Yesterday I gave a talk to 37 itinerant teachers. Most of the time these teachers work alone. The travel from school to school, tutoring hard of hearing or deaf children who study in regular schools. They are expected to be able to teach all subjects, whatever is needed (elementary or junior high school). They have supervisors. they have periodical meetings, but basically, they work on little islands, guests at every school they work at.
They are not trained English teachers.
Some of them keep on trying to “reinvent the wheel”.
Of course I presented all kinds of techniques and strategies to use, with and without technology (you can see some of them in the LiveBinder I created for the talk) but with every topic I brought up the issue of the benefits of cooperation. I began by discussing activities with a white board and a piece of paper. Then moved onto useful sites that are either good for working directly with the students or make a teachers life easier (see LiveBinder).If someone remarked – “Oh, I sometimes do this/ or that related activity” I immediately asked where that teacher worked. Then I wondered aloud how teachers from other areas would know and benefit from this useful activity or website that she uses.
Then I waIked them through my counseling blog (in Hebrew). I had opened a counseling blog a few months before I began this blog but it had very little impact. I’ve learned a lot over the past 11 months in blogosphere and revamped the counseling blog completely. I now title each post as a response to a question I am asked by email. I also stopped waiting for people to subscribe and send out a group mail whenever there is a new post. I showed them that there is an area for comments, arguments and related questions. We looked at the search function and the division into categories. The impression I had before the talk grew stronger during the talk – many teachers think of blogs as something either related to the news (read the blog of someone living in Japan after the Tsunami) or a maybe a place to get recipes. They treat it as a site, not as a live thing upon which they can influence the content.
In addition, I showed them my class wiki. I stressed that all they had to do is send me an email with a link to a website they find useful, along with the level of the student they found it useful for and I would post it on a wiki for them. The same would go for worksheets they may prepare, though here I retain the right of veto (these are not trained English teachers). They would have a place to look for suggestions from their peers, who understand their teaching situation.
The talk was for the 37 teachers who are attending this professional development course. There are many more itinerant teachers, I’m not sure how many. I forward the blog posts to their supervisors. I don’t know if I will get any emails beyond the usual counseling questions from them. In any case, investing in answering counseling questions on the blog is not wasted time for me – more often than not I am asked the same old questions. Now I can save some of my own time by easily locating the question and linking to the reply.
This was round one. Not sure how to set about initiating round two…