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IATEFL 2024 Annual Conference - Ben's Thoughts on Sarah Plochl's Workshop "English for Artists"

Sarah Plochl is someone I have frequently bumped into at IATEFL and BESIG conferences and someone I always learn from in some way. It was Sarah who assisted me in overcoming my biases against (and lack of expertise in) various social media platforms at last year's IATEFL conference in Harrogate and I have since had the benefit of her expertise at BESIG's 2023 conference and elsewhere.

As such, I was interested to see Sarah's talk as my first post-plenary session of IATEFL's 2024 Annual Conference.

Her title was "English for Artists" and she began by asking us for our associations with the word "artist" which immediately generated interesting responses and engaged the audience - this set a lovely tone for the rest of the workshop.

Sarah stated that:

"An artist is someone who is trying to make sense of the chaos of their experience of the world by bringing their feelings into an outside form that other people can

perceive and (perhaps) understand."

Sarah explained how she works with creative individuals including artists, amongst others, as her coachees A primary concern for these individuals is how to get their vision across. The artist as a language learner struggles between “control” (poetic function of language, exact use of words, complex expressions and meanings, being uncontroversial is not a priority) and “flow” (get the message across, intercultural communication). This gave us a lot to reflect on in our own teaching and training.

Sarah shared some wonderful case studies of situations she has acted as a coach in relating to creatives and asked the audience, in small groups, to put forward ideas for what could be done to support each individual with their diverse objectives and unique barriers to development. This might link to questions and a coaching approach, input, discussion and more.

Sarah also invited us to consider which "boxes" we can use in our training based on approaches she has used. These included:

  • Coaching approaches

  • Neuroscience

  • Actors' methods

  • Design thinking

  • Polyglot methods

  • Creative writing

  • Outdated materials (and using them in a different way to what they were intended for)

  • Dance

The first word that comes to mind when listening to Sarah speak is "authenticity"; this is a teacher and coach with a true interest in helping and supporting others and a person with that rare ability to genuinely listen and who balances accomplishment and ideas with modesty . These are, in my view, rare traits in a field requiring self-promotion and dominated by a sales-like approach to their own ideas.

Truly, a highly recommended speaker and brilliant professional!

Visit Sarah's website here -

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