Having attended the Oxford Teachers’ Academy summer course on Teaching English to Teenagers, Erika Osváth shares her reflections of the three day course, what she learned, and the people she connected with.
Have you ever experienced this? Getting home from a teacher training course or a conference abroad, where you’d had the opportunity to meet colleagues from a lot of countries from around the world, you feel so inspired by the whole experience that you seem to be living in two worlds at the same time for several days after the event? I’m sure that a lot of you have and know exactly what such an experience is like.
A few days after participating in the Oxford Teachers’ Academy three-day-course on Teaching English to Teenagers I have this pleasantly odd feeling: half of me is still wandering the streets of Oxford, staring at the façades, quads, libraries and churches of the unbelievable number of colleges, some dating back to the mid-thirteenth century. All of them so gorgeous that I’m left speechless. Though, I must admit, I didn’t have any problems chatting in the evenings in the pubs, which were just as old as the colleges.
This same half of me is also taking part in vibrant discussions on what the teens we teach are like in the countries we come from, having lots of fun trying out some useful activities, discussing how they’d work within our own teaching contexts and getting interesting insights into the different cultures.
My physical self, meanwhile, is back in Hungary, surrounded by buildings and objects I can’t really focus on as I find myself constantly thinking about how to take ideas from the OTA sessions further in my own teaching, material development and training.
And the only way I can cope with this schizophrenic state of mind is by making use of the photos I took around Oxford in my teaching. My excitement seems to be contagious as the photos and tasks generate lively discussions in my lessons and the same “Wow” atmosphere.
To get a better picture of this professionally and culturally enriching experience, let me give you a few more details about the OTA course that 36 of us – 35 non-natives – from all over Europe participated in at the end of July. We had three 90-minute workshops per day over three days in two multi-national groups. On two of the days, we had optional presentations on various topics like ‘How Solutions was made’, ‘Interactive Whiteboards’ and ‘Readers’.
Special thanks must go to two most wonderful trainers, Olha Madylus and Julietta Schoenmann, who put all their energy and professionalism into the workshops and kept us constantly on our toes, providing plenty of opportunities to share our ideas. Meeting fellow non-native teachers from so many different countries and finding out about their teaching was one of the most fascinating things for me. For some teachers this was their first time ever in an English-speaking country, so you can imagine what this course meant to them!
Just to add to the invaluable professional experience, we were also spoilt by having our accommodation arranged at Keble College. To give you an idea of what this was like, I took a photo of the beautiful dining hall of the college where we had breakfast every morning – and to our surprise we were called ‘Madame’ or ‘Sir’ – and whoever I showed it to back home had to guess what it was. Their first question was always: “Is it one of the most famous churches in Oxford?”
So where is this taking me? Well, for more than a year as a participant I have only been to online conferences and webinars, and I’m truly grateful for them. I’ve learnt an immeasurable amount, shared ideas, found out about teaching tech-tools, and had access to the latest articles on research in different fields of TEFL and education. All were inspirational.
However, experiencing a teacher training course in the flesh, especially in an English-speaking country, has something quite unique to offer; something that online courses are simply not suited for. These differences really got me thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of online and face-to-face teacher development courses.
Is there an ideal balance for an EFL teacher? I’d be very interested to find out your experiences and thoughts.