Demand High Learning: Summary of 9/29 #KELTchat

An international group of teachers participated in Sunday’s #KELTchat, exploring what it means to ask our students to demand more of themselves. The chat began with the question, “What does demand high learning look like?” Participants determined that it is individualist encouraging students to push their own limits and not be satisfied with a correct answer or a high TOEIC score. It is autonomous, and the role of the teacher is motivational as well as helping students determine the gaps that need to be filled. It is not exactly the same as demand high teaching.

 Demand high as a tool:

#KELTchatters discussed the value of demand high teaching as a tool that lets go of preparation and expectation on the teachers’ part, so that the teacher can respond to the moment. A teacher’s expectation of what students can achieve is limiting and teachers do well to be flexible about their preparations for class, willing to give over at the moment of learning, quoting @jimscriv: “Go where the learning is. Deviate from that lesson plan.” One participant pointed out that the demand would be on the teachers, but the students do all the hard work. Demand high teaching and learning cannot exist without intimate knowledge of the context and the students.

Bridging the gap:

Another question that arose is how to bridge the gap between the students and their goals? Suggestions included input, not demanding high (in terms of accuracy), and demanding high when the situation emerges. This led to the question of fluency and accuracy, with chatters debating whether it is appropriate to demand high in terms of either or both, deciding that it depends on the context, the age and level of the learners. Is there value in repetition? Is there value in expecting students to apply strategies they’ve been taught? Several teachers commented that accuracy is given preeminence in their teaching contexts internationally (Korea, France, Indonesia) and that demand high is limited to exam preparation. These issues all had a place in the chat. One chatter commented that demand high is a tool and the fluency/ accuracy dichotomy need not be an issue.

 The teacher’s role:

The chat turned to the question of the teacher’s role in helping students “demand high” of themselves. Chatters suggested motivating students to push themselves, helping students explore the language conundrums they encounter when they encounter them, providing explicit feedback based on a belief that students can do better, and setting expectations for themselves in order to give them focus.

 The importance of context:

Context proved quite important in the chat. One chatter pointed out that different contexts necessitate different objectives. Another added that it also meant different opportunities to achieve the objectives. A chatter pointed out that age and level would impact the point at which one might demand high. One participant lamented the tendency in Korea to see CLT as a hoop to jump through. Another said that the place of CLT activities in Korea seem to be “fun” rather than “learning” and that focus on improvement may often be lost. A chatter wondered if demanding high might be a way of challenging the perception of CLT in Korea.

Helping students “demand high” of themselves:

What are some ways to help students to “demand high” of themselves? Responses ranged from suggestions: modeling that learning doesn’t follow a set path so that students will be free to be more exploratory; giving activities and tasks that provide an opening for demand high learning; helping students set individual goals (and find a way to assess whether they are achieved) to pessimism: one participant argued that there is no room for more demand on students in Korean public schools because test preparation is everything. Several teachers suggested helping students “demand high” of themselves so as to fill the gaps in their test preparation and that a change of learning goals may not be necessary.

 Final thoughts from chatters:

@michaelegriffin: Final thoughts: Don’t be satisfied with just smiles and communication. Students are capable of more and need to be helped see it.

@annehendler: Final thoughts: Giving students tasks that help them get to know themselves and point out their strengths and weaknesses can help.

@Penultimate_K: Key phrase that sticks with me is @jimscriv ‘s ‘Go where the learning is’ That and ‘prep vs plan’

@bryanteacher: As a movement, is “demand high” appropriate for Korea? It seems to address a problem in CLT. But lack of CLT is problem in Korea. → @michaelegriffin: Well said, BUT I also think there’s a distinct lack of any demand of or belief in SS as well.

@breathyvowel suggested that it might be individualistic, encouraging students to push their own limits. @michaelegriffin contributed the definition that Ss not just being satisfied with a correct answer or a high TOEIC score but pushing themselves.”

Shared links and things:

@bryanteacher shared some videos where he learned what “demand high” is all about.
My memory of Scrivener+Underhill vids: demand high about not just letting ur communicative lesson plan trundle along. Be proactive.”

@trent_mcintosh shared this article from the Guardian:

@Penultimate_K shared the #AusELT demand high teaching chat summary:

 Favorite quote:

@yitzha_sarwono wise words: “We have to give them the view that there’s no limit to English, I mean twerk & selfie just made to the dictionary!” 

Helping students to “demand high” of themselves: #KELTchat Preview for Sunday, September 29th at 8:00 p.m.

Greetings, #KELTchatters! As September comes to a close, we welcome everyone to join us this Sunday evening for our final #KELTchat of the month. This chat’s topic is “Helping students to ‘demand high’ of themselves.”

