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August 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Pilgrims-Bridges EFL Conference June 7th-8th, 2019. 45th Pilgrims and 20th HLT Anniversary Conference in Bratislava, Slovakia


Mario Rinvolucri ‘s  “next  book “will be on the internet  and I hope it  will be a wide selection of Values Clarification Exercises for students  of B2 level up to C2. This project is still in its early stages. The book will grow slowly on the Pilgrims-Bridges site, home to a rich Ideas bank open to the Internet. This book, in many ways, will not be a Mario book but simply a Mario-guided book. From all round the world you will be asked to contribute exercises within the frame proposed. You will be asked to send in video clips of your testing of your activity in your own classes around the globe.

Around three hundred language teachers flocked to Bratislava for the Bridge School’s annual conference integrated with the 45th Anniversary of Pilgrims (Canterbury, UK. )

This is the second time that Pilgrims has joined up with a Continental European Group for a joint gathering. The first time was with The Lingua e Nuova Didatica (LEND) event in Italy, under the able and generous guidance of Valeria Gallerani.

So much happened in those two packed days by the Danube that it is hard to pick out  salient features that set this conference off from others. Inevitably what i write will be highly subjective. “Hey, Mario, do you really think anyone can write about a personal experience in any other way than subjectively?” (I suggest that the absurd Ancient Greek distinction between “ objective” and “subjective” should be deleted from our awareness.)

A major feature of this gathering, that had been prepared for by the hard work of Klaudia Bednarova and her colleagues who teach at the Bridge School  in Bratislava, was  the binary choice participants were offered on the first morning:

Either   a THREE HOUR drama workshop  (led by Peter Dyer)n or a  THREE HOUR session  on the work of Carter and McCarthy offering  insights into the grammar of oral English and HOW to teach it ( led by Chaz Pugliese and me).

In my view the one third of the participants who chose drama got a marvellous group-dynamic  warm-up to each other and this set the tone for the whole of the rest of the two days.  Hurray for Peter!

In the case of the 150 people who opted for  Oral Grammar and how to teach it  Chaz and I  were very concerned to get across the meaty, no- bullshit thinking of Carter and McCarthy. Chaz, who is very sensitive to group mood, kept saying to me: “ Things felt so much better in the second hour  and a half of the morning. “

In our preparation we had talked a lot about intellectual and methodological content announced by our title. What I feel we forgot to do was to plan to devote the first hour at least to getting -to-know-you exercises and rapport-deepening adventures. Had we done this we would have harmonised with what the drama group were up to.

Between us Chaz and I have 70 years language teaching and teacher training experience. And yet we still fell into the trap of “content anxiety” as if we were new to the job. “WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?”

An unusual feature of this Conference, for me at least, was the presence of Alex Wright , sitting at a table in the book exhibition, deeply concentrating on her creative book making. Occasionally she would grunt some anti-social remark to one or other of her parents: “ Don’t give me words, words, words - I’m thinking!”  What a triumph of humanistic BEING, of humanistic PERSISTENCE over 20 years of dealing with a powerfully and brilliantly autistic daughter.  For me, at least, Andrew Wright’s and  Julia’s, his wife’s,   humanism is only equalled by the brilliant thought  of Oliver Sachs, spread across a lifetime of mind-opening books.

Another individual who stands out in my memory of this conference is an MA student from the University of Udine, Stefania Campo Bagatin, who had just finished writing her MA thesis on mounds of legacy papers sent to the Bridge School from Pilgrims in Canterbury, UK. (If you haven’t heard of the UK it is a string if islands off the Western shore of Europe and is characterised by politicians who lie, snarl and bicker like maddened ferrets in a sack about whether they could ever contemplate being part of the European Family of Nations, to which they have sort of  belonged for 40 years)

A few days after our conference Stefania was examined by a University jury in Udine and awarded top marks  “cum laude”. I feel she took on a huge job as she waded through only partially catalogued  piles of paper sent from Pilgrims where we have spent 40 years groping  for ways to teach in a genuinely student-centred way.

 Congratulations Stefy!

Criticisms of my own general behaviour at the Bridges’ Conference 2019... My normal policy at such conferences  is to attend workshops and  lectures given by the people of the area, avoiding the voices and faces  of  “ internationals” who trail or bounce around the World conference circuit mainly selling coursebooks etc. ...

This time, though, I found myself cradled in the company of very dear Pilgrims colleagues whom I had not seen in some cases for a couple of or more years. No way I  could escape my belonging. Family is family.

And yet , normally, conversations with “local” people I do not know from Adam are a major area of learning for me and also allow me to do quite a lot of inconspicuous,  intimate teacher training.

I f I get invited to a future conference in Bratislava I will ward off the people from before and focus on the people I have yet to learn from and to teach.

Tagged Pilgrims News 
  • Pilgrims-Bridges EFL Conference June 7th-8th, 2019. 45th Pilgrims and 20th HLT Anniversary Conference in Bratislava, Slovakia
    Mario Rinvolucri, Pilgrims

  • The Four acts of Language
    Stefania Ballotto, Pilgrims

  • Renergising Your Classroom
    Stefania Ballotto, Pilgrims

  • Two Nations Divided by a Common Language
    Tim Bowen, Pilgrims

  • A Model for Individual and Whole School Development Synergy in Teacher and School Development
    Jana Chynoradská, Pilgrims

  • Teaching for All
    Phil Dexter, Pilgrims

  • Please Help me to Learn in Ways that Are Meaningful for Me…
    Phil Dexter, Pilgrims

  • 21 Century Skills in ELT
    Hanna (Hania) Kryszewska, Pilgrims

  • Visible Thinking in ELT Classrooms
    Hanna (Hania) Kryszewska, Pilgrims

  • Focus Interruptus: Why Are They Not Paying Attention
    Chaz Pugliese, Pilgrims

  • Teach Me and I’ll Forget. Surprise Me and I May Remember
    Chaz Pugliese, Pilgrims

  • Finding Your Coaching Voice
    Mike Shreev, Pilgrims

  • Teachers are Human Beings Too!
    Mike Shreeve, Pilgrims

  • Teachers, learners, humans
    Magda Zamorska, Pilgrims

  • Lessons from Nowhere. But Surely from Somewhere… Where is the where?
    Magda Zamorska, Pilgrims

  • How Many Brains Have You Got? Write Your Own Jazz Chants
    Aleksandra (Ola) Zaparucha, Pilgrims

  • Beyond a Coursebook: Global Issues in an English Classroom
    Aleksandra (Ola) Zaparucha, Pilgrims

  • Some Photos from the ELT Forum Conference