Peter Whiley Newsletter & E-Bulletin Editor

Welcome, everyone to yet another edition of IATEFL Poland’s E-Bulletin. There’s a lot to read this month, as Lucyna Wilinkiewicz-Górniak has compiled a review of the webinar programme for the 2020-2021 academic year. All 37 webinars get a mention!  If you missed any, then don’t worry, you can go to the archive pages, and see recordings of them.

The other big text to read is the latest interview in our series to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. A leading figure in the ELT world, and a popular presenter at our annual conferences, we are proud to involve Grzegorz Śpiewak, a former IATEFL President, as the interviewee in the ‘hot-seat’. What memories of IATEFL are close to his heart? How does he see the future? Do read a very interesting text.

Also in this edition, we have the latest news, including the conference, of course, and a tribute to Maria Birkenmajer, who sadly passed away on July the 7th. Maria was the second IATEFL President, a truly radiant character, who will be greatly missed.


Little to report – we have about 90 presentation submitted, so far, which is a good number.  Presenters: please contact me with your transcripts for the Post-Conference Journal. The sponsors/publishers have yet to name which ELT stars will be attending, so keep your eyes on the main website for further news in that direction.  The Publishers will offer two ‘Happy Hours’ this year, one on Friday and one on Saturday.

Sometimes, our members don’t take advantage of free membership to one of our SIGs, when they become IATEFL members. We will be monitoring the situation, as we shall be promoting our SIGs and Regional Groups, at the conference, and letting participants know what they can expect from these important bodies – the lifeblood of IATEFL. Be warned! ;-) The next E-Bulletin, in August, will be devoted to our SIGs and Regional Groups, so please contact me with any relevant information/questions about them…. newsletter@iatefl.org.pl   


Magda Zawadzka, the organiser of this well-established event, is fully-prepared for the 5th edition.  The popular ‘Klub Seniora’ will be the hosting venue, again. If interested, contact Magda for further details at: byronz@wp.pl


Maria sadly passed away on the 7th of July, 2021, and was IATEFL Poland’s second President, having been very heavily involved in our early days. She had also been an Executive Board Member, and Advisory Council. An author, teacher, and consultant, she worked for many years at the Institute of English Philology. Here is my personal description of Maria:  “She was the epitome of a dignified person, cultural, knowledgeable, courteous, and supportive. In just a few minutes, she inspired me about Scotland, which she knew well. A popular, warm person, well-loved by all who had contact with her. May she rest in peace.”

30th Anniversary:  Interview Series…..

Grzegorz Śpiewak

Teacher, teacher-trainer, project manager, adviser, materials reviewer, and author. Former academic lecturer (English Dept, University of Warsaw, and subsequently, The New School for Social Research, New York). Former IATEFL Poland President, currently, on its Board of Advisers.

Head ELT Consultant for Macmillan Education Poland, Central & Eastern Europe. President of DOS-ELTea, an independent teacher development centre. Nominated for a British Council ELTON award, 2016 (DOS-ELTea Teacher Trainer Academy). Winner of two European Language Label awards: 2016 (Youngster programme – Macmillan Poland) and 2012 (deDOMO – English for Parents).


Q1. When did you join IATEFL Poland, and what attracted you to the organisation?

It was in the last century ;-) in the mid-1990’s, to be exact. At that time, I was at the beginning of my EFL journey, having taught for a few years at the Institute of English, Warsaw University, as well as at the Teacher-Training College in Radom, and a few private language schools in Radom and Warsaw. I was young and enthusiastic, and I wanted to learn from people who were so much smarter and more experienced than me, and so, IATEFL PL seemed the obvious choice. Gradually, I discovered to - my amazement – that I could also contribute something of value, and that people were willing to listen to what I had to say. Now that I think of it, it’s probably fair to say that my whole career as an EFL presenter, teacher-trainer, and mentor began with IATEFL Poland!

Q2. Why did you decide to stand for election as President of IATEFL?

I would never have thought of this myself, but I was encouraged – and, in fact, pushed quite brutally (;-)) by several of my fellow ‘IATEFLers’ at an Annual General Meeting. I hesitantly agreed, and, ‘miracle of miracles’, I was voted into the post! I served as Vice-President in 2000, then as President in 2001 and 2002, and finally, as Vice-President in 2003.

Q3. What did you achieve in your role as President? Do you feel you were effective?

