A Modern Pilgrimage
Having passed his CELTA in 2014, Ben has been working in Bratislava for the past 4 years. www.thebridge.sk Prior to becoming a teacher he served for 25 years in the British Armed Forces. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Never meet your heroes lest they be found to have feet of clay.” (Anon.)
Summer 2018 saw me heading to the University of Kent at Canterbury (UKC) to attend a course for teachers of advanced learners at Pilgrims, one of the cradles of the humanistic approach to teaching. I was looking forward to returning to my alma mater after exactly thirty years and was curious to meet some of the doyens and doyennes of our profession. Would I find heroes pushing the boundaries or statues to past glories?
Things move on and UKC is no exception. Significant rebuilding and development had made the place unrecognisable and despite having lived there for three years, I was lost on arrival; thankfully I could remember the location of the bar.
As we gathered in the classroom on the first morning, my eyebrows raised just a little. In a class of nineteen I was the only guy and the only native-speaker! I needn’t have worried. Our trainer, Hanna Kryszewska, didn’t bat an eyelid and we were off and running from the first moment. The approach was what I expected. Hanna’s experience and knowledge took us on an interesting journey which focussed at every stage on the practical. The students’ own experiences were explored and incorporated and I returned from the course with more material than I have been able to actually use so far.
But Pilgrims is about far more than a training course and a certificate. It’s the spaces in between that provide so much of the value. I enjoyed the evening activities and the excursions and I, of course, enjoyed revisiting some old haunts, but what I really enjoyed were the people.
My course mates had come from all over Europe and beyond. Many of them are working in state schools under difficult conditions, underfunded, undervalued and overstretched but their commitment to their students remains unflinching. Their personal desire to become more enlightened teachers for the betterment of their students was obvious and more than a little humbling. I am eternally grateful for their patience with my lack of experience and their input into my education has proved significant.
As a bonus, several courses run concurrently at Pilgrims and the schedule allowed us to mingle and exchange notes with people on a variety of other courses: advanced NLP coaching, teaching teenagers and using technology in the classroom etc. There was something about the atmosphere that encouraged these exchanges. This was an amazing force multiplier and gave much food for thought for future course options.
So, 45 years on Pilgrims continue to flourish and with good reason. It’s a place to explore and share and yes, there are still heroes to found there. Doyennes and doyens indeed, but no sign of any clay on their trainers, and new heroes too, trying to do the very best they can for their students; teachers.
Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Pilgrims courses at Pilgrims website.
Bonnie Tsai Scholarship – Winner Announced
A Modern Pilgrimage
Ben Gwillim, Slovakia