Thursday, 23 February 2017

ELT Ireland Conference 2017

When I started teaching back in 2001, it seemed like there were tons of opportunities for CPD in Dublin. Every couple of weeks there'd be a talk at the Teacher's Club in Parnell Square, usually on a Friday evening so the discussion could spill over into a nearby pub. I saw talks by lots of the big names without realizing that they were big names, as well as talks by local teachers who were doing some really interesting things (Dee Doyle sticks in the memory). These talks would invariably be introduced by Jim Ferguson; whenever someone gets round to writing the history of ELT in Ireland, Jim will feature prominently and positively.

And then, I'm not sure when exactly, all that seemed to die down. Going to talks, mingling with colleagues from other schools, nabbing free books from publishers - you couldn't take that stuff for granted any more. I lost myself in exam preparation classes for years and when I looked back up the ELT landscape in Dublin seemed a bit barren, a bit fragmented. We were all still teaching, great things were still happening in classrooms but the sense of belonging to a wider teaching community wasn't there any more (at least, that's how it seemed to me at the time).

Skip forward to around 2013, I think. I was at a talk (they didn't stop altogether) and a stylishly dishevelled chap (I say that enviously as an aspiring, but ultimately failed, hipster) stood up to announce that he was part of a group that were starting an organisation for teachers called ELT Ireland. Not being the most prescient at the best of times, I shrugged and thought no more of it. That was about 3 years ago and since then ELT Ireland have gone on to do fabulous things for teachers here in Dublin, myself included.

Nabbed this photo from Laura O'Grady's Twitter feed. I'm sitting where the cool teachers sit.

Their first conference was two years ago. As well as having talks from established names, they gave a load of us teachers a chance to try our hand at presenting. In the past, I was often frustrated by talks that didn't seem to reflect the reality I teach in. Opening up a forum for teachers in Ireland means you might not get the sheen but the energy, the sense of a practitioner working through stuff and reflecting it back to us is powerful.

ELT Ireland also do an annual bulletin which is a chance for teachers to publish, they send out an email newsletter each week, run #ELTchinwag every two weeks and they host meet ups for managers. Their most recent conference was last week and covered a range of topics: non-native speaker discrimination; evidence based teaching; negotiated syllabi; CLIL; motivationtask based learning; managing your own CPD and teacher training; pronunciation (twice); questions; SEN; managing projects in a rolling enrolment environment as well as plenaries from Scott Thornbury, Silvana Richardson and Anne O'Keeffe. [Sorry there were tons of other great talks that I didn't get to see  - concurrent sessions :( .... If you like, you can check out the hashtag #ELTIrl2017 ]

If this all reads like a hagiography, that's because it is. There are about five or six people involved in ELT Ireland and they're volunteers. It's a ton of work and stress and they're not paid for any of it. Whatever madness possesses them to do this, I'm glad of it. ELT in Ireland is in a better place on account of them.

Peter Lahiff, Laura O'Grady, Lou McLaughlin, Joanne Mitten, Ben Dobbs

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