Mental Health and ELT

I am starting a conversation about mental health in English Language Teaching.  I am not sure if this has ever been discussed or debated widely within the industry.  In doing so, I am sharing some personal information about my experience of suffering from poor mental health at work. I do this in the hope that other teachers will open up, too, leading to more understanding and support for teachers as workers.  I have never known professional development or training within ELT deal with these kinds of issues. For many, a stigma still exists.  There is still a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance.  It is an ongoing challenge.

In the past, I have volunteered for the mental health charity, Norwich Mind, and am hoping to do something for them again in the near future. I was and still am intrinsically motivated. I also follow the Time To Change campaign which is foremost about ending discrimination, mostly in the workplace, against people who suffer with mental health issues.

I’ve always considered my own issues to be a personal thing, not one of institutional discrimination or workers’ rights. Nonetheless, to coincide with the national Time To Talk day, I’ve been interviewed by Paul Walsh for the Teachers as Workers Special Interest Group (TaWSIG). You can read the interview here.

The image on the right shows a censored version of my diary note (written on 10 October 2016) listing the 11 times since 2006 that poor mental health has impacted on my teaching career, including 2 trips to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool (2013) and Harrogate (2014).  I have redacted the details to protect myself and colleagues who worked with me or were my line managers at the time.

If the post proves to be popular then I might consider the possibility of speaking about it at a conference at a later date.  I’ve never seen this particular topic presented within our profession but am curious to know if it has been.

Please feel free to comment here or on the TaWSIG  site. I promise to personally respond to each and every one that leaves a message.

*update 6 Feb:  The interview post received hundreds of views in a few days. In the week following its publication, it was shared many times on social media. It inspired at least two other bloggers, Sandy Millin and Elly Setterfield to write their own personal responses to coincide with Time to Talk day, including lots of links and resources on this topic.  I was thrilled by the response and hope to follow this up at a later date.  In the meantime, I am planning on approaching Mind once more to see if they have any work for me.

1-2-1 Teaching Tips – an #ELTchat summary

Startup Stock Photos

This is the summary of an #ELTchat which took place on 18 January 2017.  The full topic wording was ‘1-2-1 teaching tips – advice and best practice’.  It was moderated by @Marisa_C and @SueAnnan with @tesolmatthew taking over for the 24 hour slow-burn. Lots of great links and resources were shared during the chat and these are listed at the end of the summary.  A similarly themed topic was previously discussed on 16 February 2011 – see here.  A good introduction to 1-2-1 teaching can be found here.

I was personally interested in this topic because I have taught 1-2-1 before (both paid and as language exchange) and have just started doing so again.  It is very common for English language teachers to tutor students one at a time at some point in their career. Support and resources for doing it are less so.  For many it is a fundamental aspect of their teaching.  It requires a development of strategy, approach and material creation.

Needs Analysis

@SueAnnan kicked things off by stating the importance of doing a Needs Analysis.  You might be surprised by the number of Ts who don’t do it. You also need to revisit it from time to time.  Tailoring and finding the right material is important. @thebestticher stated that she tends to ask 1-2-1 students what topics and language they want as there is more opportunity to personalise.  @fionaljp thought this was vital.  @MConca16 said she always starts with a (structured) conversation class as a diagnostic.

@Marisa_C felt that doing a pretest and/or Needs Analysis was obvious to those participating, so asked who [currently] teaches 1-2-1 and wanted to hear some ideas.

Who teaches 1-2-1?

Most of @SueAnnan’s Business English students are 1-2-1 – both oral and written. They have super interesting jobs. She thinks all levels are interesting and learns as much as her students sometimes.

@MConca16 said she did 1-2-1 as well as 2-2-1 exam preparation. @fionaljp said she wasn’t but needed to give advice to those who may. @TeresaBestwick didn’t have any either, while @teacherphili said he was about to start again soon, but had previously focused on exam preparation as well as one young Chinese learner who mostly played games and did pronunciation practice.

@David_Boughton stated that he likes the two ends of the spectrum, basic or very advanced.  He finds the classic intermediates work so much better in group classes. Most of the activities out there are for them.  @Marisa_C felt any age is suitable but activities are very different with young learners – mostly play.

@fionaljp said she asked them to bring in texts of interest for discussion, to summarise and explain interest.  Local newspapers provide material suggested @SueAnnan.

