It’s an honour to be a volunteer as part of the MaWSIG team. From university days, I’ve always been active on committees and then in teachers’ associations, finding them professionally enriching and an excellent way of broadening my horizons. On moving from Madrid to a small town in Spain, I missed a broader perspective, so I joined the board of a local association. Here, I met different people and learnt much about the Spanish state system of education in the process. As I became more involved in teacher development, I gave talks at national conferences like TESOL Spain (an IATEFL associate) and exchanged ideas with new friends. Becoming a member of IATEFL offered me the opportunity to gain a truly international perspective and learn about different teaching environments worldwide. As a materials writer, I was looking for the specialist advice and networking opportunities that joining MaWSIG could offer; on the committee, I’ve had the chance to work with like-minded, dedicated and experienced professionals, who I now consider to be my friends.
My role is two-fold. I work closely with Clare Maas, one of our Joint Events Coordinators, on MaWSIG’s webinars. We arrange rehearsals with the presenters so they can familiarise themselves with the platform and test their equipment. I’ll then be behind the scenes on the day checking everything is running smoothly. Occasionally, this might be in a slightly adrenalin-powered state of panic, like the time one webinar presenter gave the talk from an airport!
Secondly, there’s the social media element. We promote the SIG and IATEFL, our events, and anything we consider to be of interest as regards the creation of ELT materials. At the same time, we try to maintain a neutral tone and avoid promoting anything commercial. So far, I’m pretty proud of the relatively few close scrapes I’ve had confusing the SIG account with my personal one …
Each social media channel has its own features and peculiarities, and I’ve worked out a posting order, depending on whether I can toggle between accounts on my phone (Twitter and Instagram), or if I need to switch browsers on my desktop to avoid logging in and out of different accounts (Linkedin).
I tend to draft a post in Notes (to use across all my devices) with any links needed. If possible, I’ll subsequently check the accuracy of it with our super editor, Penny Hands. However, I really don’t like to abuse her time so I’ll add a disclaimer here that any mistakes you do see will be those posts that she hasn’t given the green light to!
I post first on our Facebook Page. With nearly 6,000 followers, we aim here to appeal to a general audience interested in ELT materials. We also have a Facebook Group. This is a closed space for MaWSIG members, where we can chat and exchange ideas in a more private setting. So, if you’re part of MaWSIG and not yet in the Group, we’d love to see you there!
I might then cut down the text a little, add some hashtags, and then go to Twitter. We have a healthy following of over 3,500 on Twitter, a lively platform, which lends itself to activities like on-the-spot reporting and chats, such as our recent #SIGTweetMeet led by Joint Events Coordinator, Fiona Mauchline. It’s also a fun space for networking and exchanging ideas with friends from our sister SIGs.
It’s a quick step to add to Instagram. Posting to this very visual channel also gives me the chance to add some fun promotional text to any images for My Story. Once I’ve taken a screenshot of these, I can use them to create a whole new cycle of posts across the different media.
Finally, I tend to post on Linkedin, a more professional environment, where we also have an open Linkedin Group. At this point I’m hoping that Penny will have managed to mop up any language misdemeanours I may have committed.
The worst moments: aside from some pretty elementary-level typos, I’d say one of the worst was nearly wiping the whole of the MaWSIG Google Drive, swiftly saved by my predecessor, Damian Williams, on his birthday – thanks, Damian! Another was being temporarily banned from posting on Facebook, not ideal for a social media coordinator. It turns out it was nothing to do with any personal potentially controversial posts I might have shared angrily around the time of Brexit, but a training project I was involved in when my posting in too many groups had set off the Facebook alarm bells.
Among the best things are: meeting our webinar presenters, meeting other volunteers in our sister SIGs, and getting to know people who are involved in the IATEFL community. I love the camaraderie of our weekly committee meetings, which I appreciated all the more in times of lockdown. I also appreciated the fact that nobody put any pressure on me to produce posts during this time.
Above all, I think playing an active role in a teacher’s association SIG means you can make a genuine difference to your profession. In the case of MaWSIG, one of those aims is to shape a fairer future for ELT materials.
Jen Dobson is an award-winning writer and teacher trainer specialising in early years, young learners and safe, collaborative educational technology. She recently authored Oxford’s pre-primary course for Spain, Archie’s World.