‘Oh God!’

It’s been a very odd week.

Since last Wednesday my talk has been tweeted and retweeted over 50 times. I’ve been sent compliments by people I look up to and have acquired about 100 new twitter followers. I’ve had emails, requests to speak, and I’ve even been interviewed by the nicest man on twitter. I think Mike, who is one of the main reason this blog exists (see here for example), was just as surprised as me:

I’ve been blogged about by, so far about four people. I was mentioned by Hugh Dellar (Squeal!). My academic.edu page view count and the one on this blog both suddenly shot up (which is unnerving). This has also been the week I discovered that 20 seems to be the maximum number of notifications twitter goes up to and then it lazily displays 20+ at the bottom.

However, nothing surpassed the surreality that occurred when a couple of people retweeted the talk not to @ebefl -my handle- but to @russellmayne – a clinical strategist in Dubai.I thought the poor guy might take offence at being randomly tweeted at but no, he replied saying, ‘wrong Russ’ and then added:

Not only had my Googleganger been dragged into the chaos, he was merrily joining in!
All of this has come as a surprise. This was my first IATEFL. I’ve been trying to go for three years now. You might remember this post from last year when I complained because I couldn’t go. If I’m honest, the only reason I put a talk in is because we have a rule that accepted speakers can always go to conferences. I didn’t think many people would be interested in the topic but at least I’d get to tick it off my ‘to do’ list. I’d also maybe get to meet some of the people I’d been chatting with over the last two years.

I’d been pretty nervous all day beforehand and hadn’t slept well all week. When I slipped out of Steve Brown’s talk to go and prepare I was surprised by what I found. There seemed to be quite a lot of people in the room and more were coming. Then, Adrian Underhill strolled in and asked me a question. I was worried at this point. Next the guy at the back told me it would be live streamed I started to panic. People started to add extra rows of chairs and then the cameraman gave me a thumbs up. 

The  mic picked up my feelings at that moment and preserved them for history.  

Later, someone asked me how come I got to be live streamed. I have absolutely no idea. It’s really odd and I didn’t realise how odd till I saw the list of names. Either side of me are people who are actually, you know, famous and have done stuff. I’m not very well known, have no published papers, haven’t written a book nor have ever even been to IATEFL. I’d really love to know how they came to the decision to pick me. I honestly haven’t a clue. Maybe it was a mistake?

I should take a minute here to say thanks, though. I’d been feeling a bit despondent about conferences lately. Having had about 5 and 7 people come to my last two BALEAP talks, I was beginning to wonder if it was worth the time and stress of writing and presenting. Perhaps no one was really interested? The incredible response has made me think again. I’ll have to delete my half-written “conferences are a waste of time’ blog post now. I’m genuinely very happy that so many TEFLer seem to agree with the sentiment of the talk.

The highlight of the day for me (aside from not being lynched, obviously) was meeting so many lovely twitter bods like Nicola Prentis, Mike Harrison and James Taylor (sorry if I missed anyone out, it’s all a bit of a blur) Best of all was when Hugh, Steve, Carol and Chris bought me beer and sat and chatted with me until I had to catch my train. (Side note: NO ONE looks anything like their twitter picture except for Hugh Dellar and Jonathen Sayers who look exactly like theirs)  I wish I could’ve been there all week. Maybe next year? That is assuming I haven’t been done in by a shadowy TEFL illuminati.

I’m going to try to put up some extra info about the talk but in the meantime, here are some links to old posts on the subject.
NLP claims, NLP, Council article on NLP (with response from the website in comments) and a weird misuse of Thornbury half way down here to support NLP. 

Sorry if this post was a bit self-indulgent. I’ll be back to my old cynical self soon.

24 thoughts on “‘Oh God!’

  1. I caught it online. It was the best talk, because it was timely and you said things that people have been thinking for a really long time but weren't brave enough to say. Well done, and looking forward to reading more!Karenne


  2. I've just seen the talk online, after following this blog for a long while. Well done. It must have took some cojones to go to IATEFL and begin your talk by putting up a list of TEFL legends and then tearing them to pieces!


  3. I'm grateful for all the praise but I have to say I'm a bit confused by all the the comments about bravery. Perhaps it's being in EAP, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I didn't say anything that was untrue or factually inaccurate about any of these people. I just noted the fact that they have written books/published articles/ printed articles supporting the practices I was critiquing. I'm not sure why that takes any courage?


