Right now, we need to help each other as an ELT community. I don’t have much to give away, but one thing I do have is my book, Academic Reading Circles. This COVID-19 stuff bites and while we’ll get it under control soon I hope, ARC will be free. Anyone can have get it in a couple ways.

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I’ve also been sitting on what my 200th post would be about for many months and which would be meaningful in some sense. Yes, it’s a sort of milestone in my ELT universe and it has all occurred within exactly a decade since I began expanding my thoughts into this reality in 2010.

Then the numerous 10-year challenges have unsurprisingly popped-up on social media lately, comparing one’s younger to present self–a somewhat shallow reflection on one’s existence. But Sandy Millin and then Lizzie Pinard married this into a blogged reflection on themselves in the 2010s and so this reflection on the decade seems about as meaningful for me personally and professionally as something could be, so here goes. PS – It’s quite amazing how connected 2020 is with 2010. Read on.

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I’m very excited to have been asked to give a plenary talk at the upcoming World Teachers’ Day Web Conference on Saturday, October 5, hosted by IATEFL and British Council! This fantastic opportunity emerged in early August, when Shaun Wilden (IATEFL Digital Committee as one of the coorganisers) approached me via email to see if I were interested in talking about something along the lines of my This talk will make you gay (or your materials anyway) at #iatefl2019. Immediately I said yes.

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The invisibility of LGBTQIA2 (LGBT+Queer+Intersex+Asexual+2Spirited) themes within traditionally published ELT materials has been adequately highlighted through both popular and scholarly texts (see Thornbury 1999, Gray 2013, even me in 2012, to start), as well as a handful of past conference talks that have focused on our community. While some materials writers and publishers themselves recognise the desire for increased inclusivity and diversity, the self-imposed limitation of producing materials that appeal to the widest array of markets tends to create an ‘our hands are tied’ reaction to change. As a result, we can easily stagnate at problematisation. In lieu, many teachers themselves have created well-intentioned lessons that aim to be inclusive, but sometimes without being aware of or addressing potential problem areas in their methodology or content (see LGBTQ in debates). My talks at IATEFL2019 and BCTEAL19 aimed to move the discussion forward by first defining inclusive materials writing, then exemplifying two approaches to doing so appropriately: normalisation and disruption, terms I have not created, but adapted from Queer Pedagogy for an ELT materials-writing audience. In this post, I explain and share an example of an ELT LGBTQIA2 inclusive coursebook unit based on a normalisation approach.

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I’m not sure if you’ve seen activity that’s risen up from a few calls-to-action at the Innovate ELT 2019 conference in Barcelona or not, categorised as “ELT Footprint”. It’s largely a group of ELT professionals together, concerned about the climate crisis, who share ways in which the ELT profession/industry can have an impact (positively or negatively). So far, the organisers have put together a Facebook group and blog. The FB group is currently extremely active, so beware with notifications. In any case, someone asked what type of lessons others might use within the environment and sustainable realm of topics, so I whipped one together, which I’ve shared there, but will also post here for those not in the group.

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Not only since I’ve been doing talks about LGBTQIA2S community within ELT, but a lot since then, I’ve been asked about the possibility of there being a related teacher association endorsed/organised Special Interest Group (SIG), specifically in IATEFL. For simplicity sake (at least for this post, though there is an argument to be made for or against), I’ll refer to this as Queer SIG (QSIG).

The SIG purpose–not unlike all other SIGs in terms of the special interest itself–would be to have a self-selected grouping together of members interested in and practising queer pedagogies as well as providing a forum, collection of talks, etc., to discuss queer issues within the ELT environment, for example, the practical classroom space, institutional support, teacher training and ongoing development, and policy. As an endorsed official SIG from a teaching association, this usually involves membership money, volunteer hours towards organisation/protocol, and a variety of expectations on providing the above more concretely than say, an informal Facebook group would.

I’ll address a few considerations that come to mind for me here before drawing any conclusions and largely relate this to the IATEFL context as it is the teaching association I belong to.

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Hi. Over the last few years, a certain change has been occurring in my belief system, not so much a complete overhaul, but more of an awakening of my ownership of attitudes and actions regarding social issues, and resulting urge to further explore how they impact my pedagogical choices. 

As an ELTer, I’ve never subscribed to the idea that the ELT classroom should be devoid of engagement in social issues nor that we as teachers are meant to act solely as language-checking gurus following a sanitised beige syllabus.

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It’s been a little while without a post… I’m sorry to myself most of all because writing for 4CinELT merges two important practices for me: academic writing for a wider audience and reflective writing. I need both of these to keep going for my own growth and mental health, frankly. I’m slowly working on a post about my teacher talking time, another about the impact of connecting with learners over the course of a 24-week program, and finally a third regarding professional decisions that can significantly change identity.

Having said this, worthy things have diverted my attention and I’d like to share them because they contribute to these two practices in their own ways. Perhaps one will resonate.

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A holiday break for me tends to come with a mixture of unwinding from a demanding term, but also an opportunity to reflect on ELT issues over the past year that have come up. Some of these I’ve just pushed off because of lack of time or desire to bother getting involved in. Others I’ve partly joined a discussion but just gave up because of discourse involved (sometimes platform on which the discussion started). Still there are others that I’ve thought and written about fairly extensively, but begin to reevaluate my position on. These are some thoughts/questions swirling in my head:

  1. Is copyright when sharing resources with other teachers a primary concern?
  2. Do I read past the bold and dig into the content before I share?
  3. Should knowledge be completely open access for everyone?
  4. Do I adequately support those who fight for better conditions?
  5. How effectively do I encourage diversity and representation?
  6. Do I interact in discussion online appropriately and fairly?
  7. What are my new professional and personal goals?

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One grammar point that comes up again and again in academic writing class is the misuse and overuse of dependent clauses. My students commonly include sentence fragments, forget dependent words i.e. relative pronouns, or attempt overly complex sentences with clause upon clause upon clause. While at higher levels, they know grammatical principles on how to construct them, their application of these principles dissolve in their own writing.

I find it’s valuable to rediscover types of dependent clause construction (and deconstruction) among the class, but it’s also more meaningful when not appearing as its own lesson, but when it stems out of a broader purpose and set of materials. I prefer to break these up into smaller chunks and integrate them into something else I’m doing with the students.

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