There was general consensus that you can’t switch off in 1-2-1.  It can be more tiring. You can’t set pair work. @fwalkerbcn said that you have to be on the ball, and be prepared to change the lesson plan on the spot. @thebestticher said she often tends to ask 1-2-1 students what they want – both topics and language – as there is more opportunity to personalise…@joannacre agreed, saying she often changes her lesson plan based on what her learner wants. It’s easier to do this with 1-2-1.

@SueAnan said that if students bring work with them, they can become the teacher as they explain it, which is good for presentation practice. @thebestticher found that 1-2-1 young learners like to ‘be the teacher’ otherwise interaction is intense. It is a good idea to walk away or do another task  while the student is working to make it less so.  Or give them a research or listening task, added @Marisa_C. @fwalkerbcn felt this was difficult if you were in their living room, but you can always do something else to break it up, said Marisa_C . @fwalkerbcn hadn’t really found this as her classes were not long anyway. @MConca said that time is money …  she doesn’t ‘waste’ time for quiet individual work or written feedback.

mconca16-tweet

@Marisa_C said they give them lists of extra listening and reading to do as self access and asked if anyone else tried this. @MConca16 replied ‘self-access practice for general English 1-2-1. [For] exam prep, she does a few with them for exam strategy then switch[es] to self-access.’

A popular blog post on eflrecipes (Jonny Ingham) was highlighted by @fionaljp.  In this the author says that the less structured approach can benefit from is “a good amount of overt feedback and error correction. One approach is for the teacher to take notes throughout the lesson on new language and areas of difficulty.”

Teacher Talking Time

ttt-boughton-tweet

Teacher Talking Time was a concern for @David_Boughton.  He asked how it can be kept down in 1-2-1.  Did we care as much as a group class?  @teacherphili said good planning. Silence & processing time is important, too.  @David_broughton liked that. We probably are more likely to cut the processing time shorter in 1-2-1. It’s just natural, he replied. @Marisa_C said it was difficult because the teacher is the only interlocutor. It’s very easy to get carried away with TTT.  @joannacre said she makes her students do most of the reading, text and theories etc then comment on stuff.

@SueAnnan asked if  the participants do roleplays or simulations when you have to play a part? @David_Boughton replied ‘All the time. My favourite thing to do in 1-2-1. You have more control, so they often go much better.’  Role-plays are essential, according to @MConca16, especially when you’ve taught a student for years and need new stuff.

Tech

@Marisa_C asked the chatters if they blended their 1-2-1 classes at all? even f-2-f classes do u flip or assign online work? She said Russell Stannard presented on her Delta course how to use Edmodo and it’s great.  She wasn’t previously aware of all its functions. @fionaljp said she was going to use it next week. @fwalkerbcn said her students watched TED Talks before class.  She also uses Edmodo for online quizzes, etc and asked if anyone else uses it for 1-2-1?  @Marisa_C said not but they did use wikis, often dedicated to one student. @MConca16 used emails for writing tasks and marking/feedback. She added that reasons for 1-2-1 students to ask for individual courses is to have a real person to practise language orally with & get feedback. @SueAnnan felt they don’t want much tech. @David_Boughton agreed, saying that tech can take away from what they signed up for, namely access to a teacher.

off2class-tweet@thebestticher mentioned Off2Class, which offers an online placement test and games which she is planning to start investigating. @fwalkerbcn said Off2Class is fantastic. She uses it a lot with my 1-2-1 classes and is great for online use. It’s well worth exploring. They’re always updating- if you need a topic, they do their best to create a class for it, she added.

Tools

@Marisa_C asked what tools were used to engage your 1-2-1 adult vs 1-2-1 young learners. Listening are perhaps issues for Ts.  Audioboom and Vocaroo were mentioned by @fionaljp, who also offered two recording tools – Audioboom, Vocaroo – which still exist, unlike Voxopop which appears to have finished.

@SueAnnan used podcasts. There are some great podcasts available from BBC world service.  @joannacre pointed out that Harvard review org has some good free podcasts for adult learners. Later on, @rapple18 said Harvard has GREAT stuff inc. both reading, text and audio. @tesolmatthew added later that an ongoing podcast would be great.

MConca16 said that @tablets & mobiles phone for teens work as motivators. @fwalkerbcn stated that linguahouse  and OneStopEnglish have great lesson plans for adults.

@Marisa_C offered several more tools during the chat, including @educreations, Voice Thread (for connecting more than one student), Schoology, Voxi, Explain Everything and Show Me. She mentioned in-browser apps such as Google docs or Primary Pad for collaborative writing and gave a shout out for the prolific Sean Banville (who was given a mention in the previous weeks’ chat).

