Dear HLT Readers,
Welcome to the October issue of HLT. First of all some Pilgrims news. We are launching new online autumn events for teachers. Take a look at https://www.pilgrims.co.uk/page/?title=2020+Courses%2C+Dates+%26amp%3B+Fees&pid=132
We are also getting ready for the summer of 2021 so read Dear Friends of Pilgrims by Chaz Pugliese who presents our plans. Of course, Covid is looming over us but we are hopeful. Some covid related texts in this issue include: Teaching in a Time of Corona, by Emma Wyatt, A Viral Time Warp – Poems and Other Writings on the Pandemic from the C Group, some humour - In the Covid Times - Be Like… by John Liebeskind, and To Plan or to Netflix? by Anthony Forsyth.
The main body of the issue comes from Slovakia - Slovak teachers, educators, teachers from all over the world based in Slovakia or in some way related to this lovely country. The main driving force behind the issue is Klaudia Bednárová whom I would like to thank for her hard work on this issue and who will introduce this issue of HLT to you.
Enjoy the October issue of HLT.
Stay safe and healthy
Let me start by saying how lucky I have been since I attended a workshop with Mario Rinvolucri back in 2009 and, even though he disappeared from public view for a while, his energy was contagious; I had caught the ‘Rinvolucri bug’. Then, almost ten years later, the late Jim Wright invited me to attend a course run by Pilgrims. Given my professional duties as Principal of The Bridge School, I never have the time to attend CPD courses, and the timing that summer wasn´t very good either. But ‘what the heck’! It was invitation to attend a Pilgrims course! One doesn´t say no to that. Little did I know back then how much my life would change. The “Hilltop” (as it is quaintly known) where Pilgrims hold their summer courses, does make a difference to anyone who is lucky enough to spend time there in Canterbury. Among the many lovely people that I met there was Mike Shreeve, an amazing coach and teacher. Soon after, my dear friend, Rakesh Bhanot, took me for a lunch chez Mario. One lunch led to another, and before I knew it, I was busy cooperating with Mario on a really exciting project for teachers, viz., HLT.digital. Three years of inspiring discussions have gone by very quickly; faster than one would wish but they have given me enough power, inspiration and motivation to continue working on Mario’s project (see below) for years to come.
The simple idea is to create a space to share innovations in ELT by creating a platform which allows cooperation among teachers around the world. HLT.digital will be a virtual space for all teachers and teacher trainers who would like to infuse/integrate humanism into English language teaching. Incidentally, Mario came up with this idea long before COVID-19 taught us all a lesson or two about online teaching.
Following many lengthy discussions with both Mario and the co-founder of Pilgrims, James Dixey, I want to pay them both a tribute. What they created in the late 1970s is not just a school; it´s an inspirational idea! Dare I say, a virus? it´s the best pedagogic virus you can get. Those who have ever attended a Pilgrims course, either as a trainer or as a participant, will know exactly what I am talking about!
HLT magazine, founded by Mario over 20 years ago, is an important part of the Pilgrims’ pedagogic virus, and continues to be a rich resource of freely available materials for teachers all over the world. When Hania offered me the opportunity to co-edit this particular issue from Slovakia, I was really excited particularly in the light of my discussions with Mario. A recent article in EL Gazette - “Teaching in Slovakia” by Rakesh Bhanot, EL Gazette /August 2020, highlighted how Slovakia is becoming a fast-growing country where there are increasing possibilities for teachers of English. I hope our collaboration with Pilgrims will contribute to teachers in Slovakia becoming more informed about developments in the wider ELT community, as well as allowing some of them to share their thoughts and ideas with colleagues around the world.
In view of all this, I am very happy to introduce this special Slovak issue of HLT magazine which, in addition to its usual features, comprises over 20 articles on a variety of topics including teaching young learners, teacher training, using humour in the class, reducing stress for teachers, addressing global issues et al. Nearly all the contributions are by teachers who work in different institutions in various parts of Slovakia. Most of the articles, however, were written by teachers who work at The Bridge School (which recently gained the EAQUALS status).
My colleagues, despite being snowed under with their “new normal” work, were motivated and eager enough to accept the challenge of writing articles based on their professional practice. As Donald Schon reminds us, in order to be a true professional, one has to be a reflective practitioner. However, this involves more than merely thinking about what happens in the classroom; it also means recording some of those reflections either in writing or in audio/video form.
Another strategy, perhaps, is to share these reflections in the form of journal articles since the process of writing (for others) encourages us to clarify some of our assumptions, and to question how our ‘espoused theory’ (of teaching and learning) relates to our ‘theory-in-use’. Although writing articles about teaching English may not be in any job specification for teachers of English, the process of writing does contribute to the teachers’ CPD. University teachers are generally expected to publish several (peer-reviewed) articles every year, and while such a requirement may seem unreasonable for teachers in other sectors, it could be encouraged even if the written papers/ideas are shared only by the English teachers in one school.
The other articles were written by university colleagues who keep inspiring and motivating students in a number of teacher training institutions in Slovakia. Some of them were written at the beginning of 2020 (in other words, in pre-Covid times), and the others more recently when COVID-19 became part of our new normal. Some of these describe how colleagues came to terms with the sudden change from face-to-face teaching to working online; something to which we can all relate.
Whatever the post-pandemic world looks like, English language teaching will continue to be an exciting and challenging field to work in. Even if we mostly work online, language teaching is something that involves people who, unlike machines, have feelings and emotions. The philosophy and principles (of humanistic approaches to language) promulgated by Pilgrims are perhaps even more relevant in a world where teachers and students have less face-to-face contact. With this in mind, I’d like to conclude by reminding readers of something the late Jim Wright used to say:
“It´s not the days in your life that matter; it´s the life in your days that makes the difference”.
Even if we are far away from each other on the other sides of screens, let´s be there for each other as human beings; and let´s bring more life into our days.
Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to Hania for allowing us to work with her on this October 2020 issue of HLT magazine, and I hope our first joint venture will not be the only one.