Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

January 19, 2011

Learning together – the value of sharing

January saw not only the dawn of a new year but also the second professional workshop for teachers of English held in this little corner of Yorkshire.

When I first advertised the event I wasn’t sure anybody would want to brave a wet, cold English winter for anything – so imagine my great surprise when the first reply came from a teacher in Brazil!! I have to admit I did worry and sent out as many snowy, grey winter pictures as I could but undeterred, Cecilia (@cecilialcoelho) was determined and arrived on a dull January day in the Yorkshire market town of Northallerton along with her compatriot Wellington (@wellingtonros) and two Greek teachers Dina (@DinaDobru) and Maria (@mariazygourakis).

After half an hour to unpack, we got straight into things – English afternoon tea (tea and Christmas cake), a candle-lit christmas tree and an hour of introductions. After five minutes it was as if everybody had known each other for ever and so some of us had – we had met on twitter!! One thing about teachers is that we are rarely backwards at coming forwards and we so like to talk!! So, plain sailing so far.

After a shared dinner we gathered in our makeshift cinema to watch the first of the 3 Bronte films planned (we never made Jane Eyre deciding instead to go to the pub!) The Tennant of Wildfell Hall.

The following morning we set out for Bronte country to see their house, walk the cobbled street they had walked and stride across the moors that had been the source of much of their inspiration.

Haworth did not disappoint. A cold, misty January day is probably the best time to see it when studying the Bronte novels. There was still enough cheer in the Christmas lights to lift the mood of the place and it is certainly a great example of how life might have been in nineteenth century Yorkshire. We didn’t manage the walk but did stand on the edge of the moors to see the terrain and certainly froze for the photo opportunity!

Freezing on Howarth Moor

This visit seemed to set the tone for the rest of the week. It grounded us all in the place and the mood but more importantly in togetherness. It was different, new, interesting and we were learning about each other, our teaching lives, our aspirations and our loves and hates.

The trip ended with a visit to the old Victorian station in Howarth (this is the train line used in the Railway Children). We were lucky enough to arrive just as the last steam train of the day was about to come into the station a great end to a long, yet interesting visit.

Here we were, a group of strangers brought together by the common bond of our profession and the desire to share and learn from each other.

Back to the Victorian Era!

The opportunity to live and study for a whole week allowed us to fulfill this desire in a very relaxed way. We returned home, ate and watched the first part of Wuthering Heights with the reality of the moors and the surrounding areas in our blood.

Our 6th member of the group @shellterrell arrived very late on the Monday after a horrendous journey that took her crisscrossing over the US and Europe. She arrived bloody but unbowed and was able to spend two days with us before going on to Cambridge and London.

During the next two days we explored ideas, methods and tips for teaching skills, vocabulary, grammar and for helping our students to get the most out of their English learning. From the most experienced to the least, everybody had something valuable to contribute. We worked hard morning and afternoon but also laughed a lot. We had afternoon tea, ate Greek delicacies ate a wonderful Brazilian meal and were introduced to caipirinhas!

On the Wednesday (January 5th) being Twelfth Night I had planned a party which included a special meal (we ate goose), a traditional Christmas play (A Mummers Play) and then some Parlour Games (namely Charades, Articulate and a Questions Game).

Some Brazilian Dutch Courage!

We began the evening with more caipirinhas – once the players had chosen and donned their costumes – which were, I have to say, very impressive!

The play was great and everybody performed with great gusto!

The games were great too and we ended up playing until quite late – all games were ones that could be easily played in the classroom to practise vocabulary, question forms,  tenses and a host of other items. We had a fun evening!

On the last two days we explored more ideas and experiences around speaking and reading. Copious amounts of tea and coffee were drunk as we shared resources both online and offline, demonstrated activities using the computer, whiteboard and anything else to hand (including the contents of my bathroom cabinet!).

On the Friday we got an extra surprise as it began to snow!  Out came the hats, scarves, boots and gloves! Out came the cameras and bang went the session! It was such a lovely and magical end to the week’s activities.

Playing in the snow

The group spent the Saturday exploring York and then it was over :-(.

Looking back it seems an age ago and while we were together it seemed like much longer than a week.
So why am I telling you about this?
Well, because to eat, sleep and breathe our subject, our teaching, our ideas and experiences together was a unique experience. I provided the physical platform for this but the fact that it worked and was a valuable (I am speaking for myself but I think/hope the others agree), very enjoyable and thought-provoking week is, I think, worth sharing!
I will leave you with some of the handiwork!
See post on the first worshop – Creating a teacher workshop
Find out more  about teacher workshops in Yorkshire
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