The first year I went to IATEFL (Harrogate 2014) I went to as many talks and workshops as I could fit into a day then dashed backed to the B&B to write a whole pile of blogposts, 7 or 8 in total and I was only there two full days!
This year however it has taken me a while to gather my thoughts and I’ve chosen to write about themes that have come up, rather than workshop reviews. This is because so many ideas have overlapped, reminding me of Diane Freeman’s excellent plenary at TESOL France on fractals.
One of the first themes to develop from IATEFL 2017 was story telling.
As newsletter editor I am proud to be a (n acting) member of the IP & SEN SIG committee (online elections coming soon! – watch this space!) and was very excited to be part of our first ever SIG pre-conference event on Monday 3rd April. This day was filled with wonderful moments, but my highlight was Andrew Wright’s plenary. Andrew talked about his daughter, Alex.
Andrew said something that touched me to the core, this is what our SIG is all about:
“We can’t speak for everyone, we’re trying to help but all we can do is share stories”
For me this is what it is all about, describing his daughter Alex as “autistic” is about as useful as describing her as a brunette, or English, or a bookworm; a very thin start but completely one-faceted and superficial.
Andrew described story telling as “sharing experiences”, “creating and adding layers to relationships that are forming and reforming in the classroom”. This image reminded me of this:
During the trip to Glasgow I re-read Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, if you haven’t read it, do so now, fantastic – better than Harry Potter! If you have, then do you know there’s another book in the series coming out in October?! Anyway, my attention was caught by the moment Lyra persuades the harpies to show everyone how to get out of the land of the dead by telling them stories. To escape you have to lead a full and exciting life and then tell the harpies true stories – a brilliant life philosophy as far as I’m concerned!
Since my return I’ve started reading a book that Sarah Mercer recommended during her plenary called Better Conversations. Sarah’s plenary will probably get a post all of its own as I think she’s just fab! In the meantime this book has made me reflect on my conversations, not only with peers but with students of course. The Better Conversation beliefs are the following:
I see conversation partners as equals
I want to hear what others have to say
I believe people should have autonomy
I don’t judge others
Conversation should be back and forth
Conversation should be life-giving
That’s all sharing stories isn’t it?
Then of course there’s all the great people I met in Glasgow and the stories we shared.
I’ve always thought of telling stories as “doing the Gruffalo” with a primary class, but I’ve learnt that as a language teacher the most powerful thing we can do is enable our learners to tell their stories.