Trainer Conversations: Your Own Session

If you read my blog from time to time you may know about our EduHub Teacher Sharing Day initiative in Dnipro, Ukraine, I have co-organized three times so far. Following this link, you will learn more about our ELT Pecha Kucha Hour, with more links to the earlier posts.

The latest event was in November 2019, with a theme ‘ELT Approaches and Formats

One of our speakers was Valentina Popova**, my friend and colleague based in Kyiv. During the event, and afterwards via e-mail we spoke about possible ways to start small workshops for her colleagues, as it is the first time she is planning to offer her own project as a ‘trainer-preneur’. This post will share our conversation about the event details in the form of questions and answers. You are more than welcome to join our chat!

** Please scroll to the end of the post to learn more about Valentina.

Her session title was ‘CLIL: from Enigma to Routine‘, and the description said the following:

‘Have you always been captivated by the idea of bringing some effective modern techniques into your classroom? You can easily do it implementing the CLIL method. Attend the session if you want to know what it is, how it works, and why it is considered to be efficient. In the session we are also going to talk about planning a CLIL lesson, and try planning it for your students.’

Questions and answers about organizing a workshop for teachers:

1) How do I advertise it? Just post on my Facebook profile as a status update? 

I think starting from Facebook is a good step, although, I would think of a person (at least one) who would be potentially interested to come. You will know there is one person, so if no-one else shows up, it will be a professional conversation.

I would also contact people on social media directly and ask about the topic, the day, the time, etc. In a way, start a conversation about it, get them curious, and also ask to spread the word. I know it sounds like investing time, but if you are planning long-term, should be a good investment. Later, people will advertise it by sharing happy posts and pictures, etc. Just my thoughts.

2) Is 3 weeks in advance enough?

For a start, I think it is. Later, in the month [we talked about December], everyone will focus on gifts and holidays.

3) What minimum number of People would you consider?

To me personally, four participants is a good starting number. The more the better, but  three people is a hard number for me (the same is true for the lessons with students) Again, it is a very personal opinion. I am a big believer of ‘starting small’ and then growing, rather than the other way around 🙂

4) And of course the burning question is the price)) I don’t want to make it expensive but like I mentioned before, who doesn’t pay, that doesn’t care)

Yes, there is a belief about being free meaning not being good quality. Interesting that our Reflective Practice Group in Dnipro seems to be an exception (our 4th season started this September) Now, I am not a marketing person to calculate the price, but I’d think of a comfortable sum for an hour of work (for the delivery of the session) and add some more for the marketing/prep effort. And/or compare with what the others charge in Kyiv. I think all cities in Ukraine are very different in terms of tuition fee, and income/wages, etc. 

Questions to readers:

  1. How would you answer to the questions above, taking your context into account?
  2. If you were starting out a teacher training project for teachers in your area, what else would you want to ask, or keep in mind?

Thank you for reading!


Valentina is a holder of CELTA and IHCYLT certificates and has been teaching English for 18 years. She is currently teaching English, Maths, Science, Geography, History and Reasoning to primary-school children at a British school called Oxford Prime Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine, and implements CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) method every day. Valentina’s entire work rests on the following premise: only if students (regardless of age) enjoy the process of learning, the outcomes can be successful.

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A Class Journal

In my recent post ‘A Different Look at Writing’ I told you about a conference session I had been preparing for. This time I am sharing one idea from that session which I am referring to as ‘A class journal’.

I have wanted to try out this idea for years, but did not have a chance (or the courage?) to do so. In Ukraine the idea of keeping a journal is not very popular (if I may generalize so), and not many friends I know keep one. (Well, at least one friend keeps hers, and she even wrote a guest post about it!)

When I was a participant on a training course for teachers we had to keep daily journal and our tutor would read it (daily!) and leave responses to each of us. Sometimes, they were as long as one full page! Having become a trainer myself I am still amazed how organized she was to keep this writing routine through the whole 4 weeks!

The ‘Class Journal’ idea was something I heard from a fellow trainer during of our numerous ‘coffee chats’. She told me about a notebook she started for a new course, which was kept in the classroom and course participants would come and write in it when they felt they needed to share something. People could start their own page or respond to someone else’s entry. I really, really liked the idea of it, but have never done on an actual course being afraid to add one more written assignment to the already long ‘to-do’ list our participants have.

Finally, I decided to give it a try in a different format, and came up with an idea for this element of a session about writing. I thought that sharing it with colleagues at a conference may be a safer idea than trying it out on a course. So….

