Preparing a Talk for Tired (and disgruntled) Teachers

When you are asked to give the last talk at a large mandatory national study-day which begins at two o’clock (right after school, for many teachers), you know your audience will be tired and disgruntled by the time it is your turn to speak. Particulary as your talk ends at 7:30 p.m.

How disgruntled is a matter of luck depending on how enganged teachers felt earlier and how many technical mishaps there were. You also know there will be a great deal of ongoing long-distance monitoring of children.

Photo by Gil Epshtein

I read Tyson Seburn’s excellent post “The Thing with Interactive Conference Sessions” several times before my talk this week. I really agree with this post. My experience with “talk to your partner” at sessions has not been positive. Many of my colleagues report similair reactions. The trick I needed was to keep the teachers awake and engaged but to stay away from that pitfall. Particularly when a large audience in a large auditorium is involved.

Here are notes about what worked well and what didn’t:

* This is NOT the situation to go for a “No Tech Talk”. The fact that I began with suggestion for using  a humorous clip from YouTube, and then, at intervals, explained how I use Word Clouds and Quizlet really grabbed attention.

*, which I just learned about from Larry Ferlazzo, helped me create some sophisticated looking slides easily. I’m quite impressed by the options there!

This talk was given in Hebrew to teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.
This talk was given in Hebrew to teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.

* Eliciting sentences from the audience based on the activity we had done before did not work well. I only wanted 6 sentences to show “the Erasing Words Technique” but it seemed that paying attention (even asking questions!) was one thing, suggesting sentences was another. Too much interactivity at this hour, I guess. Actually, this was the “low” part of the talk as it calls for a white board, which collapsed before I approached it (I was grateful it didn’t fall on my head, to be honest. It was huge!). I had sentences prepared in advance and did it on the computer but it really doesn’t work as well. When you erase words on a white board the space remains there. Important. On the computer you have to create the space manually.

* Choosing unfamiliar sounding Japanese words to show a technique for using charts to learn vocabulary gave everyone a welcome humor break (I knew my audience spoke many languages, Japanese was a good choice). However, some teachers would not even make the effort of coloring in the relevant squares on their charts. And that was a pity because those who did felt the sense of satisfaction that I wanted to convey. It is simply not the same when you just look. I  tried some active encouragement at this point but as one teacher replied “not at this hour”.

If you know the word, you go up. If you don't, you go down.
If you know the word, you go up. If you don’t, you go down.

* But the best thing was sticking to practical tips that teachers could easily try in the classroom. That was the thing I got the most positive feedback about. Photocopying a simple Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense game ( a la “Snakes and Ladders) for them to take home went down very well. We may all be adults but having something to take home with you still feels as good as getting a “goody bag” at a birthday party.

10 thoughts on “Preparing a Talk for Tired (and disgruntled) Teachers”

  1. I love it when we show awareness of things that worked and didn’t and are transparent with others about this. I’ve been thinking about that in regards to my dissertation, but that’s another story.

    You touch on an aspect of conference interactivity I did not: the affective filters teachers bring in with them to their sessions. In your case, it’s the time of when your session began and what had occurred previously. It sounds like you were cognisant of this and other factors, so good on you.

    1. Thank you Tyson!
      I know a lot of teachers feel just like you described in your post. I have often heard it discussed at conferences.

  2. Naomi-

    This article is not only interesting as a fellow teacher (and I can imagine which study day you are referring to)–but it is also useful to me as I approach writing my doctoral thesis!

    My topic will involve a facet of teacher training for encountering certain phenomena in the classroom (close to your field). As such, I will need to be addressing tired teachers at after-school staff meetings as they will be my questionnees in many cases.


  3. Really nice, Naomi

    Regarding the dialogue vanishing technique on your computer: Make the words WHITE – this way you don’t need to “create the space manually”

    (been there …etc..:-) )

    1. Thank you so much for that useful tip, Marisa!
      Next talk I won’t need to deal with a scary wheeled-in whiteboard that could collapse on me! LOL!
      I’ll remember it!

  4. My dear naomi,

    I will echo Tyson here – it takes a lot and is highly appreciated when we teachers reflect – both on what went well and what didn’t. It must have been stressful also to know where they were coming from and how they would be. I am sure you gave them not only a spark of motivation, but fireworks!

    Thank you for the great tool,! Will definitely be using it : )

    You rock, super lady!


  5. I found your comments right on the button! they remind me of how we have to think when planning for very late classes with our students – how different they are at the beginning of the day!
    Looking forward to hearing you speak (never have).
    Also, registered for canva and waiting to hear from them. Looks good.

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