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!
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! 🙂