for EFL teachers · 4 października 2018

Small changes, big results & Pareto

Fellow Changmakers!

Do you remember yourself from 5 years ago? 10? 20? 30?
Think about how you have been transforming from the early years of your school up to now.
How have you changed physically? Did you use to be more hairy, you guys? Did you use to weigh fewer kilograms?
Have your viewpoints been always the same ?
How has your teaching changed over the years? Some of 1100 experts here started teaching When grammar translation method was prevailing.
When you started teaching did you use a communicative approach? Were you able to use handouts as often as now? Did you use a lot of OHP’s? Did you use to laminate things in your second year of teaching?
We are changing and I want to embrace the change that is happening.

How do I know that person in the picture is me? It was a completely diiferent guy from me now.
Not even similar?
How do you know that the person you have just reminisced is you?

That reminded me of the ship of Theseus. Theseus had a ship. But once he replaced some of the planks. Was is still Theseus’ ship? After some time he replaced all of the planks and masts. Was it still the same ship? Was it Theseus’ ship?

What is in our minds, hearts and souls that even,if we are constantly changing we stay who we are, and what’s more, we are aware of it?

It’s identity. A feeling that we are who we are based on our experiences.
Wait, obviusly, it’s more complicated, because identity is also affected by the constant of you ”yourself” versus “them”, and “perfect/ desired me” versus “real me”.
Thanks to or rather because of our developing feeling of identity, we change less and less, with age. Because it is such a core and stable element, identity can be remarkably resilient to change, and even a barrier to adaptations, even under pressures. We adapt to changes with more and more discomfort. The change in others is getting more and more irritating to us.

What is the the name of the one-hump camel? In Polish?
You will say it’s “dromader”, but when I last time visited Wrocław ZOO I learnt it’s actually “dromedar”. A few years ago I would go unaffected. I would not have any problem accepting the change in the terminology. Now, that I discovered that, I was puzzled and couldn’t come to terms with the grave realisation of sad hint on my ignorance.
I found out that accepting a change, even such a trivial change requires a lot from us.

The life is passing as landscapes outside our train car. And we stay who we are.
How will you change in the future? How will your teaching change in the future?

The studies show that whereas we remember our past selves, we know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years, when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same.

Participants in one of the studies were asked about their personality traits and preferences — their favorite foods, vacations, hobbies and bands — in years past and present, and then asked to make predictions for the future. Not surprisingly, the younger people in the study reported more change in the previous decade than did the older respondents.

But when asked to predict what their personalities and tastes would be like in 10 years, people of all ages consistently played down the potential changes ahead.

Yet on the outside: “The only constant is change”
It was Heraclitus who probably said that for the first time.

Time is flowing.
You cannot walk into the same river.
You cannot walk into the same classroom. But we are more and more reluctant to see changes and react to changes.

Why? Because of fear of the unknown and because our brain is economical, doesn’t feel the need of changes as it very often uses the schemata already present in the brain. Why should our mind spend the energy on something unnecessary.

Even if you look at your moods when you were younger, they were far more volatile.
Emotions coming and going – storms passing, instant crazy ideas, for Which you are now ashamed.

Generally, on avaerage people admit that they were far more flexible and adaptable when they were younger. And that seems to be in line with our classroom observations. Statistically, the younger the child, the shorter the attention span. The older the person is the fewer mood swings and if not, at least period etween mania and depresjom are longer.

Kids mind is like a sponge, its not only true to the fact that it can absorb immensly gargantuan amounts of information but also its flexible, as the sponge is.
Kids are easier to shape, transform, change… and this very feature of their humanity we, use.

Studies have shown that as we are becoming adult we usually lose the adaptability to change. We also lose the demand for change. With young learners we know that we need to keep them busy or we will lose their attention, we need to engage them, change tempo, switch światły between tasks. A year ago I attended the English class of my 4 year old Olga. I was exhausted only by watching the brilliant teacher she had. 40 minutes, around 30 different tasks. A group of 8 kids. Mayhem! But boy, they learnt

What is the biggest threat to a teacher? That we will lose the ability to adapt, to flexibly cater for students needs. Being a teacher advisor in Warsaw Centre for Innovations and teachers development gave me a unique chance to observe great deal of teachers. And you know, I found out that all succesful teachers share similar traits, however each troubled one is unsucesful in their own way.
The most dire problems however, result from teachers not being able to respond adeqautely to the students changing needs.
We got blind at times and when even if we see the problems, so many of us stop looking for solutions, we lose the courage, or ability to act.

