[writing commenced in mid-February]
I recently signed myself up for a TweetDeck account, which allows you to have multiple columns of Twitter chats open. I did this because I had been spending lots of time perusing what appeared to be a very active hashtag amongst the few English Language Teaching (ELT) teachers I started following on Twitter at the beginning of my foray into the CELTA, ELT and related ‘personal learning networks’ online (aka PLNs). This intriguing hashtag was #ELTchat, and is explained perfectly by Angelos Bollas on his excellent blog:
#ELTchat is a group of ELT professionals discussing topics of interest every Wednesday at 12pm or 9pm on rotation. Every Saturday, one of the moderators puts up a blog post on the #ELTchat Blog asking teachers who follow #ELTchat to propose some topics for the next chats. #ELTchat followers can go to that post and suggest topics in the comments under the blog post. On Sunday evening, the moderators review the topics and create an online poll. #ELTchat followers are then invited to vote on the topics until Wednesday morning (eltchat.org)
My first experience of ELTchat was in early February when I sat at my desk at work and spent an hour scrolling somewhat obsessively through all the comments being made about ‘Instructional Design.’ I didn’t really know what that meant when I first opened my Tweetdeck that lunchtime, but I thought I’d lurk in the chat and find out. For anyone interested, the summary of that chat is here, but it was quite a brief discussion because there was a general consensus that the topic was too broad, and without the presence of the original suggester (apparently a word, according to WordPress Spellcheck!) it was hard to know where to go with the afternoon’s topic.
Despite this first slightly anticlimactic chat, I was not deterred and was determined to participate in the next one, so I tragically bookmarked the alternating dates in my diary.
Around the same time, I was accepted into the ELTchat Facebook group, and was welcomed with open arms by Hada Litim (@HadaLitim), Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C) and Kim Alison Wegener. I wrote a little post to introduce myself to the group and was overwhelmed with their kind responses to my keen questions. Thank you very much, ladies! 🙂
Shortly afterward this ELT high, it was time for another ELT chat session on Twitter, and this time it was about getting the most out of observing other teachers. Now, I am not yet even CELTA-qualified, but I have taught English in a German grammar school for 6 months (more on that in my first post here) so have some vague experience of observations myself. I also worked quite closely with a ‘Referendarin’ during that time – a trainee teacher just on the brink of qualifying officially – so that was a good experience in terms of watching observations take place.
The official transcript of that chat is here, pulled together at rapid speed once more by Sue Annan (@SueAnnan) after the chat, and the much more more human-friendly summary is here on Anthony Ash’s brilliant blog (@Ashowski.)
Some of the people I am becoming to consider ‘ELTchat regulars’ were very active on the thread, and it was certainly a topic about which everyone had something to add. I learnt that peer feedback from other colleagues is one way to develop; recording yourself teaching (with everyone’s permission, of course) is an excellent way to self-assess, and that keeping a kind of diary of the feedback received from these activities is a great way to spot trends in your teaching. It was also interesting to note the vast differences between everyone’s experiences – of course, some are teaching in private language schools in more economically advanced countries with a longer history of ELT, whereas others will be teaching on a more less formal basis in countries for whom English language learning is far from the accepted norm. The extent to which observations and peer-to-peer review was ingrained into people’s teaching routines therefore varied hugely.
Going back to the topic of the chat itself though, I must admit that the ‘being observed’ element to the CELTA course is something I’m most worried about. I’m happy enough chatting away in normal conversation, as my friends and colleagues would attest, and I think my past language experience and recent pre-CELTA swotting should help me with any major linguistic issues, but I am not naturally a confident presenter, so that’s a skill I look forward to honing on the course. All tips welcome, of course!
But I digress, as per usual. I would like to end this already lengthy post by saying that, for newbie pre-trainees like myself, right up to teachers with a wealth of ELT experience on their CVs, the weekly #ELTchat has to be one of the best ways to develop both your learning network and your personal network of ELT contacts, so I really recommend participating when you get the chance. And never a friendlier bunch of online companions did you meet!
I look forward to the next one; perhaps I’ll even suggest a topic for the vote myself!