For a good understanding of “demand high,” I highly recommend the Demand High ELT blog. Demand high focuses on the potential for deep learning by each individual student. Demand high teaching explores how teachers can challenge each student to stimulate more learning.

In our #KELTchat, we can explore how to help learners challenge themselves. Some questions to think about:

  • What does “demand high” learning look like?
  • Can students do it on their own? What questions would they need to answer for themselves?
  • Have you any experiences to share about helping students challenge themselves?
  • What can we do to help students push themselves further than they think they can go?
  • How can we involve students in tweaking activities to stimulate further learning?
  • What ideas or advice would you share regarding “demand high learning?”

The following is shamelessly plagiarized from @thebreathyvowel: The above is of course a guideline, so please bring any other questions, ponderings or flashes of inspiration with you to the chat. See you Sunday night at 8pm!

If you’d like to join us, but you’re not sure how, check out the how to tab at the top of the page. If you’re still not sure, send me a tweet (@annehendler) or stop by the Facebook page and we’ll be happy to help you.

4/28 #KELTchat summary – BURNOUT by @bryanteacher

Many thanks to special guest summarizer and #KELTchatter Mr. Bryan Hale (@bryanteacher), who has graciously provided our summary for Sunday’s chat:

What is teacher burnout? Have you suffered it? How does it relate to administration, students, The System, our own overcommitment? What can we do about burnout, and what advice would you offer your past self?

On Sunday April 28, 2013, #KELTchatters shared thoughts on these questions while exploring ‘avoiding teacher burnout’. It’s an important professional concern, and I hope this summary does justice to the ideas and experiences we shared.


Alex Grevett @breathyvowel – moderator
Georgeanna Hall @hallg
Anne Hendler @AnneHendler
Suzanne @citoyennemondia
Tom Randolph @TomTesol
Bryan Hale @bryanteacher
Roy Woodhouse @RoyWoodhouse
Daniel Craig @seouldaddy
In a special cameo appearance: Mike Griffin @michaelegriffin

What is burnout?

“feeling of being overwhelmed by what (I thought) my job required” … “exhausted” … “a bit in despair” -Georgeanna

the point where you’re not effective as a teacher any more?” -Anne

“Feeling extinguished, like you can’t do anything” … “No passion or motivation” -Suzanne

“Maybe loss of passion, sense of fun, desire?” -Tom

“Something like not making the effort to see that learning occurs, rather than actively promoting it.” -Alex

“uninvested” … “feels impossible to change the situation” -Bryan

“you think you’re not making a difference, or worse, contributing to problems in the system.” -Daniel

Possible symptoms of burnout

Georgeanna – exhaustion and feelings of despair, depression.

Anne: “migraines every day”.

Burnout is not…

Georgeanna and Tom agreed that burnout is not related to age.

Tom later said “burnout’s different from ‘exhausted by a job well done’…I want to quit if I’m burned out.”

Different burnouts

Tom raised the difference between burnout in a particular job, or burnout in a career.

Anne and Alex mentioned burnout related to particular age groups/school types.

Bryan said there could be burnout related to particular teaching types, and burnout related to the Korean education system.

Workload, support and overcommitment

Much of our chat dealt with intertwining issues of administrative support and teacher overcommitment. I have tried to tease out the strands.

On teaching hours

Roy spoke about his heavy teaching load, and thought 30 teaching hours is about the limit a teacher can handle. He said outsiders might not see 30 hours as much, but teaching requires a lot of planning. Others agreed that people might not appreciate planning time.

Roy said that different student levels require different amounts of work and energy – such as beginners. Others agreed, but Alex pointed out different groups are different. He said with his current beginners  “we sort of feed off each other.”

On support from administration

Tom brought up the issue of administrative support – “hugs, $$$, help”. He wondered if participants had felt burnout related to a sense of unappreciative admin and being overworked.

Anne pointed out that admin staff can be overworked, too.

Georgeanna said she sometimes questions whether admin want teachers to teach their best, given the workload they give teachers.

Bryan said there can be a gap between what a school thinks it’s asking of a teacher, and how a teacher perceives a request – for example, schools might only expect simple lesson plans, or might not expect a lot of After School planning.

Later, Georgeanna said she wishes she knew what admin and students actually expect. Tom suggested admin “just wants you to keep your students happy and spreading the word.” He asked if good admin “force themselves to look further?”

On teachers overcommitting

Anne felt she has had supportive admin staff, but she has chosen to overwork.

Georgeanna was burned out in a particular job, but on reflection thinks “I was expecting way too much of myself.”

Tom said it is hard work to keep colleagues from overcommitting. Georgeanna wondered how to find “the point of working hard, but not too hard.” Tom said it involves “a lot of mentoring and reflecting.” He said that if teachers complain of too much marking, maybe they’re overdoing marking.

