The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Going solo

Having barely recovered from IATEFL, I’m now preparing my next conference presentation. This time it’s a workshop at an EAP conference at the University of Potsdam on 10 May.

Almost all the conference presentations I’ve given before have been on behalf of publishers, but this time, I’m going solo. The workshop is based on the work I did for How to Write EAP Materials, but as that’s hardly a ‘commercial’ project, it doesn’t really count as a publisher’s product plug.

It seems a bit odd as someone who makes a living out of writing materials for publication to be talking to teachers about how to write their own stuff. But I know that however good published materials are, there are always going to be gaps that need filling. Either the students need something that's not in the book - extra practice or a specific skill/area of language that's not covered - or the teaching context demands something a bit different - specific institutional requirements or just the style and preferences of individual teachers. And if teachers are inevitably going to write materials, be it the odd handout for their own class or a whole course for their institution, then surely there should be some professional development available to point them in the right direction and to help them avoid some of the potential pitfalls. So I'm seeing this as complementary to my other work rather than in competition.

Preparing for the workshop – putting together my slides and a handout – has been a strangely liberating experience. There’s no publisher's PowerPoint template to use, no house style to stick to, nothing’s off-limits. I’ve got one slide which shows a whole range of EAP materials by different publishers, which feels quite wonderfully rebellious!

I did spend more than usual agonizing over what background to use for my slides. I kind of had a design in my head, but couldn’t find anything that quite matched, then realized I was too busy to keep farting around looking, so just plumped for a simple one that appealed. It was only later that I noticed the colour scheme matched the new sofa we’ve just bought!

The organizers have very kindly given me slot for a 90-minute workshop, so I’m planning a bit of proper audience participation, which is not really my usual style either. It should be fun, but I’m just hoping I’ve got the amount of material and timings right  … and that the audience are up for a bit of workshopping.

Anyway, I think I’m more-or-less ready, just got to get my handouts printed and copied, then decide what outfit to pack … Looking forward to seeing everyone in Berlin!

PS I’ll post my slides and handout here afterwards.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

IATEFL Highlights 2014

As ever, this year’s IATEFL conference was varied, inspiring, fun, thought-provoking and yes, completely exhausting! Below I’ve picked out just a few of my highlights:

Meeting up with people who I’ve worked with but hadn’t met in person before – especially The Round authors who I’ve worked with this year on editing their ebooks; Jennie Wright & Christina Rebuffet-Broadus, who wrote Experimental Practice in ELT and Dan Barber, who wrote From English Teacher to Learner Coach along with Duncan Foord (who I sadly didn’t manage to cross paths with).

Going along to Jennie and Christina’s session which I would never have chosen if I hadn’t known them – just because it’s not within my usual areas of interest – but which was great fun and I think by far the most enjoyable session I went to this year!

The MaWSIG PCE, the first time I’d been to a pre-conference event. There were some interesting sessions and lots of great chat, but mainly it was just nice to be with lots of people like me!  Especially as a freelance writer, rather than a full-time teacher, it’s really nice to feel properly part of a group.

In the same vein, there was a great freelancer’s lunch on Thursday where I got to chat with freelance colleagues old and new, to share some of the joys and frustrations of freelancing. Big thanks to Karen White for organising that one and an ELT T2W gathering on Friday night too – lots of fun!

I had fun doing a bit of blatant self-promotion in my How to Write EAP Materials t-shirt. A lot of people didn’t quite ‘get’ the slogan on the front, which some seemed to mistake for something in Spanish! It still started a few conversations though, which after all, was the idea …

I did lots of useful networking, a mix of pre-planned meetings, publisher’s events and just general schmoozing. I gave out lots of cards and I’ve got fingers crossed for some potential new work down the line.

An unexpected highlight this year came from mentoring a new speaker. I’d ticked a box on my proposal form way back in September and completely forgotten about it. Then a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by my ‘mentee’.  We did quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing via email ahead of the conference while he worked on preparing his session. And although we didn’t finally manage to meet in person, he sent me a lovely message after his session saying how helpful my input had been, which was a really great note to end the week on!

Oh and did I mention the Turkish Baths … ?!

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