We inspire-JULIE PRATTEN
Today "Inspirational English" is talking to Julie Pratten about her current projects and how
BIG things happen.
Julie is the creator of Heart ELT, a non-profit organisation in the UK that offers resources and support to children who cannot access education. Julie has taught for over three decades specialising in Business English and soft skills and is the leading author of banking and financial English publications, which include ‘Absolute Banking English’ and ‘Absolute Financial English’ by Delta Publishing. She also developed the app Brighton Study Kit, a social initiative for the University of Brighton and Academic Flipwords, which focuses on vocabulary from the Academic Words List.
In January Julie will launch MOODLE for Kids – a platform for children around the world to collaborate and solve problems in their communities. The platform will be moderated and managed by Dr Nellie Deutsch.
Julie is a regular speaker at international conferences and a visiting lecturer at the University of Brighton. Doing things differently in collaboration with others is what inspires her.
Thank you very much for being my second guest on WE INSPIRE. You are the driving force behind HEART ELT? Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of this inspiring ELT project?
JP: In autumn 2015 I had been thinking about what I could do to help refugees and shortly after that I was approached via Facebook by a logistics officer in a refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq who asked me if I could help the children in the camp as they had no access to schooling. My initial attempts to fund the much-needed educational resources in the safe learning space in the camp in through crowdfunding were successful, but were clearly unsustainable, so a way of raising money on a more regular basis was needed. I decided to set up Heart ELT Publishing and produce crowdsourced ELT materials and to use the profits from the sale of these materials to fund learning spaces for children who due to war, poverty, disaster, were not able to access education.
Image Credit:Nouha Damak Masmoudi
It’s really overwhelming that you want to help teachers who volunteer in refugee camps. I worked as a volunteer for KRAN (Kent Refugee Action Network) for a year. It was great to see how much joy my colleagues and I brought into these teenagers’ lives. It was motivating to see them grow and improve their English. Some of them have never been to school before and have no learning skills. Luckily a local academy in Folkestone has opened its doors for these young people and the classes are held in a modern classroom. However, teachers in refugee camps don’t have this working environment. Would you describe what difficulties they face?
JP: Initially, the main problem that young volunteer teachers face is that they have been trained up to teach in a classroom environment which has everything, smart boards, technology and all the books and resources available on the market. Teaching in a refugee camp is very demanding because there may be no resources at all and to make things worse, the environment may be rather grim. Some teachers are teaching in derelict buildings or squats and have to try to turn these makeshift classrooms into magic learning spaces. However, it is surprising what can be done with some old sheets and colourful paint to turn a drab wall into a fun mural. Other difficulties teachers face is that the classroom environment may be very disruptive. They may have 15 kids for one lesson and 30 for the next so teachers have to be very flexible.
One of your projects is TENT SCHOOL. How can we help teachers and students who study in tents in ultra-poor areas?
JP: The main problem is finding resources that are suitable for the low resource classroom. Heart ELT delivers webinars via its MOODLE platform Maker Space: Teaching in the Low Resource Classroom. Teachers in refugee camps need ideas that can be used with only basic materials – pencils and paper, also upsourced materials. Songs and storytelling are great ways of creating lessons if teachers don’t have resources. One of the books we produced recently ‘Hope Peace Respect’ contains the lyrics to Fluency MC’s rap songs and kids really love learning the songs and singing them. They can also follow up by writing their own rap songs. We can help by providing craft supplies and books to support teachers who are working in such difficult situations.
The motto of HEART ELT is “Little things make BIG THINGS HAPPEN”. Can you tell us about a little project that made A BIG DIFFERENCE?
JP:Recently, we organised a Christmas party for Syrian refugee kids in Domiz camp in Dohuk, Iraq. It was very moving to see how much excitement and joy the party generated for the children. They had juice, a big Heart ELT cake and fruit and each child got a small gift.
Here's some pictures drawn by Syrian Refugee kids in Domiz camp, Iraq.
How can teachers “donate” an activity for HEART ELT?
JP: Just get in touch with us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The book “A-Z of Hope” has just been published. Would you tell us more about it and how teachers can order it?
JP: A-Z of Hope Activities is a photocopiable resource book that consists of 26 activities that stimulate children’s imagination and bring joy to the classroom. The activities are a selection of games, quizzes and crosswords and are for use with all children around the world. The age range is from young learners to teenagers.
All Heart ELT titles can be ordered from Keltic on the following link:
Finally, do you think that the quality of connection between ELT teachers is improving?
JP: In many ways our profession is very competitive; however, I think that the only way forward is for like-minded teachers to connect to work on collaborative projects. I have tried to forge relationships with other teachers and it is difficult but not impossible to create positive and productive partnerships. Many teachers are rather too focused on the immediate personal benefits of working with others. I would like to believe that 2017 will be the year of collaboration; it makes sense for our own personal development as educators and it will help to play a significant part in creating good global citizens. Indeed it is the only way forward.
Image Credit- Julie Pratten
Thank you, Julie!