Thursday, 18 June 2015

Jeremy Harmer in Dublin

I have just come back from a fantastic talk by Jeremy Harmer. Essentially the talk was about the main changes in the ELT world since the publication of the first edition of The Practice of English Language Teaching in the early 1980s to today (when the book is in its fifth edition).

Some of the key changes he explored were the developments in technology (he interestingly, and to some dismay from sections of the audience, suggested the interactive whiteboard may go the way of the fax machine - for shameless link to my own post on whiteboards, please see here), the growing number of non-native teachers (he very passionately argued that the distinction is not a valid one - that a really good language teacher is a multi-lingual teacher, irrespective of nationality - lovely to see someone so esteemed arguing the case for equal footing for non-native English teachers; echoes a lot of Marek's work in this area) along with a discussion of the various approaches, ideologies and trends that have come along in the last thirty years.

The talk was held in the teacher's club in Dublin, a venue that has seen a lot of great talks over the years (doesn't seem to get as much use of late, unfortunately). After an epic day of correcting and spreadsheet wrangling, I found the talk uplifting and I have been trying to put my finger on why exactly that was. Yes, Jeremy Harmer is an excellent speaker and he covers a really wide range of very interesting topics. But I think there was more to it than that. I am not sure if it was an overt message, but it seemed to me that the purpose of the talk was to assert the value of the teacher - that despite the changes he outlined, the need for enthusiastic and passionate teachers remains.

For instance, he spent a huge chunk of the talk describing his observations of teachers from around the world, teachers who were motivating students and delivering well thought out, engaging lessons. And as a methodologist, he argued that it was his job to observe teachers like these and report back on the good practice he observes. So in essence, what I took from it was, that as teachers, we have so much to learn from observing (and talking to) each other. And it was this message that I found very, very uplifting.