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Oxford Teachers’ Academy 2012: Review




One of the attendees of the 2012 Oxford Teachers’ Academy in July, Marilena Angela Chirculete talks about her experience.

There is always so much that words can encompass when it comes to rendering the full extent of the enthusiasm and genuine delight that the Teaching English to Adults seminars have inspired us with. I will most definitely try, however, to present you with my own – perhaps subjective – take on the proceedings. I hereby invite you to take a trip down memory lane and follow the “yellow brick road” to the enchanted realm of a series of brilliantly carried-out sessions on teaching English. Alright, take a mental breath and jump on board!

Approximately a month ago “the Oxford 36”, the teachers to attend the course, were anxiously and full-heartedly beginning their journey through the shared knowledge, past experience and ever new ideas regarding the methods and strategies of turning the learning process into a pleasant, efficient and long-lasting one. Under the guidance of a highly skilled teacher trainer, Tim Ward, we came together as a team and debated various aspects and challenges concerning the art of teaching. And what a delight that was for all of us!

To my mind, the trademark of a truly successful session is the fact that one is left thinking, pondering, meditating and reflecting upon the course after it has concluded. Well, as you might fairly guess, this is what happened to me and the very talented and knowledgeable teachers that I had the honour of meeting. Everything echoed inside us, and it still does, I would safely assume. We found all the topics we approached quite enticing, dealing with matters that a self-aware teacher would never take lightly: tackling lexical and grammatical notions in class; introducing reading, listening and writing activities that facilitate the development of communicative skills; offering feedback on students’ performance; and – sensitive issues, indeed – effective correction and student-centred vistas on class management. There was never enough time during each session for us to feel that we had fully “drained” a subject matter of all its mystery, difficulty and challenge. Tim was often nice enough to allot a few extra minutes to each session to make sure that most ideas had been heard and discussed.

We could not get enough of bringing our ideas and opinions to the table, which was probably the main factor that contributed to the magical atmosphere that spawned among the group. It has honestly been a pleasure to be part of such a crew of highly motivated, creative and experienced teachers. However distant the countries we come from were, however different our cultures, however distinct we are as individuals, we all seemed to have found ourselves on the same page in terms of teaching. We clicked perfectly and collaborated on all tasks flawlessly. We were all gathered there by a common interest and a common goal – to further our methods and techniques by taking in as much as we could from the experience. Of course, not everything needs to be gruelling, as you can see in the picture below, capturing a recess moment.

We felt blessed to spend time together, even after the seminars were finished for the day. We enjoyed the entire OTA experience: our stay at the lovely Keble College –from the soothingly authentic dining hall, to the other marvellous common places inside the campus; the leisurely walks on the awe-inspiring streets of Oxford; the imposing architecture of the colleges and towers. We roamed around and about trying to take every bit of detail in.

Rarely does one get to experience such a feeling of belonging and collaboration as we did in Oxford and, naturally, we will never forget the times we had and the ideas we shared. There will, hopefully, always be an Oxford for every teacher of English seeking improvement. Do forgive my sheer enthusiasm mixed with nostalgia in the tone of this blog. For the past month I have tried to scrape up a more dignified and objective perspective but, as it turns out, there is no other sincere way of going about relaying my view on the events.

Approximately a month ago, the 36 teachers of English to have attended the course were half-heartedly bidding farewell to the Oxford experience. It was a bittersweet feeling we were all experiencing, granted that the day would mark the end of the tremendously fruitful discussions and debates we had been having for the past three days. As we set off into the sunset, we knew, on the other hand, that a great deal of knowledge, confidence and a certain promise for future exchange of ideas had been instilled within us all. Most of us have managed to stay in contact ever since, continuing our queries and dilemmas regarding the teaching recipe. To all of my fellow-companions throughout the course, to our master of ceremonies, Tim Ward, to Oxford University Press and the staff involved, the best of thoughts and respect!

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  1. There are commonly claimed to be three main approaches to teaching writing; product, process and genre, which I will be giving more details about in the webinar. Academic writing tends to lean heavily on the process approach to writing, but to what extent does it need to use the ideas of a product and genre approach? So often when students are given feedback the focus is on the mark and the feedback is rarely used as part of the process in improving future writing. If students are so focused on grades and the final product how can we convince them of the benefits of the process approach to academic writing?

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