I work as an English Language Teacher for a State Secondary School in Greece, West of Athens, teaching young teenagers. My postgraduate studies in Comparative Literature informed my interest in Creative Writing, Literature and the Arts. Seeking ways to apply my various interests, I try to introduce new materials, techniques and ideas in my teaching, evaluating, at the same time, my students’ responses towards them. This has been a highly rewarding, moving and inspiring experience which has contributed to my personal and professional development.
During the last four years, my focus has been on experimenting with Creative Writing techniques as a means of producing student-generated material and improving its quality and quantity. More recently, I have started exploring ways through which visual materials, as well as various forms of literary texts, can motivate students to develop Creative Writing skills; a research project that I now wish to conduct more systematically. Other areas I wish to explore in the future are the relationship between Creative Writing and Music, as well as Storytelling. I hope that my work will prove useful for ELT colleagues in my country and beyond.
Monique Simpson, USA
Talk: Zen Zone: Meditation in EFL classes
There are days, all one can do is sit and hope for a spark of inspiration to be the change that is sought in our society. My spark often comes via motivational videos on YouTube. The voices and images are unknown to me; yet the message is universal – within each of us, there is the power to be great and contribute something meaningful to society. It is with this inspiration that I returned to teaching abroad last year.
In August 2005, after graduating with a Masters in Professional Writing (Nonfiction), I left my beloved hometown, Los Angeles, to explore our world and write a great novel. For two years, I taught English to elementary and middle school students in the countryside of Japan with the JET Programme. Then, I taught adults and youth at the American Binational Center in Santiago, Chile. Finally, I instructed college students in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and South Korea. During those eight years, I worked diligently, yet I lacked a strong connection to teaching.
When the opportunity to teach at the new public university in Ecuador arrived, I knew I could use my teaching skills to participate in a social solution to a social problem. Yachay Tech is part of a revolutionary idea to move Ecuador from an economy based on agriculture and petroleum to a high-tech and knowledge-based economy. It is an ambitious goal that when achieved will create the “Silicon Valley of Latin America.” Thus, I viewed my work as helping Ecuadorians help themselves and improving our global community.
Unfortunately, while teaching advanced English, I noticed many Yachay students dreaded writing in English. As a writing enthusiast, I sought to make students more excited about expressing themselves on paper/computer screens. After reading an EFL article on meditation, I decided to research the effects of five-minute meditation on students’ writing anxiety. Presently, I am reviewing the data from the pilot research with the hope of implementing a proper research study in 2016.
In addition to research, I am creating a writing center in Ibarra, Ecuador. There is a strong need for better training in English writing. “Writing Made Simple” will feature one-on-one services, teacher training courses and teaching material.
I am happy I returned to teaching abroad. Ecuadorians have shown me that I am making a difference in their lives and their country. Now I know I am the change that I wanted to see.
International House Training & Development Scholarship
Mercedes Foligna, Argentina
Talk: Englishphobia among secondary school students: diagnosis, symptoms and treatment
Mercedes Foligna is a certified English teacher and holds a diploma in Educational Management. At Instituto Superior Palomar de Caseros in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she is responsible for the Teacher Training internship for secondary education. She has an interest in the issue ofaffective filteramong learners of English as a second language as well as in the development of strategies to improve the teaching of English at state-run schools.
At Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero she is in charge of general English courses and she also trains students for Cambridge ESOL exams. She has presented talks in Argentina related to teacher development, curricular design, films applied to ELT and affective filter.
Her talk discusses the problem of secondary students at state schools in Greater Buenos Aires who equate English to Grammar exercises, which leads them to suffer from "Englishphobia": lack of motivation and utter rejection of the language. This means that teacher trainees in their Practicum encounter a massive wall that separates them from their students. Her presentation therefore aims at sharing conventional and unconventional strategies to treat this condition.