Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘International House’

The IH whistle-stop tour (IH TOC 7)

One of the things which most annoys me when talking to people about International House (IH) is the assumption that it is a franchise. A franchise is an organisation where every branch is pretty much the same regardless of where you are in the world (think McDonald’s or Starbucks). IH is actually an affiliate network: schools have to fulfil certain criteria to be allowed to use the IH brand and to get the benefits of being part of the network, as well as paying an affiliation fee, but they are free to do this in any way they choose, resulting in an incredibly diverse group of schools.

Where are we? IH

Click on the map to find out all the places which have IH schools

I’ve worked for IH since 2008, and in that time I’ve been privileged to see many of the schools in the network, particularly over the last year. I decided to share a little of the diversity of the schools I’ve visited in my presentation for the May 2015 IH Teachers’ Online Conference (IH TOC 7).

You can see my slides below, and here’s a link to the recording.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be adding IH Barcelona to my list of schools in July 2015, and I hope that I’ll get the chance to visit or work at many more IH schools in my career.

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IH Teachers’ Online Conference (TOC) 7

IH TOC 7 banner

The dates: Friday 8th and Saturday 9th May 2015.

The place: the internet.

The event: the 7th IH Teachers’ Online Conference.

On Friday, a series of 10-minute presentations, including one by yours truly taking you on a tour of IH schools

On Saturday, sessions dedicated to teaching languages other than English, including French, Spanish, Russian and German.

Here’s the full programme, including information on how to join the sessions, and the timetable (with a tab at the bottom to change from Friday to Saturday’s session).

There will be recordings of all of the sessions available after the event.

And if you can’t wait, why not watch a few of the presentations from previous incarnations of the conference: IHTOC60 (for the 60th anniversary of IH) and IH TOC6.

Five ways to raise your professional profile (IH TOC6)

For those who don’t know IH TOC is the regular International House Teacher’s Online Conference. This time round the conference has returned to the successful 10-minute presentation format of IHTOC60, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of IH.

My presentation offered advice on how to raise your professional profile. You can watch the video below:

Feel free to ask me questions about any of the ideas, or to ask for more advice. I’m always happy to help! You can also watch all of the other talks.

IHTOC May 2014 Raising your professional profile Sandy Millin

My first DoS conference

Every January International House organises a conference for Directors of Studies (DoS) from across the IH network. I’d heard about it, followed the tweet stream and watched videos from previous conferences, but this year, I finally got the chance to go, and it was worth the wait!

The conference took place from 9th-11th January 2014 at Devonport House, Greenwich, London, a beautiful venue right next to Greenwich Park. It was a flying visit to London, so the only photo I managed to take in the area was of the ship in a bottle outside, so you’ll have to take my word about the location.

Ship in a bottle - Greenwich ParkThe conference was kicked off by Lucy Horsefield and Monica Green talking about how to show students their progress. There was a lot of discussion of different ideas from DoSes around the world. One area I’d like to think more about is how to help general English students to see their progress, as I often feel we neglect them somewhat in favour of young learners and business students, where we have to be accountable to the people paying for the course, or exam students who are working towards a clearly defined goal. What do you do at your schools for these students?

Chris Ozog did a session about ‘Teacher Development and the DoS’ which I talked about for the IH World YouTube channel. (Sorry for mispronouncing your surname Chris!)

Other speakers from the first day included Peter Medgyes on native and non-native speaker teachers, Nick Kiley entertaining us with anecdotes and lessons about management from his experience of being managed, and the team from ELT Teacher2Writer introducing their training courses and their database of teachers interested in doing writing work, which I’ve now signed up for.

Jane Harding da Rosa finished off the day with a great talk on fostering learner autonomy. I particularly liked her emphasis on demonstrating the tasks you want students to do in their own time by dedicating class time to them. We can’t expect students to take responsibility for their own learning if they don’t know how to do it. She also drew a couple of neurons and showed how everything a student does in English strengthens the connection between them, by drawing a line, then another on top, then another on top, until there was a very thick line linking the two. Simple, but very effective (and better when you see it than when you read about it!) – definitely one I’ll be using with my classes.

