7 reasons for going to teachers’ conventions

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edunation.com.pl

I spent the last weekend in Warsaw where edunation ladies had organised an event for Directors of Studies and proper teachers. It was the first event of its kind and it reminded me a lot of fantasy fans’ conventions I used to coordinate *sniff*. Good times…

I made new friends and learnt a lot of more or less useful things, but the most important thing about this weekend is the sense of empowerment and motivation that only comes after intensively spending time with people who share your passion – exactly like fantasy fans’ meetings.

Only the teachers take shower more often, I guess.

I don’t think you get a similar feeling after those typical free teachers’ conferences organised mainly by publishing companies and focused on their products – and nothing’s wrong with that, but the event I had opportunity to take part in was focused on CPD and continuous growth of DoSes and teachers.

It makes me think of the greatest benefits of attending such meetings (either fantasy conventions or DoS-cons*):

1 Learning

Since you’re supposed to take part in lectures and workshops this point seems rather obvious, but there are more ways you can obtain knowledge apart from listening – you can always talk to lecturers after their presentation and from my experience they’ll feel really appreciated and will probably share useful books or articles worth reading. Moreover, there are many publishing companies around – it’s a good idea to check their new CPD books and check new textbooks.

2 Asking questions – and getting answers

There is no better place to share your concerns without being judged – your fellow teachers will be eager to help and at least brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem. Naturally, you can share your doubts on the Internet, but there aren’t as many trolls and haters when you reveal your weakness offline.

3 Gaining perspective

Problem sharing isn’t usually one-sided business, so it will probably lead to other teachers referring to their own troubles – which is just great as there’s nothing better than learning from the experience of others. Moreover, you will be able to get invaluable feedback and, equally important, perspective. I wish I had the opportunity of talking to more experienced and understanding teachers those thirteen years ago when I started teaching…

4 Networking

If you feel like sharing your professional experience there’s nothing better than going to a conference full of people who are genuinely interested in what you want to say. You can meet someone who suddenly becomes your inspiration – in my case it’s Beata Topolska who gave a great lecture about blogging and managed to put my ideas into proper frames. You’ll see my blog change very soon and I must say all I needed was Beata who gave me the push.

5 Meeting people

It would be really tiring, if you only met people who inspire and motivate. Fortunately, there are lots of attendees just like you – people who love their job and want to develop and grow, who have their successes but also problems – and who, just like you, sometimes feel simply overwhelmed. You can meet people who listen and talk to you, who understand you and don’t blame you for professional doubts.

You can make real friends.

6 Having fun

Apart from lectures, there are workshops and networking sessions, and many activities you may try just to have fun. The event last weekend had a photo booth with lots of funny accessories, a make-up stall and a massage spot! Didn’t make it to the last point, but I had a stunning make-up and was ready for a party. Because yes, there are parties – teachers and parties are like a house on fire after all!

I’m not going to elaborate that point, though.

7 Food

Well, honestly, you don’t always get cupcakes with logos on top, but the mere chance of having at least one should prompt you to take part in such events.

FYI, my CUPcake (gods, forgive me this flat pun) was scrumptious.

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Are there any more benefits you expect from going to teachers’ conferences? Maybe you’re tempted with freebies, or maybe it’s the unlimited amount of coffee you may drink without anyone noticing your addiction?

I want to send a big THANK YOU to Monika and Gosia who were the best companions I could wish for – you’re awesome, girls!

 

*if there was not a term coined, there is now, what else would you call a convention for directors of studies?

Twinkl Imagine – check, communicate and chill out

Some time ago I decided to join Twinkl group for bloggers who test this platform and share their ideas. In case you don’t know what Twinkl is – it’s a mine full of jewels like lesson plans, resources, interactive activities, presentations, posters and loads of ideas for teachers, parents and caretakers. Oh, and homeschoolers.

I’m not going to write the usual – you need to log in and enjoy the massive amounts of materials by yourself. To be honest, I feel like a child in a sweet shop – there are so many things, in so many languages, you need a moment to cool down. But once you do (and stop downloading every second thing you click on) you’ll find more than “just” teaching resources.

One of the features I loved immediately was… a calendar. Seriously, there’s a Teaching Resource Calendar with ever so many events and lesson plans ready you can actually have a lesson ready for everything (including Stilton Cheese Rolling Championship [May 2nd] which is something I absolutely feel like popularising as I really love Stilton cheese).

The tool that caught my attention, however, is called Imagine. It’s a creative resource with a new image every day which you can use as a stimulus to discussion, learning and teaching. If you don’t like “image of the day”, you may choose another from a great selection of topics (apart from fractions and rainforests, you can pick dragons or fairy tales, yay!) – and each topic has more than one set of ideas! But what you are offered is far more than just a photo.

