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Feb 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 1

ISSN 1755-9715

HLT – The Last 20 Years and the Next

Mike Shreeve is a freelance teacher and coach based in Brighton, UK. For the  last 20 years or so Mike has taught coaching with NLP for teachers and (with Phil Dexter) Teaching Difficult Learners course in Pilgrim’s teacher training programme. He recently returned from a coaching and teaching project in Ethiopia which involved developing action plans for 150 target schools to improve teacher and school effectiveness. This was a return to the country where Mike began his teaching career

In the last 20 years’ time has flown. My reflection on this would be to value the time you spend and go full scale for what you believe in without time wasting. If you can change the environment, you are in for the better do so and accept you can only do what you do.  “Taking care of yourself and doing something good for those whom you meet is enough. That is compassion, and we must exercise it even in the face of overwhelming odds.”

What do I remember of those times 20 years ago? The previous year France had won the FIFA World Cup and one of the large rooms in Eliot College had a big screen showing the game.  I remember being surrounded by enthusiastic football fans which was quite unusual for Pilgrims! In 1999 I dashed from Canterbury to Wales mid-course to attend the birth of my son. Fortunately, he took his time appearing!

So, what has changed in the teaching world since the birth of HLT? Is Humanising Language teaching and the approach championed by Pilgrims still relevant?

There are the obvious changes such as the relentless march of technology. Internet was just starting and there were no smart phones. Now we have seen the rise of Technology driven education as a big part of the modern language school and educational publishing. Like any change there are good and bad aspects. The danger of technological education is that it may teach us the wrong things. It may lead us to focus on knowledge as an end rather than knowledge through relationships. This is a risk that the whole of education has to tackle and engage with. In my opinion this makes the role of the humanistic teacher even more important today. What is that role? And what does the humanistic teacher do that the others don’t? This is my interpretation mediated by great teachers at Pilgrims (such as Mario Rinvolucri, Bonnie Tsai, Simon Marshall, Tim Bowen, Hania Kryszewska, Paul Davis, Magda Zamorska, Marina Marinova, Stefania Bellotti, Peter Dyer Julie Wallis and so many others). For me the humanistic teacher builds great relationships, and this is the focus as much as any learning content. It is in this environment we can learn how to learn and to put our full potential into the classroom. The hidden aim or extra benefit is that we become more aware as humans and trust our own choices rather than imposed ones. And this natural self as opposed to one developed by our set of circumstances, culture or life chance is our real potential and mission. Without this element the modern classroom has the risk of being overspecialised, dysfunctional, meaningless and without purpose. With it, even technology can become an ally. Am I being too stuck in the mud old school and Luddite? Probably

I have just returned from a project in Ethiopia and certainly the same issues apply there. How do we shine a light, so our students switch on their potential? Too often we are putting the light out. And the solution is not lack of resources but a lack of creativity to bridge the changes that are happening so quickly (in Africa). My view is that the humanising teaching approach is exactly what is needed in this environment.

We have become more specialised in the last 20 years recognising that certain groups will have learning issues triggered by neuro-diversity and emotional and social environments. Whilst many developments have led to better understanding, my challenge is that we have not made enough progress in this area and we are in danger of making the issues worse. This issue is complex, and it partly depends on how we use the labels and the attitudes behind those labels. Like everything I think the issue is one where quality of teaching makes the difference.

One story of hope is illustrative, in 1999 in the UK, London Schools were relatively (given their large resources) the worse performing schools, now they are the best.  So, what has changed over 20 years?

A key difference is due to an investment in the quality of teaching by the London Schools Project, as has the sharing of best practice with other schools. So much so this has lowered the poverty gap (meaning poor students have a better chance of educational success than they did) and this is a model not just for the past but the future. Teachers and schools who invest in the development of their skills and devote time for it will flourish (reassuring for teacher trainers and organisations such as Pilgrims!)and change the life chances of their students.

So, what will the next twenty years bring? For me the area that brings most promise is the developments in neuro-science which is offering insight into the learning process that may add significant practical knowledge to teachers. And it may offer more precision but will be complementary to many of the humanistic and expressive approaches.

Coaching and mindset methods will continue to grow in sophistication as a good way of empowering our students in an ever- complicating world.

Technology will be both an ally and a distraction and grow in unbelievable ways. Leanness and the authentic approach will dovetail as an antidote.

Psychology will grow in its influence and poor mental health will be an even greater challenge than now and conditioned reflex of our student’s that we will need to address.

And many other changes will depend on you and all of us as teachers.

For on this depends that in the future children will continue to wonder at the butterfly and be bewitched by the buzz of the bee ….

In 2018 France again won the World Cup a pattern I hope will not be repeated in2038. But I hope that HLT is as relevant to teachers in this era and they are as inspired by the Rinvolucri archives in Bratislava as I was by the man himself and that future teachers are exploring new methods evolving from the latest neuro scientific approaches within a humanistic setting…

On the HLT birthday I would like to thank all the teachers, I have known or worked with and wish you the most enjoyment on your life’s journey.



D. Ming-Doa 1992 365 Tao, Daily Meditations Harper One Meditation 39

Tony McAleavy and Alex Elwick June 2014 School Improvement in London: a global perspective Educational Development Trust

Tagged  Voices 
  • An Education
    Danny Singh, Italy

  • Happy Birthday
    Chaz Pugliese, France

  • Humanising Language Teaching as a Force for Identity Change
    Simon Mumford, Turkey

  • HLT – The Last 20 Years and the Next
    Mike Shreeve, UK

  • From a Simple Request to National Impact
    Claire Özel, Turkey

  • Embracing Change…Or Not
    Lou Spaventa, US

  • Musings on the Topic of Change
    Tessa Woodward, UK