Day two was reserved for guest speakers. Hugh Dellar told us twenty things he’d learnt in twenty years of teaching, which was very entertaining, and fed nicely into Andrew Walkley’s session of later in the day. This was the one which I think I took the most away from. Andrew discussed  language-focussed teacher development, and how we should emphasise language awareness more in our teacher training. He showed us examples of language awareness tasks like ranking words in order of their frequency, and writing example sentences with language we might teach. The latter was particularly interesting; for example, ‘beard’ is much more likely to be used in a sentence like ‘Have you seen that guy with the beard?’ than ‘He has a beard’, and yet we’re much more likely to teach the second sentence. Andrew pointed out that when we think quickly we tend to come up with the easiest possible example (‘He has a beard’) because it’s easily accessible. If we focus on language and examples during our planning, we’re more likely to give students chunks and sentences which they will actually need and encounter. He advocated a change in emphasis in both teacher training and school culture in general, from activities and grammar towards language. One point which particularly resonated with me was that in (preparation for) observations we tend to focus on procedure rather than the language which we expect students might produce, or which we could introduce to them. This related back to Hugh’s recent blog posts about exploiting lexical self-study material (part one, two, three). It is important to remind ourselves that ultimately we are language teachers, and language should be at the heart of what we do, something which we often forget in our quest to find the ‘best’ activities or adopt the ‘most suitable’ methodology. They have inspired me to try and find out more about the lexical approach, and to try and incorporate more language awareness into our fledgling teacher training at IH Sevastopol.

Patsy M. Lightbown, Maureen McGarvey and Fiona Dunlop also gave sessions on day two. I realised I really need to read ‘How Languages are Learned’ (no idea how I got through Delta without it!)

The IH World Quiz Night finished off the second day, and was a great example of how a conference social event should be run (thanks Shaun, Nick and Mike!). I was on a team with representatives from IH Bristol, IH Manchester, IH Newcastle, IH Brno, and IH World, and I really enjoyed it, even though we didn’t win.

On day three, Robin Walker gave us a three-hour workshop on priorities and practice for teaching pronunciation, the slides for which are available on his blog. It was an interesting comparison of the differing pronunciation requirements for students who are going to be speaking mostly to natives, and mostly to non-natives. It also links nicely to the ideas of English as a Lingua Franca and the ELFpron blog of Katy Davies and Laura Patsko, who was sitting next to me during the workshop.

The final afternoon of the conference was ‘speed dating’, a very entertaining, highly-paced event, full of great ideas. It involved about 22 presenters, divided into three sessions of 7-8 presenters each, giving 10-minute presentations five or six times over the course of an hour. My presentation, about online professional development, is available on my blog. Here is the video I recorded to introduce it (YouTube could have chosen a better still for it!):

The whole conference was a very enjoyable experience, but as always with conferences, the best thing about it was being able to connect with passionate teachers from around the world, like Chris Ozog, Kylie Malinowska and Laura Patsko in the photo below.

Sandy, Chris, Kylie and LauraRoll on 2015!

 

A brief introduction to online professional development (IH DoS conference 2014)

I’ve just returned from my first International House Director of Studies conference, which I will hopefully write about later this week.

I did a ten-minute session as part of a ‘speed-dating’ format, where I presented the same idea five or six times – I lost count! Here are my slides, along with the associated links, with a commentary aimed at Directors of Studies, but which will hopefully be useful to anyone who reads it.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Terrell

This is Shelly Terrell, one of the most prolific sharers of content online. Her blog is Teacher Reboot Camp, where she has a lot of information about using technology in class, along with other areas of teaching, as well as the 30 Goals Challenge. She also does webinars every Friday for the American TESOL institute. I chose this picture to start my presentation because it sums up why I love online CPD – great people, a caring community, and lots of ideas.

