Saturday, May 25, 2024

The staffroom agenda

IATEFL may try to keep the agenda on what happens in the classroom, but inside every plenary session there’s a staffroom issue, argues Melanie Butler

The plenary sessions at IATEFL set the agenda for the conference. A great plenary can set the agenda for the profession. Sylvana Richardson’s 2016 plenary on discrimination against non-native speaker teachers, for example put the issue firmly into the professional debate.

Richardson’s speech was an issue that clearly impacted the staffroom. So what are the staffroom issues which emerge some from this year’s plenaries.

We cornered Lindsay Clandsfield and we report his thoughts below .For the other speakers though the staffroom issues I have chosen to outline are the ones that strike me reading the abstract of their talk. They may well come up with others.

Paula Rebolledo, for example, is looking at Teacher Empowerment.

As she rightly says “the persistent calls for the empowerment of teachers demand a closer study of the process and a critical appraisal of its occurrence.”

Without wishing to pre-empt anything she may say on the issue, let us look one way in which teacher empowerment may impact on the staffroom: teachers working hours.

Total work time rather than total classroom contact time is a real problem in many education systems. In 2017 the England’s National Union of Teachers published guidelines about the number of hours can legally be expected to do.

Here is their breakdown of the average day: 4.6 contact hours, 2.1 hours other school work such as meetings and supervision, 1 hour time tabled preparation and planning. Outside school they work another 3.5 hours a day on average mostly on preparation and marking.

If you want to empower such teachers, you need to empower them to stop working so much.

John Gray, in his plenary on Queer Pedagogy points out that English language teaching materials, English language tests and many teacher education courses continue to reproduce and reinforce heteronormativity and this impacts on students who are gender and sexuality non-conforming. Undoubtedly true. But also true of Englishspeaking people of colour

In the staffroom of language schools, however there are more teachers from the LGBTQ community than from BAMER backgrounds The issues are intersectional but one os more strongly apparent in the staffroom.

One plenary speaker teachers specifically brings up staffroom concerns. In the abstract of her talk about intergrating content and language Aleksandra “you might be asking yourself: What is there for me, an EFL/ESL teacher?

She is right: many English teachers in countries adopting CLIL worry about this. Just as many subject teachers worry that they will have to learn English or lose their job.

Aleksandra is putting the staffroom on her agenda. She is a woman after my own heart.

Image courtesy of Iatefl
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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