ELT 2021 Influencers: Natassa Manitsa

 

Natassa holds a BA in Educational Psychology (University of Athens), a Diploma in Translation and British Studies (Institute of Linguists, London) ,a Diploma in Digital and Social Media Marketing (American College, Greece) and an MSc in School Psychology (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK). She has worked as a teacher, a school owner, a teacher trainer, a director of studies, an author and translator for more than 25 years.
For the last 12 years, she is the Media & Communications Manager of Express Publishing, a Senior Teacher Trainer and the Chief Editor of the Teacher’s Corner site of Express Publishing. She is also the creator, producer, and co-presenter of the educational podcasts in Teacher's Coffee.

Every time I am asked whether English language teaching has changed because of the global pandemic and the unprecedented challenges we are all facing, my answer is skeptical and comes to this conclusion: nothing has changed and nothing will stay the same. An oxymoron? Yes! Exactly like everything that we have been living over the past year.


The oxymoron that I tend to resort to when I think of solutions for what is to come, is because I strongly believe that Covid-19 is just the cherry on a cake made of problems, insufficient training, superficial and fast-food solutions and a lot of showing-off and no attention to the very essence of Education, that is to give students true “ownership” of knowledge in all its intellectual, cultural, aesthetic and moral aspects.


The above paragraph is definitely describing the “nothing has changed” part of my conclusion. Unfortunately, even after a year of this forced online learning, nothing has been done collectively for the crucial support of both teachers and learners as well. Individually, the situation seems a bit better, but the adjustment of online lessons, when left to individuals without a national pre-organized curriculum, is just a subjective decision and nothing more.


Nevertheless, nothing will stay the same! This blended learning experience and the sudden initiation of extensive technology use calls for immediate action on behalf of the teachers mostly, and then the students themselves, that seem a bit more positive to the new era of language learning.


So what is this new era?
- Promotion of world-wide scientific literacy and digital citizenship: By spending so much time online, misinformation and simplistic solutions to problems should thoroughly be explained and practiced in our ELT curriculum. Not just theoretically but with proactive lesson plans, dealing with real case scenarios – don’t we have so many recent examples to use?


- Experiential Learning: Everybody loves the term; very few actually use it! The usual question: online how? Stimulate concrete experiences through online templates, LMS platforms, Gamification, open-ended quiz questions, reflective questions, sharing videos with emotions, reactions to art, poetry, literature… I could go on forever!


- Social learning: We’ve missed each other; we need some kind of social contact. Create communities for your students, groups, pages, chat threads – everything under your supervision in a controlled environment. Just get the conversations going!


- Solidarity to end inequality: Give students examples, explain to them, ask for their opinion on current hot topics, urge them to make presentations and also be an activist… with them, for them. This is knowledge for life that we shouldn’t be afraid to touch upon and the world is now, more than ever, ready for that change!


One thing is for sure: we cannot return to Language Teaching and Education as it was before. It’s not just a switch from online to offline. The change has content and meaning. And the choice is one: what kind of teacher do you want to be? An observer or a game-changer? •