Twitter

This is where my online professional development started. I like Twitter because it’s completely open – you can follow anyone, anyone can follow you. Although I use it less now than I used to, I still look at it briefly every day, and use it a lot during conferences.

A tweet is 140 characters, the same length as a text message. Here’s an example:

Tweet

‘@’ introduces someone’s Twitter name (or ‘handle’). When it is blue, you can click on it and choose to follow that person or organisation, so that you can read what they are writing about. In this example @KatySDavies and @BCseminars are clickable.

‘#’ introduces a topic on Twitter (or ‘hashtag’). You can click on it to read everything people are saying about that topic. This example includes the hashtag #eltchat, which is one of the most popular hashtags for the English teaching community.

ELTchat tweet stream

ELTchat summaries index word cloud

Every Wednesday, at 12pm and 9pm UK time a one-hour conversation takes place using the #eltchat hashtag. The topic for each chat is announced beforehand, and anyone can join in simply by including the hashtag in their tweets. At the end of the chat, one participant summarises the conversation and turns it into a blogpost. The blogposts are collected in the #eltchat summaries index, one of the most useful resources on the web. #eltchat started in October 2010, and previous chats have covered an incredibly wide range of topics. Some chats that might be particularly relevant for Directors of Studies include:

For a more in-depth introduction to using Twitter, take a look at my beginner’s guide.

Facebook

There are a lot of pages on facebook which are aimed at English teachers. Some are location-specific (e.g. Czech Republic, Turkey), some are by authors (e.g. Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley) and others are by publishers (e.g. Richmond ELT).

As far as I’m concerned, the most useful page is Teaching English – British Council, which has nearly 1.5 million likes as I write this. Ann Foreman, who runs it, posts a whole range of links, starts discussions, and shares ideas. It’s a thriving community.

Teaching English British Council

For many teachers, facebook is probably the easiest way of accessing online professional development, as if you already use facebook, it’s a simple matter of clicking ‘like’ on a couple of pages.

Blogs

Since I started blogging about three years ago, I have changed dramatically as a teacher. While a lot of this is due to the fact I started using social media professionally at the same time and have now done my Delta, blogging has made me more reflective, and forced me to up my game in terms of the materials I produce, knowing they will be used by other people.

There are a huge range of English teaching blogs out there. You can find some of the ones I follow in my blogroll on the right of this page. I also have a Blog Starter List – if you think you should be on there, let me know!

Feedly blogs

To keep track of the blogs I follow I use a ‘reader’ called Feedly. It’s available online and as a free app. There are many readers out there, and this is just one example. You put the addresses of the blogs you follow into the reader, and it then becomes a one-stop shop, by automatically including all new posts from those blogs, meaning you don’t get a full email inbox, and you don’t have to remember to look at each blog individually on the off-chance there’s a new post. The image above shows you my list of posts to be read at the moment.

Two blogs which are particularly good for Directors of Studies are Be The DOS by Josh Round at St. George International, and The Secret DOS, which is incredibly funny, particularly his post about timetabling.

Webinars

A webinar is an online seminar, normally videoed, which you watch from the comfort of your own home. A lot of organisations provide webinars, including OUP, Cambridge, Macmillan, Pearson and British Council. My favourite ones so far were the 10-minute webinars at the International House 60th anniversary online conference. Click on the picture below to see them all.

IH TOC 60 webinars

 

There are now webinars on an incredibly wide range of different topics, so if you have one or two teachers who need input on a particularly topic, but not enough to warrant a full CPD session, you could refer them to a webinar, which you can then discuss with them afterwards. If you want to find a webinar on a particular topic, use the #eltchat hashtag on Twitter or one of the facebook pages mentioned above to ask people to point you in the right direction.

Questions

The most important thing about social media is how supportive the ELT community is. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!

