So much more than a Teacher Development course

Wow! 3 months! Really? I haven’t written for that long?  Well, today seems to be the perfect day to reflect on how much I’ve experienced, learned and grown since then. 🙂 The first 15 days of July, at Bell Teacher Campus (Cambridge), I was one of the six lucky people to be part of the From Sounds to Storytelling course by Adrian Underhill. One of the things we discussed as a group is how the title makes no justice to the real experience of this course. Yes, we did study the phonemic chart, progressively working with individual sounds, words and connected speech as well as using all that knowledge to work on our storytelling skills, but in fact that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Pronunciation Police Coffe Corner

“Pronunciation Police Coffe Corner” at Homerton College

Here is a list of all that went on:) :  

  • A pleasant and highly motivating atmosphere in the classroom from day 1 and tons of wonderful moments when the room was filled with laughter.
  • The phonemic chart: countless tips, ideas and discussions related to our own pronunciation difficulties, our students’ most common mistakes, discovering the logical and physical sense of the chart and how to introduce it and use it in our lessons.
  • Adrian’s natural way of finding the balance between group work and 1:1 work without every loosing our attention as learners.
  • All the great games, activities and chats were we had the opportunity to loosen up and connect as a group. Strong bonds and friendships remain 🙂
  • All the poems and stories we had the chance to listen to and work with.
  • I never had the sense of rushing. Everything went so smoothly.
  • Lots of scaffolding and coaching to build our knowledge and confidence working on all the different elements that must be taken into account when performing/telling a story.
  • Discussions on ELT matters and our own experiences.
  • Live, first hand demonstrations of Demand High techniques.
  • Workshops and plenaries on various topics.
  • Reflecting on our teaching and learning style(s).
  • Other socially-enaging activities organised by Bell Teacher Campus.
A well rounded conversation :)

A well rounded conversation 🙂

What might you do differently?????

This course and this question in particularly, have made this experience a turning point in my teaching career. Whenever we openly discussed teaching methodology and techniques, Adrian would ask this question, and it still swirls in my phonological loop with his own personal voice 🙂 There are various things I have tried to keep in mind since then whenever I am in a classroom or planning a lesson. Many of them were pointed out to us (the trainees) to analyse and reflect as teachers. Others are those personal and unique traits of a teacher in particular which I had the luxury to observe for two whole weeks in full action. They are:

  • Mistakes are the syllabus : This one definitely flips what most teachers do, including me (until now 🙂 ). Building up from students’ previous knowledge as a starting point is good but not enough. Mistakes gives us so much information as teachers and most of the time we focus on correcting them rather than working with them.
  • Time is precious – hand it to your students: Yes we plan but like Adrian explained we mustn’t stick to it if something better and more meaningful in taking place in the classroom.
  • Teach less – Guide more : Many ELT methodology books look into the facilitator role of a teacher and I can now say I have seen it live and rollin’. There is a great deal that students already know, kind of know, can be intuitive about and are definitely capable of achieving without the teacher providing the direct answer, correction or alternative. This also has a lot to do with the element of time. Teachers sometimes feel like they have to jump in and save the student from “drowning” in a pool of confusion but in fact all they need better equipment, that is their own resources and awareness to help them dive in and explore consciously.  Ask yourself  “How helpful is my help?”
  • Manage the energy in the room: Like I’ve said before, we did loads of different things and I never had the sense of rushing. The teacher is responsible for this one and I think it is a skill worth developing. Projecting calmness, genuine interest and openness as well as deciding what, how, when and why to reach of the objectives we have planned in a realistic and smooth manner makes a great difference.
  • Listen, don’t just hear: This is a good one for life itself. We tend to be thinking about other things while someone is talking to us. Be mindful 🙂 Listen. Really listen and see what happens. 
  • Brainstorming, discussion, reflection and cooperation

  As you can see… it was much more than just another developing course 🙂

Than u Adrian :)

Thank u Adrian 🙂

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BE DARING!! – Vicky Lora’s advice on CPD

Today, right at the equator of my webinar watching marathon challenge, I cyber-bummped into Vicky Loras’ webinar about Professional Development on the Sundays with BELTA archive and I couldn’t help write about it and share my excitement 🙂

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This photo of my lovely Moma, staring eagerly at the open sea, mirrors how I have often felt about my teaching career so far: 

I’m stuck here and there’s so much more out there. 