My term of office coincided with several, fantastic, annual conferences, including Kraków (2000),Warsaw (2001),Poznań (2002), and Wrocław (2003). I certainly don’t take credit for them, but it felt wonderful to be involved in the whole process of organising and hosting them. These were the ‘golden years’ of English teaching in Poland, and for IATEFL. Conference attendances were soaring, great speakers were flocking in from near and far, and publishers’ stands were getting bigger each year.

It was also an exciting time for the EFL community in academic terms, not  least thanks to the publication of  the Common European Framework (CEFR) in 2001. I felt honoured and privileged to be around at that time, involved in the dissemination process, with IATEFL PL taking a very active part.

As for the second question, I never felt that my term of office was a ‘one-man show’, but rather, I was helped enormously by the Executive and Extended Committees. I was lucky to have worked with them, and learnt so much from them.

Q4. Which figures within IATEFL Poland would you consider as being key to its development, and why?

I am old enough to have served together with IATEFL PL’s founding mothers and fathers, including our distinguished patron, the late Professor Rusiecki, as well as Ela Jarosz, Danka Sołtyska, Anna Gwardyś, the late Maria Birkenmajer, the late Bożena Czarniak, and subsequently, Marta Bujakowska, Dorota Chromińska, and Geoff Tranter: all exceptional characters, with a passion for committee work.

Q5.  As a person long affiliated with Macmillan, what would you say about the state of play in relations between IATEFL and the publishing companies?

Historically, publishers have contributed a great deal to the success of the Association, particularly (though by no means, exclusively) when it came to our annual conferences. IATEFL PL  have reciprocated by providing a highly-attractive outlet for their promo activities and unique networking opportunities.

I think this liaison is likely to continue in some form, though its heyday is certainly behind us, for various reasons.

Q6.  Having extensive experience abroad at ELT conferences, who would you say are the ‘driving forces’ on the international scene?

Internationally, there are too many to even mention; in my mind, figures such as Alan Maley, Catherine Walter, Adrian Underhill, Michael Swan, Scott Thornbury, and more recently, Lindsay Clanfield, and the indefatigable Bethany Cagnol, tower particularly high – as truly amazing academics, teachers, and incredibly inspiring speakers.

I am also very lucky to have met IATEFL World Patron, Professor David Crystal, on many occasions, including a very memorable ride I gave him and his dear partner, Hillary, from Warsaw airport to Toruń (I hope I got this one right!) – (yes, indeed you did! Ed.). They gave us an amazing Shakespearean evening performance. It is through them that I also met – and became friends with – their super-talented son, Ben Crystal. IATEFL does offer such unexpected pleasures and opportunities! 

Q7.  What has been your best performance/contribution at an IATEFL Conference?

If I had to judge, I would choose the session that I developed following a request from Geoff Tranter, as part of IATEFL PL’s support for first-time conference speakers. The session was called ‘How to give your first IATEFL presentation. Some tips and tricks’, and as the name suggests, it was just that: a collection of very doable things that a person could do that  evening, in the comfort of his/her hotel room, to improve their session, and its delivery, the next day or the day after. Several first-timers (and a few more experienced speakers) came up to me after the session, and said my tips and tricks were a real help – and this truly made the effort worthwhile. In fact, I was asked to repeat that session the following year.

Q8. What do you think IATEFL could do to improve both their organisation and their conferences?

As regards future conferences, there is always room for improvement, and for trying out new formats, types of interaction, and ways of engaging participants as much as possible. Change comes quickly these days, not least owing to social distancing, which made us all move to the on-line conference mode.  Whilst I long for the return of face-to-face events, realistically, on-line ones are here to stay, whether as the only choice for organisers, or as part of a hybrid formula. This represents both a huge challenge and a great opportunity for Event Managers. Ideally, participants should receive solid, inspiring content, coupled with attractive delivery, matching the needs of audience type, size, and attention windows.

In terms of the Association, it’s difficult to say something meaningful in a sentence or two. It’s not so much about what an organisation can do for its members, but very much the other way around!  If people continue to give generously of their private time - and take pleasure from it – (which I think is a real pre-requisite!) then, IATEFL can continue to do the wonderful work that our Founding Members initiated.

Q9. How do you perceive the future for IATEFL Conferences, Publishers, and Teachers?

It’s impossible to answer this in a couple of sentences (sorry, Ed.), but we know the future is uncertain, and its coming faster than anyone could have imagined, thanks to the pandemic. Nobody will be unaffected, certainly none of the groups mentioned in the question. So, we need to brace ourselves for that impact.

Q10. How can we brace ourselves for that impact?