Why I love working for International House

60 years of IHInternational House (IH) is 60 years old. It was started in Cordoba in 1953, by John and Brita Haycraft, and has since grown to encompass 156 schools in 52 countries at the time of writing. John Haycraft’s biography, Adventures of a Language Traveller, which I’ve just finished reading, is a fascinating insight into where the whole organisation came from and how it grew in its first few decades.

I’m in my sixth year with IH. I spent three years in Brno, Czech Republic, 2 in Newcastle, UK, and am now in Sevastopol, Ukraine. I also did three summer schools in the UK for the same school, although it changed from IH to Kaplan while I worked for them. During my time with the organisation I have been given a huge amount of opportunities, which I don’t believe would have been available to me in quite the same way anywhere else:

Training

  • Support with learning to teach young learners and teens, right from day one of my first summer school, the week after I graduated from university;
  • Post-CELTA training seminars throughout my first year at IH Brno, building on everything we’d covered during the initial CELTA course;
  • The chance to do IH certificates in teaching Business English and Young Learners, as well as the Certificate in Advanced Methodology, through IH Brno;
  • Access to online teacher training via the IH Online Teacher Training Institute, in the form of the IH Certificate in Online Tutoring, as well as a short course on dogme;
  • Financial and moral support to do my Delta, through IH Newcastle.

Presentations and conferences

  • The opportunity to attend, and later to present at, local conferences in Brno and nearby cities, giving me the conference bug;
  • The time to attend conferences in France and in the UK (thanks IH Newcastle!);
  • Regular online conferences and webinars, which I’ve also been able to present at. As I write this, the 60th anniversary conference is taking place;
  • The International House John Haycraft Classroom Exploration scholarship, which gave me the chance to attend IATEFL for the first time – although it didn’t have to go to someone connected to IH, the support of the organisation for potential IATEFL attendees is hugely important.

Building my career

  • Shaun Wilden inspected IH Brno as part of maintaining IH standards, and during a throwaway comment, mentioned the community of teachers on Twitter – a sentence which changed my life!
  • Progressing within the same organisation has helped me go from teacher to Director of Studies (my current position) at the pace I wanted, via other responsibilities on the way;
  • Being given the opportunity to write a column for the IH Journal.

And the rest…

  • Feeling part of a huge, but incredibly friendly and supportive organisation;
  • The chance to move to different countries through the IH transfer system;
  • The focus on training and development which has shaped who I am as a teacher;
  • The high quality of teaching expected from all of us, pushing us to be better and to help our students to the best of our abilities;
  • The affiliation system which means that every school is unique and local, while at the same time meeting the strict IH standards which give you confidence as a teacher, and recourse to complain if you ever need to (which thankfully I haven’t!);
  • Being able to meet people from around the world, both fellow teachers, and particularly my students in Newcastle;
  • The chance to move to a completely new country, and feel welcomed there no matter what happens;
  • The influence of IH on the ELT world in general, from the creation of the CELTA, to the number of past and present IH teachers who have gone on to write coursebooks and materials, run schools, and do all kinds of amazing things. (Side note: When Brita Haycraft was presented with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement award at the British Council’s ELTons awards, Liz Soars asked members of the audience to put their hands up if they’d never had any dealings with IH – from an audience of about 400, nobody’s hand appeared!)

It’s been an amazing experience for me so far, and I’m very proud to be part of such a great organisation. I hope it’s a relationship which continues for many years yet 🙂

Happy 60th birthday International House!(Banners shamelessly stolen from the IH World facebook page)

 

International House Newcastle Personal Study Programme (IATEFL 2013 presentation)

My presentation for IATEFL Liverpool 2013 is an introduction to the Personal Study Programme (PSP) which we run at IH Newcastle. It was part of the Learner Autonomy SIG day.

If you couldn’t be there, or you want to relive it, here is a recorded version:

You can also read about PSP on the IH Newcastle website.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

Note: thank you to Amy Brown for helping me to put the presentation together.

Update:
A few bloggers have very kindly responded to my presentation. I will post the links here if you are interested. Please let me know if I have missed any:

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