NATECLA Scotland Annual Conference
07 November 2020
As the events of 2020 unfolded, it became clear that a gathering in Dundee for ESOL practitioners from all over Scotland was out of the question. The big question for the NATECLA Scotland committee was – ‘Can we rise to the challenge and make it a completely online conference for 2020?’ The answer was YES!, and this year’s conference was successfully hosted online. The Wizard of Zoom, pulling the levers and turning the dials to whisk people in and out of breakout rooms, was our very own NATECLA Scotland Chairperson, Pauline Blake-Johnston and from the comfort of our own homes we enjoyed the 2020 NATECLA Scotland Conference.
There was the usual fantastic range of speakers, and, in addition to colleagues who might usually travel to attend, there were some who could only attend because it was online. We welcomed attendees from Inverness to London, Belfast to Edinburgh and all points in between.
The programme of sessions reflected the ongoing concerns of teaching ESOL in general and the specific concerns of many of us who’ve had to adapt, with little warning, to the virtual world of online lessons and the vagaries of technology in 2020. We found out how tech-savvy so many of us have become in the past eight months as we listened, responded and shared what we’d learned.
Jo Gakonga was the key note speaker this year and delivered her session with humour and warmth. Jo spoke about the challenges we face in ‘Adjusting to the New Normal’ and gave practical ideas on how we might continue to use reflective practice as we navigate online learning. Her session was filled with practical ideas and links to useful resources. She set the ball rolling and the chat box on Zoom lit up with comments, shared experience and questions.
Amanda Avison and Clare Fulton delivered the next two concurrent sessions. Amanda shared her experience of getting students to write and perform a play. She spoke about just what it takes to build the confidence and language skills of Elementary learners so that they could write and perform a short play. Watching a snippet of the end result showed how much they learned from the project and inspired us all. Clare spoke about the wonderful work being done through the British Council Connecting Classrooms programme, where through linking classrooms across the world, learners could make their voices heard and potentially make a difference to the thinking behind sustainability issues that concern every country.
The following concurrent sessions saw the return of two popular speakers from last year’s conference in Dundee – Joy Vee and Jeanette Miller. Joy again delivered a thought-provoking session on human trafficking and the practical steps ESOL practitioners can take to empower ESOL learners. Joy was joined by Joy Gillespie, also from SOHTIS. The session outlined bleak truths of trafficking but armed the listeners with knowledge to use and share.
Basing her session around some of the main ideas of Paulo Freire, Jeanette explained how she’d used these ideas to develop imaginative ways to build learner participation and understanding as they brought their own life experience into the lessons. The session was a fund of ideas from an experienced teacher always looking for new ways to engage learners and maintain the excitement of learning.
The final two sessions were East meets West when speakers from Edinburgh and Glasgow shared their experience in setting up major resources for both learners and practitioners.
Hannah Avison and Shingai Mpunzwana Maramba from the Edinburgh SRP Team both spoke eloquently of how they overcame seemingly insurmountable barriers when lockdown happened and pre-entry Syrian ESOL learners had to learn from home. Hannah spoke about setting up English Snacks – materials that the learners could access on Youtube in bite sized pieces. Shingai focussed on the challenges of engaging with whole families and continuing family learning during lockdown.
Jo Jarvis and Andrew Fergus of Glasgow ESOL Forum spoke of the work that went in to produce the Framework for Good Practice in Working with Volunteers in ESOL. This tremendous piece of work shares the best practice in working with ESOL volunteers in Scotland. Jo and Andrew spoke about how the framework might best be used and invited discussion on practice.
The final panel discussion at the end of the day was a truly lively forum as the delegates enthusiastically questioned speakers on a range of topics. What are the signs that someone in my classroom might be involved in human trafficking? What is the fantastic website you referred to in your talk? How can I set up a …. like yours?
It was a stimulating and fitting finish to a great conference.
16 November 2020
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