Yesterday, in a meeting, I was mentioning an upcoming workshop. I asked my teachers whether they’d like the workshops to become more frequent. One teacher, who admittedly has a lot of teaching hours this month, commented, “I just hope that I’ll have enough time.”
My response is one I’ve had to give quite a few times during my time as a manager, “The idea is that these workshops will save you time. I guarantee that you’ll come away with at least ten new ideas for what to do in your classes.” She seemed satisfied with this, especially when I announced that the next workshop would be a game share, and she could easily see the time/cost benefits of coming to the workshop.
In my opinion, workshops and professional development are largely underrated in the TEFL profession. This is partly because of the transitory nature of most TEFL teachers, the high value that teachers put on their free time and the fact that many schools are not run by people with an educational background. This is a shame, as from an employer’s standpoint, this is a great way to increase the quality and value of their product. From a teacher’s standpoint, this is a way to increase their confidence and knowledge of skills that will benefit them both in and beyond the classroom. This post is for TEFL teachers and managers alike–read on to learn some workshop tips, different styles of workshops and ways to either get your employers to put on workshops or get your employees to attend.
Or, if you’d just like ten workshop ideas, you can access them by clicking on the button below.
Over the last five years as a Director of Studies, I’ve learned to value the teachers I work with more and more. Granted, I have considerably more tricks up my sleeve as a teacher of ten years than someone who is just starting out in the profession. That said, a fresh perspective on things is always valuable. Having collaborative workshops is a great way to get teachers to share ideas in a focused way, and to increase a teacher’s confidence and develop their skills.
What I mean by a collaborative workshop, is one that is largely run by those attending rather than just by the trainer. A good example of this is the previously mentioned “game share”. To keep it focused, I would aim the workshop specifically at games for young learners that can be used during the practice phase of a lesson. This might come about because a few teachers comment that they are running out of ideas for games and that their young students are starting to complain.
To prepare for this workshop in the past, I have given the teachers the challenge of trying to develop two new games over the next two weeks that they can share with their fellow teachers. During the workshop, my goal was to focus the teachers’ conversations and to help them express their game ideas. I also needed to make sure that I kept my promise that the teachers came away with ten new ideas.
I didn’t want those attending to merely talk about their games, I also wanted to guide their conversations to what makes a good “practice” game, how to maximize student talking time and how to create new games. Also, I didn’t want to trust that by hearing about some new games that they would remember everything. My job was also to come up with a good way to collect the game ideas and make them easily accessible to future teachers.
Ok, all workshops should technically be “instructive”. What I mean here are workshops where the instructor is bringing up new methodology, or ideas, that their teachers are either completely unfamiliar with, or lacking in. For example, my TEFL course long long ago was lacking in phonology, and especially ways of teaching it in the classroom. I was very appreciative of future workshops, and online training, which allowed me to develop these skills.
Like any good teaching, these styles of workshops should still have a large element of collaboration, sharing and engaging activities to help attendees get the most out of the workshop. All too often, I’ve noticed trainers forget all the qualities that make a good teacher, and deliver what is basically a sermon to those attending their workshops. In my opinion, instructive workshops should be organized in the same way as a good TEFL lesson.
If you are doing a workshop on full brain teaching, start by presenting the elements of this methodology and checking that trainees understand. Then, have some engaging activities where trainees get a chance to practice some of these methods under the guidance of a trainer. Finally, have some sort of production activity where trainees use the methodology in an activity that is in a more real-to-life context. As always, keep it fun and entertaining.
How Can I Get My Employer To Put on Workshops?
If you are unfortunate enough to work at a school that doesn’t have regular professional development, let me start by saying that I feel bad for you, and you should consider other employment options. If you aren’t growing as a teacher, you are likely becoming stagnant and entrenched in your habits. At least, that’s what I’ve seen from other teachers over the years.
There are two ways to get professional development going on in your organization. One way is simply to ask your employer. They’ll probably be thrilled that you asked. If there isn’t an experienced DoS at your school, see if they’d be willing to pay you, or a more experienced teacher, to develop the workshop. At the very least, hopefully they’ll fund you to have a team building session at a restaurant or pub following the workshop.
The other option, which is something I’d heard of for the first time when I was in Barcelona, Spain, is to create a teacher’s collective. This particular collective shared teaching opportunities, teaching resources and hosted their own professional development sessions. Many of the teachers in this community had years of experience under their belt, and the topics of their sessions were from cutting-edge TEFL authors. I thought this was a great way of putting the power of professional development into the teachers’ hands.
How Can I Get My Employees to Attend?
The flip side of this is if you are the DoS/manager of a large organization and trying to get your teachers to attend workshops. The larger the organization, the larger the chance that not all of your teachers are as experienced and skilled as you’d like. More often than not, the teachers who would most benefit from the workshop are the ones that choose not to attend. This is frustrating.
One way to get teachers to attend a workshop is to make it compulsory. Put it in the teachers’ contracts that they have to attend so many workshops a year, and then follow up with teachers that don’t attend. This works, and is sometimes necessary, but there are a few down sides to a compulsory workshop.
Think of the students you have who choose to come to class of their own volition and are motivated to learn. Now think of the students, kids or adults, who don’t want to be there, but are either forced to attend by their parents or employer. Who is it that tends to get the most out of the class? Who would you rather teach?
I much prefer the other way of getting teachers to attend, which is to show them the direct benefits of attendance. Show them what they will learn during the workshop and how this will make their teaching both better and easier. No matter how lazy the teacher, I believe that everyone would prefer to go into a classroom and have an enjoyable and productive lesson rather than just trying to get through it.
To do this, find a real problem that many of your teachers are having. In an email or in person, acknowledge this problem and show how attending this workshop will help to solve it. Also, if teachers tend to have a good time at your workshops and benefit from them, getting teachers to attend will become increasingly simple.
If you’d like ten workshop ideas to get you started, click on the button below.