Georgeanna mentioned teachers pushing themselves to do ‘amazing and new things’. Tom said this can help fight burnout, because “it’s the repetitive, unchanging stuff that gets to me.” Georgeanna said she understood Tom, but it can still contribute to lack of time.

Georgeanna and Roy agreed that the workload you commit to can sneak up on you. Georgeanna said that at first you might feel elated by the challenge and constant activity.

Alex said teachers might overcommit because they want to do a good job and think ‘time spent = performance’. Tom agreed that over-prepping and over-assigning homework doesn’t equal greatness. “Quality over quantity.”

On vacation/downtime

Anne said teaching camps involves intense periods, but the slower periods which allow recovery help a lot.

Tom highlighted the importance of vacation time – “So one can give it all AND recover, research, relax to do it again.”

Alex said that when teachers are only working, they lose time to develop. “You might know you could do better if you had time to stop and think.”

Tom said teachers can also think ‘that’s what next semester is for’:

“I’ve accepted I’ll never do the job as well as I could, but I do it the best I’m able – growth, reflection, development reward me with usually doing it better / differently next time.”

Other issues

Burnout and ‘The System’

Daniel said burnout can arise from feeling you’re contributing to problems in the system. Anne argued that all teachers do this to some extent, and asked who has the power to change the system.

Tom: “It’s certainly exciting to be able to EVOLVE a system.”

Daniel agreed about evolving – “evolving is still change, just a lot slower and more likely to work”.

Georgeanna said she has had the feeling of contributing to problems, “It’s complicated.” Daniel replied “It makes you feel like a fraud.”

Is burnout part of teachers’ life-cycle?

Alex asked Anne if burnout is part of the lifecycle of a kindergarten teacher.

Anne: “No! I really think burnout doesn’t have to be part of a natural cycle of anything.”

Roy thought that burnout is becoming normal as teachers don’t get paid for planning hours.

Are students a cause of burnout?

Alex wondered if students can be a cause of burnout.

Anne and Tom mentioned kindergarten students in humor.

Bryan said in a traditional education setting, students might see attendance as appreciation and not show appreciation in other ways.

What can you do about burnout?

Put less pressure on yourself.

Daniel: “Putting less pressure on ourselves is often important.”

Tom: “More simply: “Do less.” (David Mamet)”

Alex: “Perhaps some of the pressure could be put on to the students?”

Take time away.

Georgeanna took a semester away, then returned to her job.

Anne took a long vacation in South East Asia, “went home and refocused myself and came back to teach a different age group.”

Bryan: “Go to another part of Korea. Far enough to forget job, close enough to increase warm feelings about where you are.”

Improve exercise and diet.

-Anne, Tom, Suzanne, Daniel

Tom: “Feels good to be good to oneself…”

Suzanne: “Yoga.”

Take more naps.


Keep a gratitude journal.


Visit a batting cage.


Play darts.


Take long baths.


Play computer games.

Alex: “Computer games are awesome escapism.”

Roy: “…save money by not going out”

Spend time with friends and family.

-Anne, Tom, Suzanne and Daniel

Tom: “Yeah, aren’t relationships key? (Not sure about the booze anymore, though…)”

Suzanne: “Talking to friends and family.”

Daniel: “A good night out did used to help a little. A day at the playground with my kids works just as well w/o the hangover.”


Suzanne: “Sometimes crying helps immensely. It allows you to get it out of your system.”

Get some ‘comfort food’ TV.

Bryan: “Especially for times you can’t sleep/nothing else available to do.”

Practice professional development.

Daniel: “#keltchat is another way to beat burnout.”

Bryan: “I think as I’m becoming more confident about my teaching, I’m getting more immune to (esp admin-related) burnout. But takes time.”

Advice for your former self

Alex asked if we had any advice to offer our former teacher-selves.

Anne: “Be less of a perfectionist. Students can do a lot for themselves that I did for them to make it look good. … Take a break during breaks. And be more minimal with paperwork.”

Mike: “Chill out…it’s not such a big deal.”

Suzanne: “Learn how to let go and not take things personally. If it’s not on the lesson plan, but works, fine. Bad days can happen. … And you can learn from those bad days as well!”

Bryan: “Don’t take everything so personally/feel necessary to convince ppl what they’re asking of me is wrong.”
(Alex mentioned SNIP – ‘Smile. Nod. Ignore. Proceed.’)

Georgeanna: “Take it easy. No need to ‘prove’ my professorlyness.”

Final thoughts:

Roy suggested a topic for next time: Why do some people view TEFL as a stopgap/fallback and not a career?

Tom: Fresh off the press – ‘How to love what we do’