The project I work for, ‘English for the Community’, a partnership between British Council Romania and the Romanian-American Foundation, is fortunate to work in some of the most beautiful parts of Romania.
Each of the nine locations we work in is near a national park and has significant potential for ecotourism. But English language teachers we work with in these locations are faced by a wide range of challenges and our project baseline study has identified a keen appetite for further support for continuing professional development.
To help to meet these needs, the project invited almost 150 teachers to participate in a five-day course, ‘Teaching for Success’.
I’m just back from three locations where the course has been taking place: Hațeg, Miercurea Ciuc and Remeti where I was observing some of the training and chatting to teachers in the coffee-break. Feedback on the training has been terrific with teachers telling me how useful they have found the training but, just as importantly, how it has given them the opportunity to meet and talk about issues with their colleagues from the same location, many of whom they have met for the first time.
We had chance to discuss, for example, teachers’ attitudes to the course books they use and how we can make teaching grammar more interesting, take part in fun activities using flashcards, identify ways to make the classroom atmosphere more motivating and to deal with a range of levels within one class and, most importantly, talk to each other It also confirmed my opinion that the best food in Romania is served in family-run eateries rather off the beaten track. More tocanita please!
One participant in Remeti said to me: "I really enjoyed the activities and techniques on the course but it was a great opportunity for us all to come together".
The most important aim of the project is to build what we call ‘communities of practice’ in areas where teachers may often feel quite isolated. Our next step is to identify two Local Facilitators in each location to help to organise Teacher Activity Groups which will be starting up in two months’ time and will give teachers to meet and discuss ideas on a regular basis, not simply during the training course.
As the writer Tony Wright has said: ‘talk is the fuel of teacher development’ – that’s exactly the kind of fuel we want to provide!