Workshop review: ELTABB Migration Matters

By Annie Heringer

When I arrived at the Migration Matters Workshop, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I teach English in Berlin and my students are German or have lived in Germany for years. What would I learn today that would inform my teaching? It was curiosity that drove me out of the snow and into the cozy wine shop where the workshop was being held.

By the time we went around and introduced ourselves, I realized that the majority of participants did not work directly with migrants, but simply felt that migration is an increasingly important subject and wanted to learn how to address it with their students. This workshop would be great start.

Kelly and Sophia of Migration Matters began by pointing us to a guiding question: who are/what are/are we migrants? In the first activity, we moved across a physical map and looked at our own backgrounds, asked where we come from and what we call home. The complicated answers reminded us that we are migrants too.

We then broke into smaller group and using abstract photographs, talked about why we became English teachers, what we find most challenging about teaching and how our motivations and challenges relate to our students. Sharing our answers with the larger group, we learned that we had been talking about many of the same things- communication, multilingualism, expectation, stereotypes, etc. Kelly and Sophia helped consolidate our conversations and concluded the first part of the workshop with four ideas:

  • anything you do is taking a position
  • you are not freed from the responsibility of who you are in the world
  • we need to know who we are
  • everything is a negotiation, everything is a conflict

After the break, Kelly and Sophia dove into definitions of culture, power, bias and nuance. We also looked at the terms migrant, immigrant, refugee and newcomer and then launched into an exercise on our own bias. Through this exercise, we discovered:

  • one of the ways to overcome our own bias is to overcompensate
  • the main goal of nuance is to question our assumptions (which come from bias, positive or negative)
  • what’s important is that we don’t say we have all the information (“I’m right.”)

The final activity in the workshop was to look at three videos from the Migration Matters website and write down the bias that each addressed and the nuance that it promoted. The very first video really grabbed my attention with a point about how the fear that migrants will “take over” has only really happened in colonialism (the colonizers being the migrants). The participants seemed very excited by the videos and began talking about how to use them in a lesson.

It was a very interesting workshop which generated a lot of interesting discussion, some related to teaching and some to simply being a citizen of the world today. It was a great introduction to the subject of migration and to the tools offered by Migration Matters to navigate it. Many thanks to Kelly and Sophia and to ELTABB for enabling such an enlightening workshop!