Discussion Groups and Feedback Sessions – PD in Focus 2

You can have meetings over coffee (photo by Chiew Pang, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/)
You can have meetings over coffee (photo by
Chiew Pang, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/)

Teaching can be a lonely profession. You teach, come back home, mark, prepare – but you need and would like to get together with colleagues or teacher friends to reflect with. What do you do? A good idea is to set up a discussion group. Get colleagues from work or friends of yours who are teachers and set up a group. I even do this with only one friend of mine.  Of course, a larger group might be better, as you hear and share more opinions and experiences.

Get together with other teachers from work or friends. Find people you enjoy communicating with and encourage others to join you as well. Choose an environment that inspires you – the home of a colleague, a quaint and quiet cafe, an especially designated room in a library (we have one like that here at the library, where you don’t even have to whisper!).

Choose a topic. It can be a common topic, or each one of you can have a different one to talk about – a class that you are having issues with, a colleague that has dried up and needs more ideas, new lesson plans you have used and would like to share. A topic I recently discussed with a wonderful friend who is also a great educator was culture in the classroom – how we can encourage students to respect each others’ culture and create an environment that celebrates diversity (as we were both having some issues with instances of racist remarks in our classes).

Discuss and find ways to implement what you have learned. Give suggestions to each other on how you plan to apply everything you have taken in the sessions – and come back again another day to reflect on how it went. It feels much better to do things when you know you have company – it is interesting to see how different approaches work.

Take notes / Make a newsletter! I know this needs time, but it is always useful to take notes in these sessions, which everyone can keep and revisit. It can even be in the form of a newsletter! You can make free newsletters you can send as regularly as you like to the whole group at http://tinyletter.com/, for an easy, colourful format or interactive ones at http://www.smilebox.com/newsletter-designs.html

Do you get together with other educators in discussion groups? If you have any different ideas or experiences, share them here with us.

Conferences, Workshops and Swapshops – PD in Focus 1

(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France
(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France

After last Sunday’s webinar for BELTA Belgium, I have decided to start a series of posts, each one focusing on every point raised in my presentation, both for novice teachers and experienced ones. As I mentioned in the webinar, a good teacher is a constant learner – so regardless of the years one has been teaching, Professional Development should always have a pivotal role.

Let’s start with the first point – which is also one of my favourites: conferences, workshops and swapshops, the latter being a new kind of event and one that I find very interesting.

  • First of all, it helps tremendously to know which events we will attend and where. As we are all educators and work hard to earn our income, it is crucial to plan our events based on our budget. There are so many things going on, either at our own local level or internationally. An easy and practical way to find out where various conferences are going on is to look at Tyson Seburn‘s amazing ELT Calendar on his blog.

Second, it also helps to be a member of an association as we can get a lot of perks, such as free attendance to events, or at a discount (even the magazine or newsletter, electronic or paper). It is impossible to be members of all the associations we would like to, but nowadays most of them are affordable and allow us to register for multiple ones.

Now, on to the whywhy should we attend all these events? Don’t we already have enough to do, besides teaching, marking, preparing?

  • These events serve as a boost, a nice charge-up of our skills, ideas and motivation! A lot of educators including myself feel fully charged after a conference or workshop. You are just ready and looking forward to using the ideas you got in our own classroom, changing your methods, experimenting to see how the students will respond. Sometimes it might be the case that these ideas don’t work, but at least you have tried something different.
  • Suggest ideas! A lot of sessions, or workshops, are highly interactive – the speakers include the audience as well.So that way you can come forward and mention an idea you have used in your own classroom, or how you would use the idea you just heard from the speaker. Instant feedback. (I just love these sessions where everyone can take part!)
  • Conferences are not only the sessions themselves. Breaks are amazing opportunities to meet new people or come together with people you already know and talk with them, share your own experiences and compare your contexts, share ideas you got if you have attended different sessions. Networking, as it is called. Some of the best discussions I remember having have been during lunch or coffee breaks.
  • You can listen to great speakers from all around the world. How great is that? : )
  • Present! It might seem intimidating (and I am definitely far from being an experienced speaker) but it is a great experience. It is a great opportunity to share your ideas with others and do something new.

Swapshops: They are a relatively new kind of event. What happens there is that everyone can present an idea of their own – a lesson plan, idea, technique that they see has worked for their classrooms and would like to exchange with the other teachers. Usually it is a timed presentation 7-8 minutes, or more. It is so interesting! I love how everyone participates and the enthusiasm is contagious! You can leave a swapshop with a lot of ideas.

Any other reasons you consider conferences and events as a great way of developing professionally? Feel free to add a comment.

Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.
Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.

From Zug to Belgium – A BELTA Webinar

BELTA Belgium
BELTA Belgium

Today was the day of the first webinar for BELTA Belgium, a great new association for English teachers in Belgium and everywhere, in fact! BELTA was founded by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis, Ellen de Preter, Guido van Landeghem and Jurgen Basstanie. You can read more about the foundation of BELTA and also watch the launch event here.

I was asked to do the first webinar for BELTA, which I accepted with great joy and honour. The topic was Professional Development for Now and the Future: A Guide to 2013 and you can watch the slideshow below:

I have also created a PDF file with the most useful links.

BELTA Presentation – Useful Notes

Here is the link with the recording of the webinar, which will also be published on the BELTA blog, Facebook and Twitter.

A huge thank you to BELTA and everyone who was there (including my parents!), in the Adobe Connect room and to my sister, Eugenia, who was there in the same room as I was, cheering us all on (and also helped me find a title to this blog post)!

A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)
A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)