Today was the first day of the teacher workshop. Early in the day we carefully planned our session. Our plan was to have lunch at 1:00 and then conduct the workshop from 2:00-4:00. However, because there was only one cook on duty today, lunch was delayed. We ended up starting at about 2:20 without having eaten. We were concerned because the English classes for the community were scheduled from 4:00 to 5:30. We pressed on.
To our delight, there were eight male teachers present for the workshop. We began with a warm welcome and had each attendee introduce himself. To encourage collegiality, we opened up the atmosphere by mentioning how much we’d learned during our observations and how we wanted to offer tools to assist in their teaching endeavors. We also encouraged the teachers to feel free to raise a hand and ask for clarification when needed. Next, we explained that the classes would be held in English and that we would be happy to repeat if necessary. In summary, our goal was to answer their questions, encourage comfortable sharing and assess and provide the necessary resources.
Next, we asked the teachers to take a few moments to list their personal or professional goals, share them with a partner and then to share them with the rest of the class. Among the goals shared were to establish a language learning lab that will provide books and other materials, to learn new teaching techniques, to improve oral production, to understand the meaning of semantics, and to work on accent reduction. Some teachers wanted to improve English skills in order to be able to travel, to work in translation or interpretation, to help youth, or to teach even more languages.
We next gave a presentation on learning styles. The teachers asked several questions during this presentation. We talked at length about how helpful it is to have lesson plans that accommodate students who are auditory, kinesthetic or visual learners. It was a very helpful, active discussion.
Overall, the session went relatively smoothly and we were able to get some ideas about how to accommodate the group. One thing that struck me was that before each participant began to share his thoughts, he first took the time to express appreciation for our having come to work with them. They spoke with sincerity and it was evident from the way they expressed their gratitude that they really meant it. We closed our session with a presentation of the syllabus which we’d created and printed earlier. By this time, our session was coming to a close and we were glad to have Pere Noe arrive a few moments early so that could finally have lunch. Needless to say, we scarfed.
As planned, we spent the 4pm class explaining the use of the verbs to be, to feel and to wear as we talked about emotions and expression. Today’s class was comprised of 30 girls and 26 boys. The room was unbelievably cramped and maintaining attention was incredibly tiresome. However, I was encouraged by the presence of two very young students. When I say young, I mean 4 or 5 years old. They took it upon themselves to sit in the front of the class and to participate to the best of their ability. When asked to repeat a phrase or pronounce a word, they did so with enthusiasm and clear performance voices. At one point, it felt as if they were being an example to their class mates who ranged from ages 10-21. Real participation was difficult to come by, but we got through it.