Pre-conference event – What colour is my teacher?

Workshop facilitated by Rosie Tanner and Jenny de Sonneville

Before coming to the conference, I had decided to take part in the workshop of the Teacher Development SIG. I am so happy about it now! This day has given me much more than I had expected. Not being entirely sure about what was waiting for me on the first day, I had feared of having to sit at fancy talks and highly sophisticated discussions about the theories of teacher development, that have no connection with everyday life at all. Instead, I got so much energy and motivation! I discovered new things about myself and others (it seems my first stay in Britain is all about making new discoveries), got new ideas, learnt new theories and practices. But most of all, I got to know a bunch of nice people from all around the world (Britain, China, Iraq, Madagascar, Turkey, Sweden…) – an amazingly colourful mix of people and cultures!

When I arrived, the Sefton Room seemed to be full of people. About 30 or 40 teachers and trainers were introducing themselves for the others and I was intrigued by the different experiences these people had. Even though they came from very different background, they all were interested in the same thing – developing as a teacher and as a person.

The colourful day started with looking into ourselves and telling the others what we would be as teachers and persons: sea or mountain, spring or autumn, Jaguar or VW van. It was very interesting how people involved their senses when deciding which group to join. We discussed sounds, smells, feelings, movements and colours. As I was moving from one group to another, sometimes I found myself in trouble. Perhaps it is my own lack of self-knowledge, but it made me think really hard if I would be a luxury Jaguar or a handy VW van. Although, it first made me want to run up and down between the two groups, looking into myself deeper and talking about it with others helped me realise I am more like an overloaded, a bit worn out, but comfy and useful little van which is always at hand.

We moved on with drawing ourselves as trees in the context of our teaching profession. The result was a whole forest, with the most varied trees in it – tall pine trees, young apple trees with blossoms, large and massive walnut trees with birds nests, hollowed trees with squirrels, old fruit trees still bearing fruits… One thing was common, though – all the trees had fruits on them.

This activity led us to think about a situation where we were proud about doing or achieving something. We collected all the skills we needed to achieve that aim. I chose a very fresh experience – I had given a successful workshop at an ELT conference about a week before. I had never thought about why it was so good or what made it work, so it was amazing to collect all the skills it got involved: organisational skills, managing time, ICT skills, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, spontaneity, creativity, humour… Later on we exploited these thoughts and went on exploring our own skills and abilities.

Julian Edge says

“Cooperative development is a way of working together with one or more colleagues to develop as a person who teaches in your own terms.” (1992, 2002)

We discussed this definition word by word and discovered how effective cooperation can be in making the most of our potential and develop ourselves as teachers. We also discussed the meaning and the role of empathy, which is essential when cooperating with colleagues. Empathy needs such skills as attending and reflecting, so we practiced both skills by listening to each other and reflecting on our impressions. When attending, it is important to make the speaker feel well listened to. You have to make sure to let the speaker know that you are interested and – probably the most difficult thing – not to make positive or negative evaluations. This may best be done by using reflection as a tool: acting as a mirror, summarising, catching the speaker’s emotions. These tricks will not only help the speaker to see clearer what s/he is trying to say, but it also helps you to understand better.

As a final activity, we made a collage to reflect on ourselves when we feel the passion about our work. We were kept quite busy for about 20 minutes with cutting papers, gluing colourful feathers and stickers, finding pictures and incisive mottoes to express ourselves. The result was a wonderful exhibition of thoughts put together in collages. I found it really useful to reflect on my own working process and exploring myself as a teacher and teacher trainer, using my multiple intelligences.

A personal reflection on what I learnt about my skills when teaching or presenting: To put it in an astronomical context – I found that in the organised universe of teaching/training/presenting/etc. there is always a “black hole” which can suck in everything at an unexpected moment, it can make the whole organised and carefully planned process collapse and destroyed. BUT if you use spontaneity as a “rope”, it can pull you out of trouble…

In the booklet we got at the workshop there is a quote from St. Augustine which seems to reflect the basic thought of the day:

“People travel to wonder
at the height of mountains,
at the huge waves of the sea,
at the long courses of rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars;
and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

I strongly believe this workshop reached its primary aim: we became much more aware of who we are as individuals, as teachers or trainers. We will not “pass by ourselves without wondering” anymore. Many thanks to Jenny and Rosie for this discovery!

And if you ask me now what colour I am… Well, I will say: I‘m a RAINBOW teacher!

by Erzsébet Csibi, Hungary