The freshly accelerated pace of change suggests to me that this will no longer be ‘one-way traffic’, with teachers presented as fountains of authority and wisdom. If we are to remain valid as professionals, and adjust to the emerging realities of what Professor Jemielniak described, recently, as a ‘society of sharing’, and an ‘economy of sharing’, we almost certainly need to re-think our roles and responsibilities, and to acquire new competencies, drawing on domains and disciplines that are sometimes way outside our current areas of expertise and our comfort zone. Fortunately, great new research and a lot of brilliant thinking can bolster us in our search for adaptation. These issues will be explored in ‘Thought Leader Academy’ - a new teacher development programme that I’ve co-designed with my long-term professional partner, Marta Rosińska, to support colleagues, as current and future leaders in the inevitable debate about the future of teaching, learning, and of school, as such.

***Thank-you for your answers, Grzegorz.

IATEFL Poland’s Webinar Series: September 2020-July 2021…Leading Theme: ‘CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT OF TEACHING AND LEARNING QUALITY’ – A Report by Lucyna Wilinkiewicz-Górniak.

IATEFL PL’s webinar series began very modestly, in 2018, when our Association did not have its own virtual room. Maria-Araxi Sachpazian, Chairperson of TESOL Macedonia-Thrace & Managing Director of Input on Education, invited us to her own virtual room on the 17th of January, 2018, and offered us a webinar titled: ‘Teacher Development for teachers at different stages of their professional careers’. So, our very first webinar referred to continuous professional development, and this inspired us to use the banner theme (in the title) for our webinar series.

Since that time, our project has been developed, not only in the number of webinars offered, but also by the diversification of topics. In the academic year, 2018/2019, we presented 5 webinars, via our own Click platform, including one from Maria-Araxi Sachpazian.

2019-2020 was even more successful, with 18 webinars, involving a wide range of topics, including assessment literacy, critical skills’ development, positive psychology in the classroom, and innovative teaching methods.

Then, came the pandemic – and we were well ahead of ‘the game’. All teachers were forced to teach on-line, and therefore, we decided to offer our colleagues even more guidance from experts in the area of teaching languages, catering for the whole diversity of needs and expectations. It must be said at this point, that the developing programme of webinars would not have been possible without the technical help of Marcin Stanowski, who maintains the archives, is responsible for streaming, and distributes the attendance certificates all around the globe. Well done, Marcin!

In 2020-2021,we organised 37 webinars, and they can be classified, with their titles, into the following 5 categories, with one which is miscellaneous:  

1. Young learners and their needs: (We offered webinars by two experts – Sylvie Dolakova and Urszula Kropaczewska).

Sylvie prepared 4 webinars for us, beginning with an introductory topic: ‘Early Language Learning’, before moving onto ‘Pronunciation Tips and Tricks for Young Learners’, ‘Story-based CLIL for (Very) Young Learners’, and last, but not least, ‘When Grammar is Fun’. These practical- oriented webinars were well received by their participants.

Urszula, meanwhile, concentrated on practical ideas to use with children, while telling them about Christmas. She also referred to the art of storytelling.

2. Humanistic approach & SEL: (Humanistic approach to education, combined with the idea of social and emotional learning. We invited a group of experts to talk about these issues). 

Heather Brooks Denton, presenting 4 webinars in this area, concentrated on the broadly-understood social and emotional learning, starting with ‘Helping Students Increase Cognitive Potential Using Social and Emotional Learning’, before moving onto tools to be used in the classroom, ‘Social and Emotional Learning: tools to help English learners’. Her other webinars focused around growth mind-set and its implementation, ‘Social and Emotional Learning in the English Language Classroom: Growth Mind-set’, and ‘Increased Motivation in the English Language Classroom using Growth Mind-set: Activities and examples of implementation’. These webinars, like others in the overall programme, were attended by teachers of different nationalities, from across the globe, and their attitude to SEL was extremely positive, and hence, they were willing to learn how to develop their students’ growth mind-set.

We also addressed various negative phenomena in the classroom. Alicja Gałązka, an academic teacher, researcher and specialist in positive psychology and education, reflected upon problems of narcissism in education (‘Nauczyciel wobec kultury narcyzmu’), and the ways to deal with them. Intolerance and bullying were issues covered by Willow Barnosky (‘Teaching Students How to Respond to Bullying and intolerance’). The controversial topic of Cheating was objectively presented by Anna Sołtyska, in her webinar: (‘Cheating in (On-line) Assessment’). Due to the high interest aroused by this subject, a follow-up session has been planned for September the 2nd, 2021, as an inaugural opener to our 2021/2022 webinar series, with Anna joined by Grzegorz Śpiewak, as panellists.