 “I’VE LEARNT MORE OFF TWITTER THAN IN MY 4 YEARS AT UNIVERSITY” – Vicky Loras

This didn’t come as a surprise to me at all. That’s why I am writing this post, to share all I have been up to in the last 4 months ever since I decided to BE DARING 🙂

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Just like her, I threw myself in and the rewards have kept coming since then. 

6 years vs 4 months 

Although I have been teaching for a while, I’m starting to realise I have probably been in the wrong contexts and haven’t had much luck when it comes to professional development opportunities. The worst part is, this affected me to the point where I was actually starting to consider teaching might just not be for me. The classes went fine, but I did feel stuck and lonely 😦 I don’t pretend to blame anyone here, I know I am responsible for my own development, but being fair, the ambient and colleagues in each workplace can make such a difference.

These 4 months have taught me how and why Continuous Professional Development and creating a PLN are two of the greatest mainstays in teaching.

I’ll go over Vicky’s advice on HOW to professionally develop, step by step as they appear in the presentation:

1) CONFERENCES, WORKSHOPS AND SWAPSHOPS

My motivational boost came about this past February, when I took part in Steve Muir’s course on Multimedia for ELT. Every evening after the course, I couldn’t help feeling a bit down because I wouldn’t be able to take any of those incredible ideas and tools into my own teaching just because this year I happen to be with 3-6 year olds.

Nevertheless, it was a clear reminder of the excitement and possibilities that this wonderful job entails. Here is my thank you post to Steve 🙂

Just a week later after the course finished, I attended my first conference, TESOL Spain’s 37th Annual Conference. There’s just one word for it …. WOW!

I absolutely understand why Vicky uses all kinds of positive adjectives to describe the experience of attending a conference.

A weekend filled with the adrenaline rush I had been missing for so long. It was a pity I didn’t manage to convince any of the teachers I know to join me because I would have loved to discuss live the countless ideas and concepts I came across. Once again, that didn’t stop me this time. 🙂

Blendend learning is one of the topics that most grabbed my attention and of course EDMODO!

But, like I said earlier, I wasn’t going to be able to use it with my actual students due to their age. I had to come up with a way that would allow me to try it out, play around and discover. Guess who I got involved??? MY OWN FAMILY 🙂

Yes, my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins, all around a beginner level. I registered and created a group called “English for us”. It’s been absolutely amazing and fun to do this. I sent them links with videos and online exercises, they worked on grammar, reading, listening and spelling . They had assignments to complete and I even had them send me voice messages through whatsapp to be graded on their pronunciation. We got together about every two weeks for a face to face “class” filled with communicative activities and games.

EDMODO is just one of the many interesting insights. I got so much out of just one conference. I can wait for the next opportunity. 🙂

2) DISCUSSION GROUPS / FEEDBACK SESSIONS

This is where the idea of ISOLATION that Vicky talks about comes in for me. I have worked in 4 different schools and I can say that most of the teachers I have worked with were quite burnt out or too comfortably settled. Out of an estimated total of 5o teachers whom I had to coordinate with, there have been only 3 who were a bit more willing to get out of their comfort zone, discuss ideas, try new things or reflect out loud. It’s quite sad actually.

I understand how energy draining our profession can be, but I was quite sure there had to be a way to keep up our own motivation. I grabbed on to these teachers very strongly and once in a while we had great chats related to teaching matters and came up with some nice projects to work on in our classes.

On the other hand, while taking the CELTA, I was quite lucky to have a lot of this with the other trainees. This is why I know the value of it and have missed it since then.

3) MENTORING

” Look at you, all excited! I envy you.” said one of my colleagues a couple of months ago after I raved about social media, blogs and professional development during a break duty.

I immediately answered ” You could do it as well. I could help you”.

It was quite flattering to think that I would be passing on what I had very recently learnt and helping someone else feel enthusiastic about their work.

I wouldn’t call myself a mentor (sounds to big of a word to me) but I’ve tried my best and so far she has started a blog and began to use Twitter for professional purposes.

