Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 12, 2010

Creating a teacher workshop

The idea of  deepening and expanding learning by living and studying together is something which has underpinned education for many years and can be seen in many different cultures. The UK boarding school and university systems were created under this principle and many other educational systems through time have seen the value of this shared way of life. With this in mind,  I set out to create a teacher development workshop for a small group of practising teachers.   

The workshops would last for a week, bring together 6 teachers to explore, share and learn. I created a rudimentary timetable which I hoped would give us a basis from which to begin our short, learning journey but which would be broad enough to allow us to travel in any direction we desired during the week.   

I also wanted to have a focus away from, yet related to English language teaching which could help to develop our own personal language and  have local flavour. I chose the Bronte novels. I grew up very near Bronte country and had always enjoyed both the place and the novels. They are universally known, great stories to read and discuss and we could also look at the place of literature in the English language classroom. We would read/re-read our favourites before the workshop, discuss them, visit Howarth, take the walk in the surrounding moors and then watch the films in the evenings.   

The land of the Brontes

Everything was in place and now the only thing was to see who (if anybody) might be interested in such an experience! I have to admit to a lack of research on the matter and I went ahead feeling that as this was something I would love to do then there may be others who would too!   

Fortunately I was right and in June I had my group. Three were teachers from my twitter PLN (Eva, Culya and Alex) and two I knew personally (Blanca and Merces). I was thrilled and very excited about bringing all of these teachers together. In the end Merces wasn’t able to join us but the others were intrepid even though the trip to Yorkshire required a train journey from London!   


 On Sunday evening August 1st we were finally together!   

Hard at work!

For the rest of the week we shared experiences, ideas, knowledge, camaraderie and food.   

We looked at grammar and skills and explored ways of moving all of these online using an amazing array of tools shown to us by Alex and Eva. We explored humour, some weird and wonderful vocabulary, quirky ideas for class activities and of course those brooding Bronte novels.   

On the first night I realised that my DVD purchase of  Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tennant of Wildfell Hall was not, as I had though three films but the BBC series comprising over 10 hours of footage!! Undaunted we decided to give it a whirl and set out to watch all of the episodes through the week. It was a bit of a race to the end but we managed it staying up until midnight each evening ploughing through each story.   

The advantage of the BBC series was that we were presented with more of the story and particularly with Wuthering Heights, which we all hated, we saw more of the dark truth behind the novels than we would have done with a shorter film version. It turned out to be a very intense and emotional engagement with the stories.   


At Home with the Brontes

The Bronte walk (which was longer than anticipated) gave us a good feel for the place and we were delighted by their house yet saddened by their plight.   

Bronte Bridge and Waterfall

There were unexpected bonuses too! We had Spanish peppers and Turkish shepherd’s salad for lunch. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight during our shared edchat session, a delightful Madeira wine for aperitif and of course, afternoon tea! We were even invited to a local organic farm for a tour and to sample Yorkshire specialities.   

Alex the Horse Whisperer

Alex fell in love with our sheepdog Maguire and took him off for walks (although at times it was not certain who was taking whom!) Our other little dog, Duffy, who is less of a handful, trotted along with the others as they explored the local countryside.   


It was a unique experience and I hope everyone agrees. To hear an account straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, see Eva’s beautiful piece ‘Far Far Away From The Madding Crowd‘ and  Teacher Workshops. Alex’s fantastic account Amazing Stories of Sharing  and Culya’s lovely summary of the experience The Adventure of my Life. Eva made a Glogster too!

A Visit to a pub - naturally!

For me it was a rich and rewarding experience and it proved a point:  

 if you take a group of dedicated and committed  teachers and place them around a table real or virtual, they will grow and learn together.

 English language students can come and stay with me for immersion courses all year round – one to one or in groups of up to 4 people (come with colleagues or friends).  Our next Teacher Workshop  is scheduled for January.