The final two webinars in this area were: ‘Learners, trainees, teachers, trainers…people’ by Susan Holden, and ‘Reflective Teaching: Learning from Student Course Evaluations’ by Willow Barnosky. They both drew our attention to the necessity of stepping back and reflecting upon our educational activities.

3. On-line teaching/learning: (this related to the pandemic and the immediate needs of teachers).

We invited two experts to discuss various aspects of the new and very demanding teaching-learning environment, caused by the pandemic. Emily Clark stressed the need to create
a dynamic learning environment whilst teaching on-line, but also noting that not all technology works in every classroom. Her 4 sessions were: ‘On-line Language Teaching: Creating a dynamic learning environment’; ‘Choosing Technology: What Works and What Doesn’t’; ‘Differentiated Learning On-line: Active Learning and How to Differentiate Learning On-line’; and ‘Continued Professional Development: Improving On-line Teaching Skills While Teaching’. Geoff Tranter, in turn, reflected upon the distinction between the ZOOM room and the traditional classroom, with his useful webinar: ‘The Old, the New, and the New Old? – Classroom and ZOOM room’.

4. Technology, Games, Quizzes:

The use of technology in all types of learning was further developed by Kevin McCaughey, Peter Whiley, and  Joanna Perkowska-Whiley, who demonstrated to us how to use games and quizzes, effectively, revealing what has worked for them, and outlining their characteristics and benefits.

Kevin motivated us to ‘Activate Games in the Classroom and On-line’, whilst Peter presented a broad overview with his ‘An A-Z of Quizzes: Their Uses and Value’. Meanwhile, Joanna concentrated on ‘Using Genially in an escapist, fun way to prepare students for Matura exams’.

5. Professional context – ESP, Business English, and Communicative Competence, soft (21st Century) skills (English for Specific Purposes (ESP)and its various aspects included).

Evan Frendo, a well-known expert on Business English, reflected upon ‘Business English materials: Where are we now?’ Alicja Gałązka and Alex Thorp stressed the importance of communicative competence as such, in both teaching and testing, in their joint session, ‘The Centrality of Communicative Competence in English Language teaching and testing’. Willow Barnosky focused on written communication in her (‘Uncreative Writing: Writing in the Digital Age’), ‘Using Rubrics and Peer Review in Academic Writing Classes’, and ‘Writing for Literary Publication’. When combined with such 21st Century Skills as Media Literacy and Critical Thinking, crucial to all learners, especially adults, her other two webinars were also very valuable, indeed – ’10 Activities for Incorporating Critical Thinking and Media Literacy Into Your Class’; and ‘Teaching English to Adult Learners’. Critical Thinking Skills were also covered, in Polish, by Marta Nowak (EAP z perspektywy ćwiczenie krytycznego myślenia na zajęciach języka angielskiego’).

6. Specialist (miscellaneous) topics: (these are self-explanatory from their webinar titles):

Geoff Tranter presented a webinar, straightforwardly called: ‘Use and Teach Commas, Hyphens, and Apostrophes Correctly – Background to Teaching Punctuation’. (An absolute gem! – Ed.) Hugh Dellar conducted 3 webinars, largely based upon hearing and understanding language, as well as the role of memory in language learning.  They were colourfully titled: ‘Smooth sailing through the sea of words’; ‘Negotiating the jungle of sound in everyday speech’; and ‘Performing memorisation in class’. Maria-Araxi Sachpazian provided us with guidelines for effective use of coursebooks in her webinar, titled: ‘Maximising the potential of your Coursebook’.

Finally, in ‘Grading vs. Ungrading’, Willow Barnosky put forward the ‘ungrading movement’, a growing trend of questioning the value of letter grades.

***37 webinars, all recorded and available in our archives, so plenty of viewing for you in the summer holidays!  Go to our YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/c/IATEFL Poland/

Other useful links are:

1. IATEFL Poland webpage: https://iatefl.org.pl/webinars/

2. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iateflpoland

3. If you want to share resources, or simply join the discussion on ELT or IATEFL matters, join us at our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nauczycieleangielskiegoIATEFLPL

4. Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iateflpl/

All the best for the rest of the summer………….

Peter Whiley (Editor of the E-Bulletins and Post-Conference Journals) newsletter@iatefl.org.pl

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