I believe that one of best things of our profession is to share what we are doing, and to have a good team of colleagues to work with. Since I started teaching in 1999, experience has told me that you learn best when you have the chance to exchange ideas and experiences with other teachers. That is why, as part of the training programme university lecturing in the bilingual itinerary should follow, we offer them the opportunity to be involved in an intensive course on CLIL issues. The course is not compulsory, but advisable, and I don’t need to tell my colleagues twice (I guess they love to participate in it :)). It is not an open course, as it is dealing with very specific issues related to our Bilingual Degrees, and people from the outside lack for the context to make the most of it.
The 2013 edition has been a special one. When starting to organise it, I suggested my colleagues to be in charge of some of the sessions of the course, and increase the time devoted to share what we were doing and its “pains and pleasures”. Sharing a whole week (from Monday to Friday) with your colleagues is an excellent opportunity to get to know each other better, and to organise plans and projects which could not be carried out otherwise. Everyday life at University is too hectic to find time to have a nice talk about portfolios or cognitive skills and design a plan to work on them more effectively.
In this edition we have been talking about many issues (in class, on a cup of coffee, or having a walk to enjoy the landscape); nevertheless, I will highlight these. First, I see that we are in a very positive position, because you can feel very isolated when becoming a bilingual teacher. Facing the challenge of teaching through a foreign language is not easy, and it is best done if you have a team to support and collaborate with you. Therefore, I consider that it is extremely important to build a good bilingual teaching staff from the very beginning. If they share objectives, and if they agree on their views on how bilingual teaching should be carried out in practice, students will follow a coherent curriculum prepared by more than one “thinking cap”.
Second, it is my belief that once teachers believe in bilingual education, a strong passion on exploring different ways to facilitate learning starts to grow. It is not that this passion was not there before, but having being trained to see learning as a more multi-faceted reality creates a need to keep on moving forward.
And last, but not least, I would like to mention the essential role Language Assistants play in bilingual teaching. It is very difficult to coordinate the work of the LAs with content teachers, but if efforts can be made to have some coordination time, if they agree on working on projects to enhance students communication abilities… you create a perfect condition for good learning to happen. In the case of the 2013 we have started an innovative project to work with LAs in a more effective way. It is called the Language Fan Project (cc), and I’ll be giving you more information about this soon.
All in all, I am really thankful for this five days full with ideas, experiences, opinions and projects; and I hope that many teachers can have the chance to enjoy teaching in this way too!. Keep on exploring and learning!