As a teacher trainer and a researcher in teacher development, when attending the TESOL Conference in Portland last week, I gave preference to the sessions related to this field. Some of them focused on the trainer’s role and how initiatives towards teachers should be conducted. Others focused on the teachers’ role in engaging in professional development. All of them were truly interesting and added new insights to my knowledge on the topic. However, one specific talk called my attention, for , besides being related to novice teachers, the ones I’m closer to at our institution, it addressed the teachers’ and the trainers’ perspectives.
The talk conducted by Dr. Liz England, from Shenandoah University in Virginia, revolved around an experience she had gone through when organizing and delivering a sixteen-hour orientation program for novice professionals as English Teaching Assistants – ETAs - at the start of their programs. The group of novice teachers had just gotten their BAs in different fields and most did not have any background in TESOL. This group of seventy-five professionals accepted the challenge of going to Malaysia to work with groups of kids and teens in primary and secondary schools.
The first aspect pointed out by Dr. England was related to the beliefs the group of professionals had in the beginning of the training program and, afterwards, how they changed their points of view in such a short period of time. First of all, the group was made up of Americans; therefore, they believed that because of being native speakers, they would face fewer challenges than non-native EFL teachers. Second, they thought that lesson planning wouldn’t be important since they had many activities and nice ideas in mind. And third, they bet they wouldn’t have problems concerning classroom management, for they were nice, young, and cool teachers.
As Dr. England went on describing the instant training program she had been required to deliver and all the challenges she had faced, I started thinking about how I myself sometimes feel when I wish I had a magic formula to give novice teachers to make them feel ready and confident to teach any groups.
For us, teachers and teacher trainers, it’s meaningless to point out all the reasons why a sixteen-hour course will never be enough to prepare a teacher to face the numerous different situations a classroom presents, but, as Dr. England mentioned, if we trainers have little time to help inexperienced teachers, we must make the most it.
After the sixteen-hour orientation program, a survey was conducted to verify how helpful the training was and in what ways it could be improved. Having already faced the first difficulties in teaching, most of the ETAs pointed out that what they could benefit the most from in the training was related to lesson planning and classroom management, for these were the most challenging aspects of their new experience.
By getting this feedback, I could confirm the idea that despite where novice teachers come from and the particularities of the English language programs they are involved in, the target issues in teacher training are pretty much the same. Thus, I felt really pleased to acknowledge that the training and development opportunities the Casa Thomas Jefferson has offered to novice teachers are in sync with the most updated research conducted in the field of language teaching and training. Also, I reviewed my own passion for the field I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to, and own proud of being part of such a wonderful team of teachers and teacher developers.