First, you may choose your students’ age – either KS1 or KS2. In the first version, we have topics adjusted to children’s level, the latter option gives us more activities – and activities we have galore! We’ve got such varied options as think (as a warm-up), solve (a little bit of Maths to wake you up), discover (nice questions prompting students to do some research), respond (which may be used as a composition), discuss and reimagine (which adds a bit of design and art approach, perfect for making visuals).

But wait, there is more! You can get some awesome cross-curricular ideas and resources which may be a perfect opportunity to change your EFL lesson into a proper CLIL experience. So, in a topic “colour” you can implement some Maths (Venn diagram, for instance), Geography (Holi Festival in India) or Music (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Weber).

Not enough? Very well then – apart from activities and cross-curricular ideas, there’s also a “book, text, film” section where you can get even more inspirations on the topic – perfect not only for a teacher, but also for a student who wants to read more about the theme of the classes.

Now, I do realise I sound pretty hyped, but I think Imagine may be a perfect solution for those days when I feel pretty zombified and have no idea for a nice warm-up – all I do is log in, show a photo and off we go! Or in case of sudden need of covering for another teacher – I may simply find a nice topic (I’d certainly go for Myths) and have a proper lesson, discussion and even a nice homework!

By the way, when you look for various sources in Twinkl try using InspireMe – it’s a really funny search tool, but it works like Pinterest, you may spend ours getting inspired, again, and again, and again…

Enjoy!

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Pure nonsense in the classroom

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My ultimate goal in teaching is, as I’ve probably mentioned it already, having fun – you can’t seriously expect me to be prim and proper at all times, now, can you? It’s rather difficult to keep a straight face when your students make you cry from laughter, and that’s something that happens to me only too often (bless my students!). With April Fools’ Day writing about humour is inevitable – especially that I don’t really like pranks and yet bringing humour to the classroom is surely one of my favourite aspects of teaching.

Don’t we enjoy comedies in English, especially famous British humour? I’m lucky to teach EFL as I can introduce students to my ever-favourite Monty Python (The Parrot Sketch kills me everytime), Top Gear specials (US Special is the best for English classes) or Jay and Silent Bob (for mature students though). I remember one of my tutors at university – I mean, I don’t really remember the classes, but I remember fun we had when we were watching Fawlty Towers or Clerks in the classroom. Good days.

Naturally, I can’t show a funny video on every class but I can make my students comedians on their own right by bringing in pure nonsense (in moderate measures, otherwise one can easily get confused). I do realise not everyone feels comfortable when it comes to being a class clown and a teacher at the same time, but from my perspective presenting yourself as a person with a healthy distance to oneself helps students being more relaxed and distanced to their own learning failures. After all, mistakes aren’t always “just wrong”, sometimes they’re also hilarious.

Pure nonsense may be perfectly used during explaining grammar rules, when you can create great sentences to reflect the theory. For instance, instead of using the absolute classic “If it rains, I will stay at home” as an example for the 1st Conditional, you may use something your students were chatting about. In my case, as a result of a lengthy discussion on the role of alcohol during teenage parties, an example created by my students was “If you drink Jack Daniel’s in Scotland, people will look at you with mercy”. It doesn’t look funny unless you’re in the group, but for them it is the sentence that connects grammar to the real life and quite funny moment of the lesson they probably won’t forget for a while (also they’ll hopefully remember that apostrophe).

Another way of using pure nonsense as a means of teaching a language is picking an optionally fictional character and using it as an example for grammar rules or vocabulary. I have to confess that a character chosen by my young adult group is a prominent and slightly paranoid Polish politician who’s undergone rather gruesome adventures in ours classes (“Antoni M. will have organised seven military units before the beginning of the war” – to show Future Perfect… and you don’t want to know the story with “infrared” and “outer space”).

Yet another idea of using nonsensical humour is quite specific and very much dependent on the students you teach – if they’re into fun, you might use their names as examples, naturally exaggerated and somewhat distorted, so you must be sure you won’t hurt your students’ feelings. For example, I have a student who used to eat lots of sweets and once came with sugary powder. It took us a minute to start teasing him about drug dealing etc. He took it as good fun (he was a new student who thus got a status of personality in the group), so for months it’s been a running joke. Once in a while someone says “I’m so knackered today, must’ve been Karol’s new drugs” – we also use the character of Karol the Teenage Drug Dealer while making sentences etc. It’s really great fun but, as I mentioned, you need to be absolutely sure you won’t offend anyone. You can start with yourself: “When Monika’s students read this post, they’ll probably call a lawyer to protect their intellectual property”…

What about you? Do you like using nonsensical humour in the classroom? If not, maybe you’ll get inspired to give it a go?

Enjoy!