“Guide on the side, not sage on the stage “
Today I’m writing to tell you about my great experience at BellSchool as a winner of the Premio Iantorno. I’ve been involved in using technology in the classroom for decades now and found some textbooks by Zanichelli very updated and in tune with my teaching style. While I was using their online platform MyZanichelli and Booktab, I bumped into the page of the Premio Iantorno. It was January and, for pure fun, I entered the competition with my lesson on Recycling and Global warming. I’m certainly not a competitive person and to tell you the truth my attitude was as follows “ It’s a national contest, I’ve got no chances of winning, but It’s fun to revise all my lesson plan and analyse the achievements of my students from a different perspective to have it evaluated by a competent external academic board”. So I sent all the material but didn’t say anything to anybody, not even my husband. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when in March, I was notified of the winning. Pure happiness and incredulity! Luckily, this year I was not not involved in the final exams, so I could leave for Cambridge on June 29. Two weeks on my own, absolutely not used to any longer. Final destination: Homerton College where during the summer the Bell School holds its teacher training courses. The last time I was in Cambridge was when I was 19 so you can imagine the emotion I felt.
There’d be so many things to tell you now about the beauty of this place, its peace, the Harry Potter’s canteen with its magic automatic doors, the lush vegetation, the squirrels climbing up the trees and the ducks asleep on the green lawn but I needn’t bore you with all that so I’ll just focus on the “professional” side of the matter. Here’s a set of photos by Bell that speak volumes 🙂
Together with other 12 teachers, I attended a “Contemporary English Culture & Methodology course” for two weeks, and I’ve found it extremely inspiring. The atmosphere during the lessons was very collaborative, stress-free but at the same time involving and thought-provoking. I’ve particularly enjoyed the fact that we were all teachers from from different countries and educational backgrounds from Switzerland, Russia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Germany, Brazil and Portugal; it’s been great to discover new habits and exchange our ideas! We even created two Facebook groups to share our photos and videos. So much fun!
The class management was excellent thanks to our teacher Lindsay Warwick, and we were introduced to cultural topics such as English icons, British stereotypes, family life, ‘yoof’ culture, politics and the Royals, Scotland, British famous people (more than half of them totally unknown to most of us!), media and education, to mention just a few, through a variety of activities that put into practice the best techniques for teaching English as a second language. We always worked in groups, did jigsaw reading, used funny YouTube videos – saved all of them! – used visuals and photos on walls, to cut he long story short we did ourselves all the activities we use in class with our students … all in a very natural and pleasant way. This way I learnt a lot of new idiomatic expressions, new contemporary words (sarny, dad dancing, omnishambles, onesie, man cave, photobomb, daycation, bromance, man flu or bingo wings LOL) , short forms for text messaging, discovered the most recent changes in language ( we teachers willl have to correct less and less as what were considered errors when I went to university and drove my professors crazy are now linguistically more than acceptable!), worked on American vs. British English (as we don’t now any longer which is which!) and am now also more aware of the different accents and pronunciation of the English language. It was exactly what I expected from such a course, and I am very satisfied with it. I’m sure I’ll be able to use what I learnt here, once I go back to school with my students. It’s been a REFRESHING course!!
Last but not least, the afternoon seminars offered a wide range of excellent options, and I attended the one on Writing by Tim Hazell, Jazz culture and Getting the students’attention by Chaz Pugliese, Changes in Education in Britain by Emi Slater (where I discovered that even the British educational system is undergoing a great crisis, and we teacher are all in the same boat so to speak), Demanding High: engaging the full potential of students by Adrian Underhill and Jim Carmichael, Spontaneity & Elt, all of them absolutely fantastic and given by very knowledgeable and involving teachers. I’m sure I’ll be a better teacher thanks to all of you!
All in all, I’ve had a great time here, also thanks to the social program that offered great occasions to get in touch with the British culture and meet new friends from all over the world. I spent a day in London strolling around with my new friend Katja, had long chats with Liliane while sipping our cups of yes – yummy! – I visited Ely and its stunning cathedral where I also had a delicious tea with scones at the renowned Peacock Tearoom.
We could go punting along the river Cam, we had an evening at the Cambridge University Press bookstore where we were offered a 20% discount on books and we visited the Fitzwilliam Museum all together with our teacher. Well, the location of the college is very convenient to go downtown, and the bus stop is just opposite the college. Within 10m’ walk, there are the peaceful Botanic Gardens … a haven of pure beauty!
What else can I recollect? The lovely people I met and with whom I hope to keep in touch, the Buttery Bar where we had a Quiz Nite (no, we didn’t win!!), the Karaoke nite ( the Russians ladies were the best, but all had great fun) or we hang around for a chat at lunch time. Another event I won’t forget was the night of the football match Brasil Vs Germany, watched with my new Brasilian & German friends … all together drinking beer and laughing – not that much my Brasilian friend 😉 . Even the weather was sunny and beautiful, much better than here in Italy that week, and we could sprawl on the grass during the breaks.
Bleak sides?? Come on, it cannot be all bed of roses! Well, to be honest I must mention the watery, tasteless British coffee (yes I missed my Italian Nespresso, but I know that I cannot ask for it when abroad) and the departure at 3.30 a.m. when the pre-paid booked taxi didn’t turn up and had to wait outside in the dark foggy night. It reminded me of Jack the Ripper movie. But all’s well that ends well, and the taxi eventually turned up and could catch my flight back home. Now I’m full of good memories, photos and notes – have to revise them! not now – and … I definitely need some rest!
I wanna end this post with the beautiful video created by my classmate Natasha who has authorized me to embed it. A huge HUG to all my new fantastic friends from all over the world. Love
Really lovely! What a great experience. 🙂
Really interesting to read: got the impression I could be there with you! Very happy 4U, dear friend!!! Congratulations 🙂
La Cimetta sempre in vetta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Hi, I´m from Argentina, Buenos Aires , Pehuajó. My daughter Teresita Fox is now at Hampton Courts on a summer course ( for us is a winter course). I congratulate you for the prize.
I was very interested in the new ways to actually grab attention students. Funny to me is to realize that words changed their meaning as time passed, including grammar. Don´t think that this isn´t happening in Argentina whith spanish.
I fight somedays with my children because they use ”improper” formal frases, and express themselves in a different British english. They tell me That now it is accepted, but I really thought it was a lie.
What a pity I missed the classes, but is very important for us whatever you can teach us from long distance.
Thank you very much, just for hearing an old english student.
Maria de lujan Espósito de Fox
Ohhhh Laura , what a great blog post! You recall the atmosphere surrounding us perfectly well , not only the lucky people who shared this experience with you , but anyone reading your words can feel it.
Meeting you has been another great life experience no doubt. Ciao Amiga!