Lusine Madatyan, teacher of English, recently participated in our ‘Teaching for Success’ conference. In this article, she talks about the importance of professional conferences, as well as existing opportunities and expectations.
Everyone needs to constantly work on their self-improvement, but in the case of teachers it’s more than a need. It’s a must because we work with new generations of children who are constantly changing. Trying to use educational methods that were used 10 or 20 years ago will take you nowhere. As a teacher, I am challenging my personal stagnation every single day. When you go out and learn something new, you can’t help the temptation to practice it with your students as soon as you can. Participating in trainings and professional conferences also motivates you to try new things and share your experience with colleagues.
For me, the most effective sessions at the ‘Teaching for Success’ conference were workshops ‘Teaching speaking skills to young learners through fairy tales’ and ‘To plan or not to plan? This is the question!’ as well as another one about the culture of sharing new knowledge with fellow teachers. I have been trying to apply many of the new approaches in my practices – I may not follow them to the fullest, but I try to borrow a few things from each of them.
Teacher development opportunities in Armenia
A teacher who would like to attend teacher conferences in Armenia is likely to find very few of them. Even if they find any, they might not be free of charge or efficient enough.
Most of the time, it’s the British Council that conducts trainings or conferences in a systematic and consistent manner. We are already used to having this or that coming up around October and November each year. And what counts the most is that even if it slips your mind, they never forget – we promptly receive notifications and reminders to apply for participation!
I’m excited about learning as much as possible from as many people as possible during these conferences. If I had a chance to suggest a session topic for the next conference, it would be having a workshop on how to design a course plan. You draft your lesson plan in the evening, but when you enter the classroom it all has to change – this is what I would like to have some insights about. Another suggestion would be ensuring that the professional interests and language proficiency of the teachers participating in the conferences are on the same level.
Generally speaking, conferences provide great opportunities to work with teachers from distant communities and enhance the possibilities for their professional development. Sometimes I envy them because so many platforms are designed specifically for teachers from regions and we are being left out. Marzes can be found in very unfavorable conditions; there are teachers who can’t even speak proper English.”
One of the obstacles in my school is a lack of literature that would be aligned with the new methodology. We go out and learn new approaches, but when we try to apply them back here, we are facing difficulties because textbooks are designed in a completely different way. The old methods of reading and translating are inefficient, since they fail to develop linguistic patterns of thinking. The lesson plan should be designed in a way which helps children to start thinking in English, at least while completing assignments in the classroom. Other obstacles also include underequipped classrooms, poor opportunities for running video materials, having no tradition of conducting audio lessons.
The generation gap
Students today require a different approach. They are very knowledgeable, tech-savvy, informed and they demand a relevant approach from you as a teacher. They feel free to say, “That’s wrong!” to teachers – something we would never do. In a way, they teach us too and help us to understand them and provide the knowledge they need.
Because they are so self-aware and demanding, working with them is easy and difficult at the same time. It’s easy, because the traditional role of a teacher who talks all the time and imposes rules has now been transformed into that of a listener who engages in a discussion with pupils. There were times when only teachers would be speaking all through the lesson.
A step forward
Taking part in the ‘Teaching for Success’ conference helped Lusine to join the British Council network of English teachers in Armenia. Two months after the conference she applied for and was selected to be a Facilitator responsible for establishing Teacher Activity Groups (TAGs). The aim of the groups is to provide a platform through which English language teachers can come together to discuss their local needs and challenges, and engage in finding solutions, learning about new ideas and classroom practices.
“The British Council provided me with an opportunity to contribute to the development of other English language teachers, help them improve their skills and competencies. This is another great opportunity to create a platform for the local English teachers to share ideas and plan their own professional development path.”