  1. What a wonderful idea. And what a lovely post! I actually felt as if I were there. This certainly makes us think about how much we can accomplish without having to wait for big conferences to be organised, and, most importantly, how relevant it is for us to broaden our horizons beyond the scope of ELT – the cultural value is also priceless.
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience in such a wealth of details. 🙂

    Comment by Rick — August 12, 2010 @ 12:28 am | Reply

    • Thank you Rick. It’s a simple concept but I’ve always found that I learned a lot from just being with and talking to other teachers. Often as much as in the workshops and lectures. There’s a place for both but this was more personal to us all. The Bronte bit was quite self-indulgent but wonderful!

      Comment by rliberni — August 12, 2010 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Whitby, Berni Wall, Henrick Oprea, Jason Renshaw, Marielba Chirino and others. Marielba Chirino said: RT @englishraven: RT @rliberni: New Post: Creating a teacher workshop : http://wp.me/ptGdh-yC […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Creating a teacher workshop « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language -- Topsy.com — August 12, 2010 @ 1:47 am | Reply

  3. Hi Berni!

    Fantastic idea and I was thinking very much about this great collaboration when I was watching the “Wuthering Heights” series on ITV3 the other night.

    Thank you for your description of working with all these amazing teachers, including yourself! It is great because you all learned from each other and with each other.

    I hope that in the future I can take art in one of these workshops as well. Once again, congratulations on this idea and thank you for the follow-up post!

    Kindest regards,

    Comment by Vicky Loras — August 13, 2010 @ 1:19 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your thoughts. It would be lovely to see you here!
      I am quite amazed really at the enthusiasm that has been shown for the idea and our various postings on it – I am planning more!

      Comment by rliberni — August 13, 2010 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  4. Hi Berni, what a fantastic idea, and one that seems to have gone off wonderfully. It’s like a personal conference for a PLN, instead of getting together at a larger ELT conference. I think that lots of teachers would be interested in participating in something like this, but the problems of getting time and money together seem like big obstacles. It seems like you solved that problem, but how did you do it?

    Comment by John Brezinsky — August 16, 2010 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

  5. Hi John thank you for your comment & question. Yes, from the feedback it seems to have been a bigger success than I anticipated! I have quite a large house here where I teach students who come for a week or two to live and study with me (one to one or in small groups). I thought it might be a good experience to do something similar with teachers. I decided to offer this as a free collaboration and run it just three times per year. I could do it more often if I charged but not sure if that would alter the whole dynamic. If I were able to increase my student base then I might be able to organise more workshops! A weekend would also work for PLN members near here. Having read and seen my post and those of the other participants, any suggestions from teachers would be most welcome!

    Comment by rliberni — August 16, 2010 @ 5:52 pm | Reply

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pearson Longman, Pearson Longman. Pearson Longman said: @rliberni org'd a #teacherdevelopment workshop (small group, great results). First time I heard of this. Anyone else? http://bit.ly/ajmTkJ […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Creating a teacher workshop « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language -- Topsy.com — August 16, 2010 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  7. […] will find Alex’s story here, Berni’s here and Culya’s […]

    Pingback by Far Far Away From The Madding Crowd | A Journey in TEFL — August 24, 2010 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  8. […] Creating a teacher workshop […]

    Pingback by How to be a good language student! 10 suggestions « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language — August 27, 2010 @ 10:30 pm | Reply

  9. […] Creating a teacher workshop […]

    Pingback by Sharing your teacher’s life – courses in a teacher’s home « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language — December 2, 2010 @ 6:52 pm | Reply

  10. […] post on the first worshop – Creating a teacher workshop Find out more  about teacher workshops in Yorkshire Other posts: Total immersion courses – […]

    Pingback by Learning together – the value of sharing « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language — January 19, 2011 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  11. […] Creating a teacher workshop […]

    Pingback by What has Design got to do with EFL? « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language — April 3, 2012 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

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