As for myself, next September I’m heading off to Barcelona to take the Developing Teacher Course at Oxford Tefl. Who knows… I might find my very own mentor there 🙂

4) OBSERVE AND BE OBSERVED

Yes… it is kind of intimidating but once again, I have to agree with Vicky on this one, it should be seen as a learning opportunity. This is something else I had a small taste of during CELTA and I can’t even describe how much I felt I improved by getting direct feedback from the tutors and peers.

Before CELTA, the only chance to observe and be observed  had been the 3 months training period established at the end of the B.Ed. A very dull experience, as I was assigned a tutor who wouldn’t even bother saying good morning to me. I learnt a lot about what I would avoid doing as a teacher myself, which in fact is quite useful.  I can say I got one great piece of advice that really made a difference in my teaching: move more around the room, use all the space available. My teachers had always stood at the front of the classroom almost 100% and that unconsciously sneaked into my own teaching.

5) JOURNALS AND MAGAZINES

I subscribed to the ETProfessional magazine recently as well. It issues every two months, with great practical ideas and interesting articles. It has got me checking my post box with a smile.

Vicky shares a great link for a list of ELT journals, newsletters and magazines by Victor Hugo Rojas :

https://www.diigo.com/list/victorhugor/ELT+JOURNALS%2C+NEWSLETTERS+%26+MAGAZINES/5kamdy2s

6) TWITTER 

Once again ….yes! yes! yes! to all Vicky has to say about the marvellous outreach possibilities of Twitter. I never even imagined someone would follow me. I started using it to follow some of the speakers I had seen at the TESOL conference and it’s a daily stop for me now.

There is so much to learn, I have to say thank God for bookmarking 🙂 .

It is certainly the best option to connect with other motivated professionals. I have recommended it to every single teacher I know.

7) JOIN WEEKLY CHATS

Another incredible discovery. 🙂

In these recent months I have joined a few #eltchat and #eltchinwag. Sorry to repeat myself but… WOW!

At first I thought it couldn’t be real. Teachers from all over the world meeting to chat about a topic they had previously set to vote !!!

But it is real, and here is where I have also had the chance to connect with great teachers, who are so passionate about what they do and who are willing to share and learn.

My heart skipped a beat every time one of my tweets was favourited or retweeted. I felt I had a voice and an opinion worth sharing. 🙂

I kept asking myself Where had this magical world been all this time? 

8) FACEBOOK PAGES AND GROUPS

Checked!

Like most people, I had a personal facebook profile and I did follow the Teaching English British Council page but that was about it.

Two months ago I created a different profile and have used it exclusively to stay updated and connect with the ELT community.

Through Facebook I have joined various groups like:

ELTPics

Webinars for English Teachers

30 Goals Challenge

ELT Chat

Technology for EFL/ESL teachers

Innovative Teachers of English

Blog Posts of Teachers of English

This is definitely another priceless medium that is available to everyone.

9) BLOGS

After actively reading other teacher’s blogs for a couple of months, I couldn’t wait anymore 🙂 I really loved the idea of having my own blog and so on the 1st of April elt-fun@ics was born.

It isn’t my first blog actually. Two years ago, over a summer, I created a class blog for my 6th graders. I was quite proud of it because I had managed to do so from scratch with the help of tutorials and by studying other teachers’ class blogs. I knew my students and used my knowledge about them as individuals and learners to design a blog full of links and resources that I was quite sure would appeal to them.

When September arrived, I presented it to the Headmaster at the school and she didn’t give her approval because they had just signed a very expensive contract with a publishing company which included access to a kind of moodle that all teachers would have to use from then on. It was quite discouraging. My students never even got to see it. I was kindly asked not to mention it to other teachers either because they “already had a lot on their plates and it might cause confusion with this new project”.

THIS TIME IT HAS BEEN DIFFERENT 🙂

As Vicky Loras said  “There might be someone waiting for you!”  🙂 

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This is still hard to believe

When I started this webinar watching challenge, I thought I would be learning loads of new things and it certainly has been that way. But today, it felt quite nice to keep saying Yes… Yes… Yes... as I watched Vicky suggesting all these ways to develop professionally and be familiar with the incredible and positive outcomes of it. Specially when you start mixing and matching all of them 🙂

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I splashed in and now I’m soaked with motivation and joy!