Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

2015 in review

I wasn’t planning to write a review of the year since I’ve not blogged as much, which was to be expected. I foresaw it at the end of last year even while pretending to set targets for myself for 2015 to do more. I half knew at the time that I was just coping with the imminent change in my life and feared loss of self from having a baby.

I’ve managed 28 posts this year but stats are only slightly down from 2014. But I’ve set up a weekly mail-out based on Simple Speaking (used to be called Reverse Reading) which gives a no-prep conversation lesson on a trending topic; had a book out; self-published a romance novel (then not promoted it properly so not seen much traction); written and self-published a book aimed at EFL students which has sold startlingly well as an MVP prior to being translated into Spanish where it will be much more useful; picked up an award for writing at IATEFL 2015; had some short fiction published (here and here) as well as some articles on pregnancy, motherhood (here and here) and ELT stuff for MET; written a CLIL teacher’s book and finished the student’s book; written a ten-part dramatic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland for BBC Learning English; spoken at IATEFL.

I’ve completely let lapse the lesson materials blog even though I still have old stuff that could go up. I’ve found it’s hard to give stuff away free to teachers for some reason and I have not cracked how to do it, though the weekly mail-out (sign up here) is a step towards solving that mystery. And I have not written any new fiction since 2013 which is a huge pity — to me personally, I guess not to many other people judging by sales!

Most of the heavy lifting in that first list was done pre-March and is a vague memory now. It wasn’t until I started a list I thought would end with “wrote a few blog posts and sold a couple of articles to magazines” that I realised how much I packed in this year. It’s all fairly irrelevant in terms of how I spend my day really, as what 2015 held for me has been the most cliché-beribboned event of them all.

A baby.reindeer

A super-cute, Spanish old lady enslaving, almost walking, ever-smiling, raspberry blowing spit monster that I miss if he even just takes a longer than average nap. I’ve had to turn work down, of course, and not actively sought any so it’s hard to gauge how much I’ve really lost. I have no idea how much damage that has done/will do though I can of course count the cost financially, but I suppose I will see in time. The one downside to freelancing is no maternity pay but I am very sure I am doing what I want and appreciating every precious unpaid minute of it.

But anyway, that IATEFL talk.

Russ’s review of 2015 showed just how different our perspectives on the talk are based on our experiences post-conference.

In what turned out to be a prophetic statement I wrote that IATEFL would be my ‘difficult second album’. I won’t dwell on this too much as enough has probably already been written, but I would just say that it continues to fascinate me how polarised the reaction was. I still meet people (and talked to a number afterwards) who really liked the talk, or found it interesting and if you watch the video many in the audience seemed to enjoy it. Others did not, and that’s fine. What’s interesting however, is the narrative that has developed that the talk was a complete disaster. I meet people nowadays who raise their eyebrows and suggest that ‘things didn’t go well this year, huh?’ but who were neither at the talk nor have seen it. ho-hum.

I have the same experience up to the point of the last two sentences. Very few people were actually there since IATEFL elected to give us a room with room for only 40 people, meaning people squeezed into any space they could find on the floor or were turned away at the door. But I too got the impression from the atmosphere, questions and from watching the video that it went well. And the post I wrote afterwards is my most viewed this year (though admittedly I have blogged less in the last 9 months because babies don’t take shorthand.) I have also heard from one woman who was at the talk and is slated to give a plenary in 2016 who considers our talk a direct factor in her selection. So, any narrative about it “not going well” has bypassed me. Why would that be?

Well, I am not out and about in TEFL land as much as Russ so maybe I am just not hearing it. Or maybe people are more scared to say it to my face than to Russ’s. I have other reasons to think some people are scared of me. After tweeting about ET Pro’s 100th edition’s cover featuring 4 men and no women (yes, the usual faces), 2 people who didn’t like that I was criticising the magazine wrote to Russ to complain.

Yes, they wrote to Russ. Not me. One man (yes, one of those usual faces) and one  woman. As if I speak for him or he speaks for me or is my Keeper! Good old gender bias at work in complaining about a tweet about gender bias — how meta! Or just because they were too scared to approach me directly? Not a good look, TEFL “names”, not a good look either way.

Another reason could be that, as Russ says, he was giving a “second album” whereas I was first time into IATEFL talks so had no standard for people to be compared to. If I had given a talk the year previously, it would have been about Graded Readers anyway so unlikely to have caused much in the way of attendance or disturbance and, so, an easy follow.

I wonder, though, what the criteria could be for assessing how well a talk went. Or is “things” referring to something other than  the talk itself? Which must mean that things “not going well” refers to the bleats of fear and anger from three offended, old, white men in positions of (some) influence and earning potential. That we upset them is of any significance whatsoever only proves my and Russ’s point in giving the talk. Why are these same voices running any narrative on anything? Because they shout loudest. Because they make personal attacks (online) and then deny it. Because men’s voices are all too often the loudest and longest heard. That’s a narrative that needs to change. Especially in ELT where women make up the majority.

And, no it’s not ageist (which has been the defensive “look at me! It is ME who is the injured party here!! tactic) to describe “old, white men” as “old, white men.” It’s a term that is used to signify that, the world over, these are the people that hold power. Just look at any political cabinet or the world’s richest list or most big corporate boards.

If the very group who need routing from their positions as influencers had their cages rattled, then GOOD. The only way in which I would say things had gone less well is that not enough people are angry enough about the mounting evidence that the world of EFL is as gender biased as any other. Until I hear from someone who is not some old, white man feeling threatened that there was something wrong with pointing out that the most known names in EFL (according to a study of 520 respondents) are the same old, white men as have been for the last 20 years, I’ll continue to think it went fine. And, another good thing, it has led to Russ and I setting up (unfinished but coming soon) a directory of Women Speakers in ELT. Hardly any bad thing. Unless you’ve something to lose of course … now who could that be?

I’m not in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions though I have already turned off Facebook notifications. Next year is a year for being angry. Tune in next post to see why …

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2015 by in New Year, Thoughts and tagged , , , .
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