A teacher running her class in the noisy classroom where nobody is paying attention to what she is talking about.

Another one for 45 minutes addressing only 1/3 of the group.

Yet another teaching in the very classroom. With no oxygen at all, at least 35 degrees inside, All Windows shut, outside around 20 degrees and a light breeze.

A student receiving a failing grade every time he has written a test. 6 times in a row. Who was not learning?

A teacher. Explaining grammar theories a minute later not reacting to errors. Not mistakes, errors.

Shocking, the teachers I told you about were not much surprised when I asked if they were aware of the situation. They knew what was happening. What they didn’t know was why they didn’t react to the problems.

Every case I talked about easrlier could be saved. By small alteration to the lesson plan or teachers behaviour.

Im far from blaming anyone. We get blinded in our teaching by our relationships/ family issues, headmaster’s mobbing, our health problems  that we cannot leave behind the classroom doors.

But we also don’t adapt to students needs because we stopped celebrating a change.

We also disregard What Science Tells us about the proces of change.
As our government disregarded everything that science and Educational experts know about introducing a transformation of the Education system.
There are certain things we know about the change itself.

First of all, we should to be aware of Hawthorne effect. If we put it in the context of education it tells us that people will change their behaviour in certain way if they know that you pay attention to them, if they know that their work is appreciated.
So fellow change makers if you appreciate your students’ work and make them aware of that you also motivate them more to get better and better.

Pygmalion effect is another example. When what we expect from students is a positive change, guess what, they change positively. You may have heard about the studies run by Rosenthal and Jacobson where random students were divided into two groups. A group that was named “gifted” was obvious more effective in their learning in the end.
So fellow changemakers, if you want changes, believe that your students can change/ improve.

Another well researched idea is primacy and recency effect or Serial position effect. Studies by Ebbinghaus suggest that we learn the most effective at the beginning and at the end of a learning period. But hove can we use the effect better? Fellow changemakers, if you want to be effective change activities more often during the lesson.

And the last thing. I’m sure you know Carol Dwecks idea of Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset. A growth mindset is basically believing we can improve our abilities through hard work and good strategies. In other words it is openness and readiness to change.
If we, fellow Changemakers, are to promote growth mindset so our students flourish, shouldn’t we be models of growth mindset?

Do you believe that when you fuck something up with your teaching. You can improve?

If you let your students down, you may apologise to them and next time check the papers on time.

If you heard from your students or your boss a negative feedback about lack of progress of your class, you can introduce the remedial solutions. Put your classrooms routines in order.

If grading test Is taking you ages, try marking them according to the tasks not Students. Or use the peer correction. Or don’t do them at All.

Why don’t we talk about growth mindset for teachers? Why don’t we teach teachers to look for solutions in students and not faults in them?

Smile to a stranger in the street, they may be a teacher, and if you smile to her as she is walking to school, that make a great change to all the students she is teaching this day.
Small change, big result.

So fellow changemakers, embrace the change and Make use of the experiences that are available to you right now at the conference. Celebrate the moments of mindfulness. Gather the ideas, exchange lesson plans and materials.

The worst thing that can happen to us is not that this 27th IATEFL Poland Conference will not make a difference to you.

The worst thing will be that you will not share your learning experience With your colleagues.

I do not mean just use the activities and Resources you have received from your colleagues here.

No, go to to your school and tell others about what you have experienced and how your development shifted. Organize a meet up at which you will show the books you bought, share the very best of the ideas you learnt. Inspire your colleagues and do not be afraid that they will look at you suspiciously. I have a feeling we haven yet learnt to effectively share the ideas in our schools and you, my fellow changemakers can make a change in your students and your colleagues.

Show them that you have transformed, that you improved your teaching skills.
Maybe this way you will save them from burnout. Maybe this way you will make their students happier. Maybe this way you will make the school where you teach flourish. And her comes long awaited Pareto principle from the title slide. Sometimes 20% translates into 80%.

Remember, your personal development may be a small step for you, but a giant leap for the colleagues that you inspire.