IATEFL JOURNEY (3) Sarah Mercer – IATEFL Plenary Session

Trying to get back on track after a few weeks’ vacation with no rest and sickness. I tried to gain IATEFL’S spirit once more by watching Sarah Mercer’s interesting keynote speech at IATEFL Glasgow. The Conference memories went on passing in front of me while watching her. Interesting memories!!  You get the feeling that you hadn’t had enough of the conference and you want to sip in more.

Sarah spoke about “Connecting minds: Language Learner and Teacher Psychologies” https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2017/session/plenary-session-sarah-mercer   She concentrated on three main points: Psychologically wise language teachers do 3 key things
A. They develop positive relationships
B. They focus on positivity and growth
C. They nurture their own professional well-being

A) They develop positive relationships

First she gave an introduction about the importance of psychology or relationships, in other words. She believes this is the heart and soul of teaching as teachers inspire magic.
Then she introduced a short TED Talk by Rita Pierson referring to the importance of building good and trustable relationships between teachers and students. Then she quoted Hattie’s (2009) “meta-analysis list of 138 most influential factors on learning” where he placed “Teacher-Student relationships” as no. 11 in the list. She believes that building relationships with Students is the basis on which we build the learners’ willingness to learn. Language Teaching is inherently social, it involves communication, collaboration and requires socio-cultural competence.

Then she referred the audience to the British Council study/research she worked on “Understanding Emotional and Social Intelligence among English Language Teachers” https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/G211_ELTRA_Gkonou%20and%20Mercer%20paper_FINAL_web.pdf and shared her findings: a) if you teach you are other-oriented person means you are interested in people. b) Multilingual people are sensitive to interpersonal connections and communication. She then drew the attention that what she is talking about is not new to many here, but she is bringing it to the fore front for teachers to focus on and call Teacher Trainers to give more attention to it.

Later on, after asking teachers to discuss the most important qualities of teachers, she started speaking about the importance of having an “Emotional Bank Account" (Covey). This can be filled by: 
1.     **Working on mutual trust and respect.
You have to work on them seriously to earn them
2.     **Be empathetic
Seek to understand your students and remind yourself how it is to be a learner. Share a bit about yourself with them.
3.     **Be responsive to learner individuality
Have little personal conversations. This is what she calls ‘pedagogical caring’.
4.     **Peer-peer relationships
Also teach your students the importance of having good relationships among each other. How to speak in front of peers, connect and know their names.

B) They focus on positivity and growth

We are the ones that stand in our way of learning. There are two different kinds of Mindsets:
      ** Fixed Mindset
           Attributes regarded as static or fixed
      ** Growth Mindset
           I can develop, get better. I can overcome problems
Both teachers and students have such Mindsets and you as a teacher is the one who can help your students think positively and get better with learning the language. It’s important to know your potentials as well as those of your students. You can push them forward. We can promote this through:
       ** Teacher as a role model
       ** Teacher Talk
       ** Strategies and pathways

Here comes the importance of feedback. It should be informative, deserved and genuine. We need to help students reduce anxiety and foster positive emotions.

We can keep “Broaden-and-build theory” of Fredrickson in mind. This helps us
                                                                                           To learn
                                                                                           To broaden horizons
                                                                                           To build resources
                                                                                           To build more positive emotions
                                                                                           To be more creative

C) They nurture their own professional and well-being

n  When you get in class SMILE
n  If you are frustrated, your students will be likewise
n  If you are motivated, they will be so as well
n  If you are happy at work, this will make you successful not vice versa
n  There is positive and negative stress. Use the positive one to gain from
n  Don’t over stretch yourself
n  Set boundaries
n  Stress Management is very important for Teachers
        ** Your physical condition
        ** Your mental condition
        ** Your emotional condition
If your body is in good shape, your mind will follow
n  Your well-being is a priority
n  We need to become a little more teacher-centered in our priorities and our professional well-being. It’s a necessity.

“Psychologically wise teachers know that for successful language teaching:
n  Psychology matters
n  Relationships matter
n  Positivity matters
n  YOU matter!!
“Happy teachers make for happy Learners!!”

PS:   You can find the link to the recording, pdf and references on https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2017/session/plenary-session-sarah-mercer if you are a member of IATEFL