… the idea of the journal is to offer a notebook with page starters (topics, prompts, questions, quotes, pictures, etc.) for teachers to pass around the room and respond in writing on a page of their choice, or randomly. These were the instructions shared on the first page:

  1. Open the journal on any page.
  2. Read the title/the task
  3. Respond (by writing as much or as little as you feel like)
  4. Close the journal and pass it to someone else

Since I have tried this in a session for a couple of times now, I added a couple of ‘what if’ questions.


  • someone else has already written there?
  • (a) respond to the title/the task (b) respond to the writer
  • … I have no idea what to write?
  • Turn the page over and try again
  • … I don’t want to write on this page?
  • If you have looked at three pages and did not feel like writing, just pass the journal to someone else

Some Topics from the actual journal


Some thoughts on reflection

I have a friend and a colleague here in Lviv who usually listens to my ideas with full attention and then asks good critical questions helping me think about the idea in-depth. When I told her about the journal, this is what Natalia (her name is) asked me (and what I replied)

Natalia: What exactly could be the purpose (the point) of bringing this kind of task to students?

Zhenya: I mainly see the purpose/aim in helping students develop fluency in their writing, the ability to think of the ideas (not the language, or before the language) and then respond. I deeply believe in the idea that you can’t edit a blank page.

Natalia: So what would you do if the writing is not accurate and it stays in the journal?

Zhenya: I don’t think it is a big crime to edit the written entry (in a different color, by the same student). Also, color post-its can be used for drafting an entry and then re-writing the new piece on the actual page. In a way, this gives a reason for draft 2, which in my experience, students are not always happy to work on in a lesson.

Natalia: What if a student does not want to write in it? What if the whole group refuses to do it?

Zhenya: In fact, if the whole group refuses to write in a journal, it is easiest answer: stop bringing it to class! Sometimes, it may take time, as with any new(-ish) idea from us teachers. I am not saying that this is the best idea ever!

Natalia: How would you introduce the idea to your students?

Zhenya: Hm, this is a good question. I guess with students we could do it in a scaffolded way, with a specific page as an example, having peer responses and discussions at the end of it. Then, the idea of having writing prompts can be shared, and a class journal can be one way of developing the skill of (fluent) writing. I wonder if students could contribute to the topics/page headings, and thus feel more engaged with the jornal from the very start?

Natalia: I know students who hate hand-writing, and this journal will force them to do it. What can be done in this case?

Zhenya: I like this question! I think the journal does not need to be in the actual paper notebook and could easily be on a shared Google Document or in Drop Box folder, for example, or in a Facebook Group, etc. I think the format can be chosen by the students and with the students, depending on their comfort level with sharing what they write. Paper notebook offers a ‘safe’ classroom experience (a learning zone) whereas sharing what they write on social media is closer to the ‘performing zone’ (see Eduardo Briceño’s TED Talk for more on these zones)

What do you think about this idea? Would you like to try it out in the classroom with students (or a training room with teachers?) Have you tried something similar?

Thank you for reading!


Extra Links


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A Different Look at Writing

I have been preparing for a conference presentation which I called ‘A different Look at Writing’. 

The session description says: Do you like writing? Do your students like writing? We will experience several writing activities and discuss how to get excited about the writing process. We will see if we can teach writing in a different way, and how this skill can be used in other aspects of teachers’ lives.

First, let me share a couple of assumptions I am making about the attitude to writing (or its image) teachers may hold. [Note: I have talked to my colleagues in Ukraine about this, and I have run this session at our EduHub event in Dnipro earlier this year, so they seem to be true at least for my colleagues here]


  1. Teachers like speaking more than writing (in L1, in L2)
  2. Teachers don’t (often/always) write much in their everyday life outside teaching.
  3. Teachers (may) project their attitude to writing to students
  4. Writing is harder than (the least comfortable among) the other language skills (both for teachers and students), and both in L1 and L2. 
  5. Students (may) need the skill of writing in English to reach the life goals they are setting

The session idea: if you [the teacher] write (in English) in the real life outside teaching (for business, for pleasure, etc.) you (may) see this skill/process differently in the classroom, and this may change your attitude to teaching writing, choosing methods and activities, etc.

Now, the last sentence of the description suggests that there are different ways in which the skill of writing can be used in our lives, and I decided to make a list of how it helps me personally. So yes…

writing plays an important part in my life

  • as a professional development tool (well, you are reading this post on my blog…)
  • as an ‘idea catcher’ (I always have a note book with me when I travel, and when there is not paper around you can see me texting notes on my phone)
  • as a ‘creative warmer’ for a new project (with a timer on, I like to brainstorm possible options or alternatives for tasks, and having 3-5 of them is often enough to start working out the details)
  • problem-solving tool (can be also seen as a decision-making tool) for weighing pros and cons of something, or analyzing options and alternatives, or offering them to my project partner, etc. 
  • reflective practice tool (almost the same as professional development but in this can more systematic/structured
  • ‘calming down’ tool or a kind of meditation (for example, the Morning Pages idea from Julia Cameron, which I have never managed to work on systematically or at length) 
  • thinking tool (the difference between this one and all the mentioned above is that the ideas come from the process of writing, and my mind gets clear, and new connections are visible, and… lots of other magic things may occur)
  • planning, or capturing tool: as David Allen puts it, ‘your mind is for generating ideas but not for holding them’
  • something that brings me to the state of flow

What about you? What is your relationship with writing? What role does writing play in your (ELT) life? In what way your writing experience outside the classroom impact the way(s) you are teaching this skill? 

Thank you for reading!

P.S. this post is about an activity I used in that session (A Class Journal)

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TT: Training and Trainer

Earlier this month I wrote a post about a project for experienced teachers of English in Ukraine we won a grant for.

One of the reasons for writing it was my preparation for a presentation in Kyiv informing the audience about this opportunity. The session was called ‘Teacher Training Essentials 2020’ and the abstract said the following:

The title describes the name of a program and the year of its launch. In Ukraine people sometimes refer to themselves as ‘teacher trainers’ after delivering a workshop for colleagues, or speaking at a conference. ‘Training’ sounds like something ‘higher’ (and better?) than teaching. My session will be a conversation starter, and an invitation to look deeper into the meaning of helping teachers grow as opposed to ‘training’ them.

As a part of my preparation for the session I asked my fellow trainers and PLN-ers (blog readers and Twitter followers) to complete two sentences sharing their beliefs about teacher training:

As promised, I am sharing the results. I am full of gratitude to everyone who found the time to respond!

Teacher Training is __________.

  • a continuous and collaborative process, for the trainer themselves, as well as teachers
  • effective if teacher trainers engage their trainees in critical reflection on theory and practice, and thus encourage them to constantly challenge received opinion and orthodox ELT practices
  • based on the teachers’ experiences
  • going to teach you a list of things you’ll have to actually teach yourself in your own classroom.
  • about raising awareness and becoming better at what you chose to be your profession
  • an opportunity to share my teaching experience, brush up on my knowledge and get a lot of new knowledge and experience at the same time
  • helping teachers help their learners learn better
  • the founding ground for anybody willing to work in the educational field as well as the bottomless platform for continuous growth.

Zhenya’s brainstormed list (many things are similar!)

  • responsibility
  • leading, serving and helping
  • having a helper/mentor you wanted to have
  • an exciting job
  • hard work and fun
  • a number of skills
  • further development as a teacher
  • facilitating discussions
  • an occupation/profession in ELT

Teacher Trainer is not (necessarily) _______.

  • someone who has completed a program that is accredited specifically for this purpose
  • a native speaker or someone with a PhD, but should be someone with plenty of practical teaching experience
  • someone who *just* gives workshops at conferences
  • someone who can give you the answers, but they will help you figure out what questions to ask and where to look for your individual solutions
  • a guru who tells you how to teach in your classroom but rather raises the right questions.
  • a person who knows everything and wants to TEACH how to teach, but a kind of an open-minded facilitator for other teachers who shares knowledge and experience, inspires and shows a way to self-development)))
  • the one who knows all the answers. For me it’s always important to notice what a teacher does that I’d never think of, but it works well for the learner(s)
  • a person who is aware of all the world information regarding their field, neither do they have to be knowledgeable about global issues
  • ignorant of world changes and is NOT dogmatic, with their ideas set in stone

Zhenya’s brainstormed list:

  • a guru
  • an expert
  • a constant presenter/speaker
  • above the teachers, not a teacher’s boss
  • a step in the career ladder

Thoughts: my good friend and fellow trainer messaged and asked if I wanted to ask what people thought teacher training is/is not about, and/or teacher trainer is/is not about. I wonder if doing it in the reverse order now would be helpful? For example, to me, being a teacher trainer is about being in the state of ‘becoming’, having ‘beginner’s mind’ (shoshin), or an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. No matter how experienced I am, or how many training courses are run, this ‘zero attitude‘ helps.

So… what about the beliefs shared above:

  • Are some of them the same or close to your mind/heart? Please comment/respond.
  • Are some of them different/opposite? Please comment/respond.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. If you are a teacher of English from Ukraine, you may want to apply for our Trainer Training Program yourself, or pass the information to someone thinking to become a trainer or an academic leader in ELT in the near future.

This page will have more information. Soon.

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News: Teacher Training Essentials

Earlier this summer my colleague and fellow trainer with World Learning/SIT trainer Liliia and myself applied for a grant and guess what… we won! In the coming academic year (2019/20) we will be managing the program and running the course for teacher trainers in Ukraine together. The title is Teacher Training Essentials 2020. Some more information on this page

As you can see, we are at a very initial stage of preparation for the program  (don’t even have a separate site or page for it yet!). I just wanted to share the piece of news with you, and to say that some posts in the coming school year will be about teacher training and trainer training. Hope it is fine with you. 

I will be giving a short talk about the program at a Teacher Training Day in Kyiv next week. If you happen to have extra 3 minutes on your hands, could you please help me prepare for the talk by completing these sentences in the comments: 

  1. Teacher Training is __________.
  2. Teacher Trainer is NOT (necessarily) __________.
  3. (optional) Ask a question about the program based on its description. We are thinking to offer it as a handout/follow up after my talk. 

I am still figuring out the format of the talk and ‘playing’ with ways to engage the audience. Advice and ideas appreciated! 

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

Update on 25 November: here is our Teacher Training Space site with more information about the program, and if you scroll to the very end, you will see the Application Form. Looking forward to reading yours till 25 December 2019!

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Anonymous Notes as Feedback

I got this e-mail from a colleague earlier this year (sharing below with slight edits):

I am writing to ask for your help with my upcoming little research I plan to carry out with teachers in my area. More specifically, after two years of supervising and providing in-service opportunities I am eager to find out the impact of all that I did so far on their teaching performance.

Do you have any suggestions on how such feedback can be collected? Have you ever faced the situation in which you tried to evaluate the impact or effectiveness of your training on teachers’ performance?

Some initial thoughts in reply:

  • creating a culture of offering honest feedback is important (especially when you will be seeing the same people again, and in the culture where relationships are important)
  • teaching how to structure feedback (using the ELC, for example, insisting on ‘description first’ rule, no matter who the feedback is for (students, parents, peers, trainers, etc.)
  • creating a habit to offer/ask for feedback (every session, every week, etc.)
  • ‘owning’ one’s feedback, being ready to sign one’s name (and feeling secure to do so, confident that a listener can open up)
  • culture and habit of acting on feedback (so that teachers saw the effect of what they said)
  • (which often comes to changing one’s own attitude to receiving feedback, being ready to accept it)
  • ultimately, feedback is about mutual trust between you and teachers (so the task for a trainer is to model that for teachers, and potentially, their students)

How it is sometimes done on the training courses I facilitate

Categories are provided on some color cards, and participants write on each of them. They work individually.

  • everyone has a chance to write and ‘be heard’ by the trainers (more chance to learn about the individual ideas)
  • teachers who prefer to mention their name can do so (trainers can offer a follow-up in person)

Same (or different) categories are listed, and participants write on an A-4 poster in pairs (OR a larger poster in a group). Teachers may discuss and agree on the ideas to share.

  • everyone has a chance to discuss the ideas
  • the ‘most important points’ get to paper (more chance to learn about the group ideas/tendencies)

Exit tickets is something teachers do in their lessons, and we trainers can of course borrow this practice. A simple idea: before leaving the room, a form is filled in, but the format can vary) In the image below is a new idea I got from my colleague in Ukraine but have not yet tried in my training:

Online surveys, for example

  • Padlet: very visual immediately, names mentioned
  • Google Form: easy to analyze, e-mail addresses mentioned
  • MonkeySurvey: can be kept anonymous, but the number of questions in the free version is limited

Extra reading

More links, and discussion in the comments (with even more links!)

A couple of non-ELT sources I love: this post from Forbes, and Thanks for the Feedback (a book by HBR authors). 

A hobby of mine is collecting various feedback forms that are not related to ELT world: for example, at a cafe or a restaurant, airlines, travel agencies, banks, etc. 

What are some ideas for collecting feedback from your lessons, training sessions or conference presentations that you have tried and found successful/efficient? Or… vice versa? 

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