By Mark Smith
For those of you considering doing some teacher training and/or development, I thought it might be useful for you to read a little bit about what goes on in our courses from the view of a trainer. I hope you will find this encouraging, and what better place to come and learn than in London, the UK’s biggest and most diverse city, where you can experience the language and rich culture first hand?
I’ve been running English teacher training courses and development course here for over a decade and I’ve found it very rewarding. Just below is a very brief description of the courses we run, and you can find out more detail about their individual content at the link below. What I want to tell you about is what you can expect from all of the courses – what they all have in common in terms of a rewarding educational experience.
Our teacher training courses include Teaching Knowledge Test preparation for the University of Cambridge exam for teachers of English; CLIL, Content and Language Integrated Learning, for teachers who currently use CLIL to teach secondary school subjects; Teaching with Technology, for all teachers who want to explore more ways of exploiting technology in the classroom; Teachers’ Refresher and Teachers’ Refresher Plus, for qualified and experienced non-native speaking teachers of English who wish to consolidate and enrich their teaching palette.
The input sessions can, broadly speaking, be divided into two categories. Firstly, they can focus on teaching a particular skill. Sometimes this can be quite general, a lesson on teaching listening for example, and sometimes the topic can be a lot more specific. Say, live listening, for instance, or teaching vocabulary with games. There will be a tendency, but by no means a necessity, for more specific sessions to come later in a course to enable those participants to gain a wider grounding of teaching techniques before building on this with more specialist ideas.
The trainers are typically experienced teachers who are passionate about their own professional development as well as the professional development of others. With this passion come experience in sharing ideas with other teachers, and can therefore efficiently and effectively explain, demonstrate and allow the participants to experience the practical side of these ideas. An important part of this process is to allow the participants time to discuss the ideas and suggest ways that they might be adapted to suit their individual teaching styles and teaching contexts. This may include task design and/or lesson planning.
One of the major benefits of workshopping teaching ideas and adaptation is that it fosters and inspires in participants a can do attitude when it comes to their own creativity. Receiving ideas and gaining practical experience of adaptation is valuable, but more so is the ability to identify the language needs of one’s students , and coming up with ways of introducing and practicing language to fulfil that need that is motivating and effective. It’s the teacher that masters this that will be most rewarded in their teaching.
As a trainer, I like to be sensitive to the needs and desires of participants, and I like to strike the correct balance between four basic elements: input, discussion, creation and practice.
This will include practical ideas that I want to share with teachers, as well as the methodology behind these ideas. This, of course, will involve a certain amount of theory, or at least revision of the theory, in order that we all understand the rationale that inform the design and implementation of these ideas.
This can be held between the whole class, in small groups, or even as a mingling activity. It is a vital element of the process in that by vocalising our ideas and reacting to the ideas of others we consolidate our understanding not only of the advantages and limitations of particular techniques, but also in what ways we can alter them and exploit them to suit the needs of our own learners.
In this part of my sessions, participants are expected to come up with their own ideas for implementation, and express them a little more formally, so that they can devise their own blueprints for lesson plans that they can present and demonstrate to the rest of the group.
There is always an opportunity for the participants to try out ideas, either as “students” lead by myself, or as teachers taking “students” (the other participants in their groups) through some newly discovered/designed activities.
In all of these different working modes, participants are asked to think critically about what is being presented and shared with them. In this manner they are encouraged to help each other find solutions to anticipated problems.
What must not be undervalued in such a course is the potential for the work that the participants do while they are working together to have a widespread impact. It’s my aim to empower teachers to pass what they learn, discover and devise on to the teachers in their own institutions. In this way, we all contribute to teacher development in the global EFL community.
Participants on a teacher training course can often come from many different educational backgrounds and this provides a useful melting pot of experience and knowledge. Of course, the participants will also all have certain things in common. First and foremost, they are invariably passionate about both teaching and developing themselves as teachers. This creates an infectious energy and enthusiasm. Creative output is often high, therefore, and focussed conversation rarely runs dry. It is this stimulation and engagement that will leave you fired up to hit the ground running when you get back to your own classroom.
I look forward to meeting you!
''Lots of new ideas to motivate my students. Staff is very friendly and competent. You are encouraged to try new methods which takes you off the treadmill and brings back the pleasure of teaching.''
''My experience at WSE was great; our group was small, so we could really focus on the exam (TKT). It lasted 2 weeks and the staff teachers were excellent. We got on well and we are still in touch (we came from Russia, South Korea, Italy and Ukraine). I heartily recommend WSE to all students and teachers who are willing to improve their language/teaching skills.''
''Wimbledon School of English is a well-known institution. Students feel safe and comfortable in it and it is a great experience to share classes with people from all over the world.''