@SueAnnan said she liked working with English Central, which students can do at home and improve pronunciation, but the latter feature could be improved according to @Marisa_C.  @fwalkercbn said she never really got on with it.  @SueAnnan added that it works well when they do it as blended stuff. @tesolmatthew was impressed with the way the tool works.  The principle of isolating and highlighting phrases is one that appealed to @Marisa_C.

@David_Boughton said he had used English360 for a few years with a school he worked for. Although a lot of the resources are not useful. You only pay for the student – but there are LOADS of resources available, added Marisa_C. @David_Boughton added that he built out about 6 levels worth of courses. It must have been 100s of hours. @Marisa_C said it was an opportunity [for] long turn speaking activities, like storyboard karaoke and board games.

Slow burn

In the slow burn, @rapple18 added her thoughts. Her list includes must-haves: a phone (=diary, map, aud/vid recorder), A3, coloured pens, today’s newspaper, relevant article, rods.  She always try to add 3rd dimension to break the teacher-student eye-contact line, eg postits, cards, A3, ie lots hands-on activities. Student has goal e.g. a conference presentation. On a recent 12wk course: videoed a presentation at work. 1st. Input: personal’d+focused. Motivation high.  If 1-2-1 ESP (re motivating the T!) use as opportunity to learn about student’s area of speciality. Can be bizarre but rewarding and fun!  She also linked to material she wrote for OUP.

@tesolmatthew said that his most involved ‘1-2-1 teaching happened +/-8 months, 2014. Met a Thai eye doctor in residence @ Boston hospital 2ce/wk for 2rs. Something we did was we wrote into the same notebook, sat very close, both wrote in, so prez+notes = same.’ Examples here.  He also believed that it can be EASIER to keep TTT down in the 1-2-1 context, using prompt-listen-respond-prompt sequence etc.

During the slow-burn @joannacre posted her 200th blog post about ‘websites, videos & random stuff I use in class’ which has some relevance.

Conclusion

This was a great chat with lots of ideas and resources shared.  It is one that I will come back to, along with the previous #ELTchat on this topic, as I do more 1-2-1 teaching myself.  There were lots of tools and resources – links listed below.  I have consistently used the phrase ‘1-2-1’ to mean ‘one to one’ although for brevity some participants used ‘1-1’ in the chat.  If you have any more ideas or thoughts please add a comment below.

Participants who were present and/or tweeted during the chat, alongside the moderators:

David__Boughton@fionaljp, @thebestticher, @fwalkerbcn@teachingright, @TeresaBestwick, @MConca16, @joannacre, @teacherphili, @bar_zie, @aahk888, @amauryrez, @SerraRoseli  and @rapple18.

Links and tools shared during the chat:

Appleby, R, Bradley, J. Brennan, B, Hudson J, Leeke, N and Scrivener, J. Business one:one Intermediate Plus. Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/2jNe8ym

BBC Learning English  http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/

Educreations – https://www.educreations.com/

English 360 – http://english360.com/

English Central – https://www.englishcentral.com/videos#/anonymous-player

English File (Oxford University Press) – http://bit.ly/1wHPqR5

Explain Everything – http://appcrawlr.com/ipad/explain-everything

Harvard Review Org (podcasts for adult learners) e.g. ‘Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man Harvard Business Review’. 7 Apr 2011.  http://bit.ly/2kgHDcB  and http://bit.ly/2j1c01S

Ingham, J. 3 May 2015. Recipes for the EFL classroom: ‘My one-to-one students just wants to chat’. https://eflrecipes.com/2015/05/03/one-to-one/

Kaye, P. 18 July 2007. British Council ‘Teaching one to one’.   https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-one-one

Linguahouse – http://www.linguahouse.com/

Off2Class – The ESL Teacher Toolkit https://www.off2class.com/

One Stop English – http://bit.ly/1rrXu7e

PechaFlickr – http://pechaflickr.net/

Primary Pad – http://primarypad.com/

Sean Banville‘s many websites including Breaking News English http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/index.html

Show Me – http://www.showme.com/

VoiceThread – http://voicethread.com/

Voki (for young learners) – http://www.voki.com/

cover image: ‘one to one teaching’ from startupstockphotos.com – reproduced under a CCO licence.
– 22 January 2017

tutoring