Lottie Harrison, a teacher, teacher trainer and CELTA tutor at IH Terrassa, spoke for International House at the recent InnovateELT Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Below, she tells us more about her inspiration for her presentation and how it helped her to combat and break down imagined hierarchies.
This May, thanks to IHWO and IH Terrassa who jointly provided me with the means and the time, I was lucky enough to speak at InnovateELT 2019 in Barcelona.
At the moment of application I had an outline and little confidence in how it would work out, but I was accepted which gave me the first sign that I had an idea that others in the ELT world would want to talk about too. More research was needed. As we know, many of our ideas not only come from reading various sources but also from getting together with others and sharing and exploring ideas together.
My next stroke of luck came from attending IH Barcelona's ELT Conference in February that gave me new ideas and contacts to explore them with. The closing plenary given by Dr. Angi Malderez set my thoughts off in a new direction and by contacting her after the conference, I had the opportunity to speak more about her research and was grateful to receive further reading too. My title was finalised - ‘CPD: breaking down hierarchies and building autonomy’ – and my first conference talk was taking shape.
The InnovateELT Conference, hosted by Oxford TEFL and ELTjam, opened on a Friday night in the garden of Oxford TEFL with a plenary from Nicola Prentis on the role of women in the industry. Looking back over the last five years (as was the direction of the conference on its 5th birthday), she noted the advances we’ve made, from better parity of speakers at conferences to vocal support from men who will not speak at conferences that have not achieved this – thank you Hugh Dellar! She also outlined how much further we have to go, hopefully eliminating the need for such a plenary. Listening to Nicola in the garden, with the nerves of speaking myself setting in, I finally realised that not only was I speaking about breaking down hierarchies in my talk, but also by giving the talk I was contributing to the same process.
Saturday afternoon came around and the talk went to plan in front of a kind, engaged and collaborative audience. Why had I been so nervous? Because in my mind I had been upholding certain imagined hierarchies that gave more importance to my audience than to my voice. However, what is one without the other? No voice, no audience; no audience, no voice. In coming together to speak, to listen, and to engage, we validate one another and give meaning to topics that matter to us.
As a result of InnovateELT, I not only feel inspired and energised but I also met others and started new conversations. There was also the opportunity to explore different ideas, from the importance of neuroscience, to managing digital addictions in the classroom, to using design thinking in problem solving. There’s even another talk in the works with someone I met at the conference. Leading up to that Saturday, I found like-minded people, especially women, all around me. From Dr. Malderez, to Nicola Prentis, to my audience, when sharing a beer after the conference, and in the wonderful women of IH that provided me with this opportunity.
Gender aside, if you feel like you have an idea, or you have something you want to explore with others, don’t wait until you feel 100% ready, don’t even wait until you feel 70% ready. Seize opportunities that come your way, and make the effort to find others. When the day comes to stand up and contribute your voice, I guarantee you’ll discover that you were ready all along.
Lottie Harrison is a teacher, teacher trainer and CELTA tutor based in Barcelona, Spain.