10 comments on “Of festivals, conferences and teaching – lessons to be learned?

  1. 1. Most of the acts I really really enjoyed displayed fantastic musicianship. The singers and players were experts at what they were doing. For example Bellowhead’s inspired clowning and energy only works because they are damn good at what they do. Is that the same for teachers? They have to be damn good at what they do? I can recognise a good musician from miles away, but recognising good teachers? Is that as easy? What are the clues? What do you think?

    Good question! All of last week I sat through session after session: demonstrations, presentations, papers – you name it, I saw it. At some point, I even thought by the end of the week it’d all be blurred in my mind and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference – these are after all people from very similar backgrounds, plenty of experience and who happen to work for the same company, right? Wrong! Two people really stood out for me and it was because in every little thing they did I could see how passionate they are about what they do and how much they enjoy doing it. I think in this profession the good and the bad can’t easily be disguised.

    Point number 4 in your post just made me really, really embarrassed about the stuff I listen to.


    • Hi Gloria,

      thanks so much for coming along and leaving a comment.

      Yes, i am sure you are right. You KNOW when someone is good 9as your recent experience suggests). But the question is HOW do you know? At least that’s the question I ask myself all the time!!

      As for being embarrassed..don’t be, please!! It’s possibly just to love the feel and sound of something, isn’t it. Perhaps there are times when it is OK to switch off our critical faculties? or maybe not. I’m not quite sure!!


      • I’ve been thinking about it, and for me the telling signs are commitment, attention to detail, creativity and an ability to put oneself in the audience’s shoes.

        Re: the critical thinking bit, I think you’re right. Turning it off can lead to some very pleasant surprises, so maybe the catch is learning not to overdo it?


  2. Hi Jeremy,

    The same thing happened to me in a slightly different musical setting recently as, despite being there to enjoy the concert, I found myself thinking of ELT-related stuff and even wrote a blog post about it (and if you don’t mind me blowing my own trumpet – pun intended – here it is: http://www.davedodgson.com/2011/07/heavy-metal-hard-rock-elt.html

    Regarding the expertise of musicians/teachers, I too marvelled at the musical talents of the bands I recently watched (a very different genre as they were heavy metal guitar gods, although I did go to see Elton John as well just a few days before) and their skills definitely made the shows unforgettable experiences. However, I have also enjoyed many shows in much smaller venues with amateur bands playing covers… so while an expert teacher obviously makes a difference, I think a less experienced teacher can still get the job done and keep the ‘audience’ happy.

    And as for your final point, I’ve been to many conferences where I’ve sat through a plenary session or workshop thinking ‘what is this guy doing?’ only to realise everyone around me is enthralled. ‘But he’s just slipped in a few self-depreciating jokes – what he’s actually saying is hardly revolutionary’ I think to myself. As you say, the crowd are entertained but not much critical thinking is going on.


    • Hi Davie,

      I enjoyed your blog post a lot. It IS impossible to stop making parallels between what we do and, er, what we do (like going to concerts etc).

      I like what you said about small/inexperienced teacher success. In conference terms it is certainly true that some of the best sessions I have been to in the last 12 months (and the most invigorating) have not been the big stomping plenaries (yes, I am guilty of trying to do those), bit smaller sessions with teachers telling us what they have been ding in their lessons with their students.

      And i too have been amazed by overwhelmingly positive responses to talks etc that I have not thought much of (and vice vers). It’s like gping to movies!!


  3. Hi Jeremy,
    It is very interesting for me that you compare music, an arts based career, with teaching because before becoming an EFL teacher I was a film maker by profession. I did that for about 8 years before deciding to broaden my horizons and make the most of having family in Paraguay. One of the highlights of my film making career was making a music video for Newton Faulkner before he was famous. http://youtu.be/tk3sJmept3k
    One of the main differences between teaching and the arts is that in music and film, it does not matter how talented you are, you need a lucky break in order to make a serious career of it, and no amount of talent alone will make you more likely to get those breaks (well maybe an extreme amount). In the case of Newton Faulkner, he is clearly on of the most talented figures on the music scene but there are other people in the world with similar talents who are eeking out a living by doing the rounds trying to get noticed, while other less talented people hit the big time. His success is not purely down to his talent but also getting lucky and meeting the right people at the right time.
    I think that in teaching it is more of a meritocracy. It may not be quite as instantaneous to see the talent but it is recognizable and good teachers are in demand. So, I do think that good teachers will find their careers naturally progressing in a way that talented musicians, film makers and actors don’t. However, teaching is not such an attractive profession so there is a much smaller pool of people to recruit from.

    Colin Munro
    English Language Club

    • Hi Colin,

      I loved your Newton Faulkner video. Fantastic.

      I think luck plays a huge part in everyone’s life one way or another. I like to believe that it has to be luck + talent that propels musicians etc forward.

      In teaching, it is possible to survive at the mediocre level, I guess, and many people do that all through their careers. But the teachers I admire are not like that! They’re not happy just to bounce along the bottom, but feel the need (for their students? For themselves?) to go further.

      Are you still making films/videos? Hopes so.


      • Thanks Jeremy, I am glad you like the video. We had to keep it simple as it was very low budget.
        Well I am starting to get back into making videos now, but I am focusing on making videos for teaching English. I am trying to use YouTube annotations feature creatively to make the videos interactive (it is a shame they don’t work on iPads or Blackberrys atm). My first attempt was an interactive phonetic chart, and then an exercise for beginners to do with the verb ‘to be’, you can see them here at my channel
        Now I am working on producing video grammar classes that will consist of about 5 videos each. The fist being an explanation followed by 4 or five exercises.
        They will be free for students and teacher to use, obviously as they are on YouTube but I hope to make some money by getting on the YT partner program in the future, but first I need to get more video up there and make sure that they are really useful for people.

        Colin Munro
        English Language Club

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