Every year BEP trainers help World Education with their biannual week long training for English teachers. So, we put on our thinking caps a month ago on what we could usefully offer. After a useful meeting at World Education, the topics were:
• Classroom English and gestures
• Pair work (teachers know about pair work but struggle with getting beyond open pairs - 2 students up at the front reading the dialogue)
• Choral drilling - a good old favourite among teachers here so we thought we'd introduce a few more fun ways of drilling
• Lesson planning - urgh!!!
Days and days and days, hours and hours of the 4 of us working together, sharing ideas, discussing the details of the sessions and finally we were ready. Somehow lesson planning turned into 'How to teach the second page of Let's Go units' and pair work became 'How to teach the first page of Let's Go units'. Our training organiser was unphased at having to rethink his final session on the Friday based on our slight deviation from the plan.
With around 60 teachers in a large hall, we stood up in front of a sea of expectant faces, hoping our voices would carry and the sweat wouldn't be too visible.
And we were underway. Leonie and I did a brief lesson in French to illustrate how gestures and repetition of classroom language can be understood in any language. We were off to a good start. The 4 of us each took turns leading various sections, voices carrying well, nerves concealed, each encouraging the other. We finished the day with each of us taking a group for a fun activity, groups rotating round the room every 10 minutes. We were on a high, loving it.
The following day we launched into pair work followed by lesson planning. Our timing was off, we were way ahead of ourselves. The clock seemed to have stopped. A quick huddle and a plan was made. Andrea started off the lesson planning with mimes of illnesses. We were in stitches. One teacher videoed her mimes. It was a classic moment. Then it was my turn. A sequence of activities that comes so naturally to me suddenly got me confused. I was in safe hands: gentle prompts from the side, of what comes next kept me on track. I felt like one of the teachers I work with, directions coming supportively from nearby.
As we went through all our sessions, we wrote up the steps on the board, almost like a formula. The teachers had time to practice on each other, the most valuable part of any training I feel. Getting the teachers to introduce new vocabulary orally first 3 times before the students repeat the word was the main focus of the 2 days of training. I think we were successful. The next months will tell as we get back into school, although only 4 of our teachers were there. This was because some have already done the training, others couldn't go because their schools had already started term - why schools can't all begin and end term on the same day is beyond me (I'm working on a plan to remedy this).
The end of day two came with a quick feedback in Burmese - the general feeling was that breaking the lessons down into small, manageable steps was very useful. Having a formula to follow was very helpful to the teachers. From the organiser’s point of view, he found it useful to watch us training, seeing how we limit our instructions, using modelling and examples to explain rather than lengthy explanations. He also liked the way we had broken things down and written everything up on the board in a clear and accessible way.
The Burma Education Partnership,
(BEP) is a UK-based voluntary organisation which provides professional
educational support for schools in communities on the Thai/Burma border
displaced by war, oppression and economic hardship. BEP is involved in
both materials development and teacher training. It also operates a
Mobile Teacher Unit working in partnership with Burmese teachers in the
classroom offering training, planning sessions and English language
upgrading leading to formal accreditation.
With the financial and professional support of TEFL.com we are working to raise the profile of the Burma Education Partnership and in so doing helping some of the most disadvantaged and insecure communities in South East Asia.