  4. Hi Russell, there was a real buzz about your talk in social media during and after the conference – catching up on the recording now. As for who decides who gets filmed at the conference, I can explain this. The SIGs, who select who they want to be highlighted during their 'SIG day' also choose the presenters they think should be filmed, so one of the SIG committees or SIG coordinators (each SIG has a different way of choosing) selected you.


  5. I'm more surprised that your talk (or ones like it) hasn't always been this popular, especially at a conference like BALEAP where critical thinking is so entrenched into the EAP mission statement. Of course, I've never been to BALEAP; maybe I'm wrong about it and who's there. Your talk is provocative and well informed, set to a charming and humourous manner. What's not to enjoy? You did a great job.


  6. Agreed. I think we're entrenched in the idea that informed critique and response to published work is normal. Probably though, if I'd been doing so about Thornbury and he was in the room, I'd have a quicker heartbeat as I looked at him.


  7. Besides, making statements of any sort, you open yourself up to criticism yourself. This, if you're not confident to respond, can be scary. The trick is to be as informed as you are about what you're writing–you know, the whole point of your blog.


  8. Having just watched your talk online I can assure you that one cannot see any of the nervousness or anxiety you describe. On the contrary, you seemed cool, calm and well-prepared.Congrats! You deserve it.


  9. I commented on this before but it disappeared. (Can I just say again, how much I hate blogspot and can't understand why people don't all use WordPress).Anyway, I think you didn't come across nervous on the day but maybe a little bit on the video. And I think the bravery comes in having it written down on a slide. I watched jaw dropped and super impressed at the point. It's all just so not TEFL. No vagueness. Also it calls upon those people and publications to respond. I wonder none of them have. But maybe they will. And I think the best thing ever, ever, ever would be a Paxman style panel with those who felt like they could handle it. Now THAT would be brave.


  10. Thanks for the comments. I think Tyson is right and I read a blog by another EAPer who noted that we constantly ask for evidence from our students in the EAP world. I wonder if deference to authority is a good idea in any academic situation?sorry about the blogger…might be too late to change now. Thanks to you I have a post on ELTjam which is word press I think.


  11. Hi Mike, Yeah I enjoyed that paper though it got a lot of flack in mainstream education. some teachers were quite resistant to the idea. It's understandable. I think Goldacre is right though, we should all be in charge of our teaching. we should be the experts, we shouldn't have to rely on others.


  12. Hi Russ,I've just watched your talk and I thought it was eye-opening (to say the least). I actually presented a TESOL workshop on MI theory some years ago. It's true that as an undergraduate student I was influenced by Gardner's theory but I only saw it as theory (don't know if that sounds too simplistic). So what was this workshop about? It mainly focused on activities inspired by Gardner's theory but once I checked it again (because I did check it over once I watched your talk) I discovered it was more about the use of realia in our lessons. The reason I'm mentioning it is not to renounce the ideas presented back then. It is mainly because I think it is OK to admit that something you believed in isn't actually true. That's why I agree with the idea of bravery mentioned in other comments. I think you were brave in pointing out that we might all falsely believe in things we have no evidence of because we actually think they might work. I've seen my students change but I only praised my students for that and possibly my work too. Forgive my non-academic approach to the issue but I often felt that in practice theory should be like music. You experiment with different kinds but you have to be careful which genre you end up being loyal to. Once again thanks for the great talk, you made me question myself which I think is the first and most difficult step to change.


  13. Thanks for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the talk. 🙂 I agree with you that admitting something you believed in isn't true is brave. Not many people can do it. They tend to dig down and defend their position at any cost. Haven't we all done that?


  14. It was so refreshing to see someone taking on some of the nonsense that infests the language teaching world. As a rationalist and ESOL teacher, I have occasionally engaged with colleagues on 'learning styles' and left-brain/right-brain pseudoscience, but to little effect. This stylish talk has encouraged me to keep up the fight. Thank you, Russell!


  15. Thanks for saying what you did the way you said it. I was thoroughly told off when I was doing my DELTA for doubting the truth of \”multiple intelligence theory\” as I was less knowledgeable and less experienced that its devotees. I have now checked the Trinity Cert TESOL syllabus and found that found that Learner Styles is not explicitly mention, so it will be gone from our future courses. Thanks


  16. The thought of teachers being 'told off' for questioning something fills me with despair. Shouldn't these courses be about getting us to think not about telling us what we ought to believe?


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