Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Good to be back!

After a month away from the blogosphere, it's good to be back.

I've spent the past month (well, longer, to tell the truth) deep in deadline hell. For clarity, let me define deadline hell as 'being badly behind schedule with at least two major projects, such that any time spent on one project inevitably leads to the other one slipping ever further into long-overdueland. And all the time you have to keep ressuring both parties that their deadline is your absolute number one priority. Nasty.

The worst thing is that I can't even hint on this blog as to the projects I'm working on. I suppose it wouldn't be giving too much away to say that there are exciting new titles for my series, Cambridge English for ..., on the way. But all I can say about the others is that they're big, exciting (for me at least) and top secret.

So, taking my inspiration from Karenne 'n' Maslow's Pyramid of Needs, here's my own set of needs (inverted, so my top priorities are first).

1. Mortgage stuff - teaching and other work that pays the mortgage while I'm waiting for the exciting stuff to bear fruit.
2. Deadline stuff - big exciting projects that might make me rich one day, but which probably won't, knowing my luck.
3. Spending a bit of time with my wife and kids, at least so that they remember who I am, but it'd also be nice to spend enough time with them so my kids could at least speak English.
4. Blogging obligations (blogligations?) like writing a post from time to time, responding to the people who've heroically commented on my recent posts and waited ages for a sign of acknowledgement from me, venturing out into the blogosphere to see what other people are up to ...
5. Relax. Watch TV. Go jogging!

I've been meeting needs 1, 2 and 3 recently, and I'm almost ready to move to need 4. Need 5 will  have to wait for the summer.

So ... last week I met two of my biggest, most overduest deadlines ever (if you can 'meet' such deadlines). Huge relief. And I allowed myself three days with the kids. Very nice. There's still a scary amount of work to do, but it's a lot more under control than it was a week ago.

A few highlights from the past month:

1. The wonderful IATEFL conference in Harrogate. I was only there for about 48 hours, so not much time to do things. I had two big meetings related to my exciting projects. I gave my joint presentation with Virginia Allum on Results Focused ESP (covering some of the same points as my recent post on English for Nursing). I met up (albeit briefly) with some of my favourite people from the blogosphere/discussion groups. I made some new useful contacts. And I even made it to a couple of sessions (5 in total).

My joint session went well. It was my first experience as a joint presenter, but Virginia (nurse, writer and all-round expert on English for Nursing) was very professional and knowledgeable.

The nice thing about our session was that it was tweeted live by Karenne, so our audience of around 30 was boosted by about 2000 of Karenne's followers, hanging on her every tweet, no doubt, and all rushing out to buy the books. Possibly. But anyway, much much much appreciated, Karenne.

This was my favourite tweet:


It's true - I felt uneasy last year at the idea of having a unit in English for Nursing Pre-intermediate on dealing with terminally ill patients. You can't include stuff like that in coursebooks ... but then I realised that we absolutely had to include it.

The issue of roleplays on difficult subjects also came up in Natasha Jovanovich's great presentation on ESP course design. It was a really thought-provoking session, centred around Natasha's experiences creating a course on English for Human Rights. She'd included some incredibly powerful materials in her course, including a very emotional video about infant mortality and a case study / role-play on abortion rights.

As with my nursing course, my first reaction was 'wow - this is a bit too heavy for an ESP course', but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that Natasha was right to include them in this particular course. Human rights advocates and lawyers and specialists need the language to discuss and work with highly emotive issues like these.

I might come back to this idea of different people's reactions to roleplays in a later post.

The lowlight of the conference for me was losing my bag on the way there, so that I arrived in Harrogate with only my suit on a hanger and the scruffy clothes I'd travelled in. No laptop, no presentation, no shirt, no toothbrush, no memory stick, no phone recharger, no clicker, no printouts of urgent work I was planning to be getting on with, no socks, no shoes ...

Fortunately my wife pointed out that I could buy most of those things in shops. Sometimes it takes someone else to point out the obvious - I suppose that's why guys like me need wives. My colleagues from Cambridge provided a copy of my presentation and a laptop, so the only thing that was missing was my shoes (which I couldn't bring myself to buy just for one presentation), so I wore trainers with my suit. Hope no-one noticed. At least Karenne didn't tweet about it:
Of course when I got back to the hotel after the presentation, my bag had arrived, rushed there by courier and now completely unnecessary (apart from my laptop and memory stick, of course).
#specificenglish #iatefl OMG jeremy's trying to be cool in a suit and trainers. LOL!

2. (Yes ... this started out as a list of highlights of the past month, remember) The second highlight of the past month was a visit to my business English upper int class from Vernon Ellis, the brand new chair of the British Council, i.e. the new global big big big boss. Vernon Ellis used to be Chairman of Accenture and is also Chairman of the English National Opera. In other words, a very experienced and knowledgeable businessman. And on his first visit to a foreign country on taking over from our previous chair, Neil Kinnock, he came to Poland to see me teaching. Well, that wasn't the main reason for his visit, I suppose. But it was great for my BE students to interview him about his business experience. I might blog about that one of these days too - it was a nice way of spending a class.

Anyway, I'm sure there were more than 2 highlights of the past month, but that'll do for now. If I don't finish this post tonight, it'll be the end of April before I get round to it.

Right ... I promise to be a good blogger from now on. I'll start working back through the comments and replying. And I'll post a lot more regularly next month. Honest ...

Related posts: