Conversations about Learning and Teaching

This is the third post where I think aloud about the trainer training course we are planning for the experienced teachers in Ukraine (read the earlier ones here and here). The course will last for four full working days (over two consecutive weekends) and will aim to raise awareness about teacher training/mentoring skills, focusing specifically on delivering a presentation/workshop/interactive session to other teachers.

I have conducted similar courses outside Ukraine (in Asia and Middle East) and am looking forward to trying (adapting) the ideas in my home country. As with any new project I work on, I started a notebook for thoughts and ideas. Just as any other ‘project notebooks’ in my collection, this one has a section called ‘Doubt Page’ where I make a list of fears, doubts, things I am less sure about, questions I can’t answer, etc. I rarely re-read this page, but it helps me separate the drafts of ideas from less constructive thoughts.

One thing I put to my ‘Doubt Page’ is the length of the course versus its goals and objectives. How long does (would) it take to master certain training skills? To gain confidence? Out of those sessions I have planned/brainstormed, which ones will actually help the course participants reach their learning goals?

I then saw this post on iTDI by Bryan Hale with two examples of conversations about teaching and started to reflect on my own experience of learning to be a teacher trainer/educator. Sharing it for the first time!

Many of such conversations happen over coffee 🙂

It was the year of 2005, and I had been working for the language school for about 5-6 years. My colleague (and boss at that time) had already been an internationally qualified TESOL trainer, having delivered courses for teachers in Ukraine and abroad. His schedule was quite tight, and there were lots of requests from various language schools for him to run a training session for their teachers. This got even ‘tighter’ in the summer time when schools have vacation and could afford teachers being on a course full-time for a week or two. He was often ready to say ‘yes’ and then sometimes had to run courses ‘back to back’ taking an intercontinental flight over the weekend…

I offered help and said I could go and deliver the course instead of him. Well, I am known (among friends and colleagues) for saying ‘Yes!’ to a new PD opportunity (read ‘challenge’ here). I was able to ‘sell’ the idea nicely explaining that the training experience will benefit the school, too (I would have had some experience of working with other teachers, gain confidence, etc.)

When I started to look through the course materials kindly shared with me, I realized I need to learn so much in order to deliver a quality program. Besides, they were expecting the professional, and here was me, a new Director of Studies (at that time) with the experience of running about 20 in-house sessions for colleagues, and a dozen of conference presentations. Not a single training session for a group of teachers.

I eagerly read everything I could find on teacher training and development, and made a list of questions for each and every session in the schedule. We then sat down to talk. This conversation consisted of several ‘blocks’ of time after our evening classes ended, and went far into the night for two or three days in a row. I felt as if I was a ‘sponge’ taking in the ideas, comments, tips, asking questions, listening to the course memories, asking more questions, and more… How do you start a course? What do you print out? How do you keep track of everything? What if a participant has this question? What do you do if you […]? and so on.

On reflection, I think this was the best learning experience in my life: it was very personalized, learner-centered, and at the point of my needs. I was offered patience, attention, expertise, and friendly support. Those several days of conversations with an experience colleague ‘weighed’ more in the process of becoming a trainer than the course I ran that summer, and perhaps as much as the subsequent formal training up stages.

Getting back to where I started this post: I hope the training course will (at least partially) resemble such a conversation about learning and teaching, and how the role of trainers/mentors/educators is to help teachers grow (in skills, knowledge, confidence, professional happiness, etc.)

Do you have a ‘Conversation about Teaching’ experience to share?

Thank you for reading! 🙂

About Zhenya

teacher educator, evidence-based instruction trainer, PD Coach https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in Trainer Reflections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Conversations about Learning and Teaching

  1. Matthew says:

    I try to keep teaching conversations running regularly, and I hope that those in my orbit recognize that I’m a person who is as at least as interested in listening to others talking about teaching than talking about teaching myself. Sometimes specific conversations remain distinct, but it’s easy for me to visualize all of these different “conversations” linking up and to a large degree melding together into one dialogic epic raga with no beginning nor ending (that all sounds so ubergrandiose, I know! I think humor has an important place in this mix).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew says:

    Oops. Sorry about the totally mangled sentences there! Heheh, rushed it at the end of a very long day…scrambled brain! 😛

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    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Matthew! Loved this: ‘one dialogic epic raga’! and am totally for a good dose of humor as a part of those! 🙂 Thank you for your comment (at the end of the long day!), and for keeping such conversations on Twitter and your blog (vlog!)
      Zhenya

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    I think it’s really important to regularly discuss what you do and how and why you do it with colleagues. That’s why a friend and I set up a monthly discussion group in Bern–just to make sure we are having these conversations and hearing other perspectives on a regular basis. I can’t recommend them enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Ben, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment (conversations about teaching can be in writing, right? 🙂 ) I would love to know more about the monthly meetings you and you friend set up: is it just for the two of you? Do you invite others to join (and do they?) I started a Reflective Practice Group in Ukraine and it has been meeting monthly for 2 academic years now (with a break for the summer time) Great to know that there are like-minded colleagues in other places!
      Zhenya

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ben says:

        Likewise! It’s almost always the two of us and then 4-6 other people will join us. He and I choose a night when neither of us are working (and stick with that for a semester or two) so we gain/lose people when schedules change. Most of our participants are personal contacts, but we have a blog (https://eltspringboard.wordpress.com/) and promote our meetings on message boards, through the national teachers’ association newsletter and website, a Whatsapp group, and we have our own email newsletter with MailChimp–we do get a few people every now and then who find out about us from those sources. We’re about three years into it and we’re going to keep on doing it! 🙂 We’re also trying to encourage other members of the teachers’ association to set up groups where they are and those are just getting started!

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        • Zhenya says:

          Wonderful! So glad we are in touch! Going to share the link to your blog in our Facebook group: the topics look interesting, and we can ‘borrow’ some. Am now thinking about a separate blog or page for those (ours is mainly on this blog, and in the closed group, which probably makes it less accessible for the new members. We stick to Sat (rarely Sunday) 4-6 pm (seems to be the time when teachers finish their Sat classes and can afford a PD afternoon). We meet at language schools or cafes, either bring snacks or order something. Our main idea is reflective practice, not teaching techniques, so topics are a bit different. This post offers some ideas on what we talk about: https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/possible-topics-for-reflective-group-meetings/

          I am glad we are now connected, and cool to know that teachers in Switzerland are opting for this kind of PD! 🙂
          Zhenya

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  4. Goodness, I’m so into the word “conversation” being used in the context of shared learning&co-teaching experiences. It sounds like a reasonable step to take after all of this digital de-socialisation we’ve been experiencing since the internet first came along. I definitely share your argument about the need for a change alike, and I’m all in for connected learning.

    There are definitely many stories to share, and I find it deeply inspiring that more and more professionals all over the world are feeling that they are worth a listen. Many teachers I’ve got a chance to work with have expressed their concerns over confidence issues. Over the course of our one-to-one training sessions, most of them have grown brave enough to dredge up their insecurities and bring them out onto the global scale.

    You’re doing an excellent job, Zhenya, and I really hope that one day, I’ll get an invaluable chance to see you in action!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Lilia
      Thank you for reading, and for keeping our conversations going!
      Agree about living in the times of ‘digital de-socialisation’ (and perhaps, abstraction, as Simon Sinek puts it in his ‘Leaders Eat Last’ book I am reading at the moment…)
      Another thing I have seen/heard a lot is confidence issue among teachers, and the desire to share versus ‘what can I offer to the others, everyone is so professional’, etc. I wonder if this comes from the fear to ‘present’ at a conference (or other more ‘traditional’ formats of sharing we know).
      I would like to learn more about the projects for teachers you are running. Maybe, a blog post about it? 🙂
      Would be great to collaborate/cooperate on a project one day! If you are planning to attend Teacher Training Day in Kyiv (August?), drop a line. Seems like we have a lot to talk about!
      Thank you for stopping by,
      Zhenya

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