of the only methodology book I’ve ever bought.
Another ELT celeb I was too shy to talk to when sitting behind him at Russ Mayne’s talk but the ELT jam party did lead to that introduction and now we’re friends on Facebook! Hugh’s hilarious talk on Twenty Things I Know was the second encounter and Hugh is the person I most think of as a Speaker. All the ELT celebrity speakers are very good at what they do but Hugh is the only one I would put up there in the category of people you might imagine hiring as an after dinner speaker outside of the EFL world.
Ken was the only auditorium speaker I saw that didn’t speak from the heights of the stage. Whether this is a result or cause of the way Ken comes across as caring on quite a personal level about the, mostly international, teachers in the audience, I’m not sure. He spends a lot of time touring countries giving talks so his slides are peppered with holiday snaps and selfies but he pulls it off without ego and a talk on Global Issues and Authenticity more or less justifies the indulgence.
Mostly known until now as @ebefl, Russ is now the New Wave of ELT Celebrity and his blog is one I’ve been enjoying since I started on Twitter. His talk about debunking pseudo science in EFL I later heard described as “paradigm changing” and was being talked about all over the place. Half an hour was nowhere near long enough to cover all the brilliant ideas he’s got on his blog, the only thing wrong with which is that it’s not on WordPress.
After all these solo artists, ELT Jam are the only trio – although, like Russ, they’re rising stars more than true ELT Celebrities. Until now the lead singer has mostly been Nick Robinson but for their talk on what edtech means for ELT, Tim Gifford and Laurie Harrison got in on the act too.
These guys have been blowing through the whole sector and scaring many of the establishment but I think their talk should have shown they’re on our side after all.