149. 10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Workshop Experience Productive

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[Published on The Kathmandu Post, April 3 2017]

“You are just passively sitting in a group and not contributing anything at all.” I whispered to a participant during a recent workshop we had conducted. She hesitated a bit and gave me an awkward smile. During the break, she came up to me and said, “Actually, I didn’t know much about this workshop. My friend dragged me here with her. So I was a little lost during the activities.”

Initially, I had assumed that she was just trying to give me an excuse. But clearly, she didn’t know why she was there. Her confession made me think deeper on why participants act the way they act during workshops. And how, not only the trainer but also the participants should take responsibility for the effectiveness of the session.

As a teacher and teacher-trainer, I believe that a workshop is productive only when participants are ready to explore and co-create knowledge by getting physically, mentally, and emotionally involved in various activities. The trainer’s role is to deliver the content and facilitate the learning but in an effective workshop, participants must also take active roles to learn by doing and reflecting on their learning. As much as the participants want the trainer to be prepared, the trainer also dreams of having participants who are ready to participate and learn.

So, next time when you think about participating in a workshop, keep these ten things in your mind so that you can make your workshop experience worthwhile:

  1. Understand your real reasons for joining the workshop and check if they align with the workshop objectives (besides the price, timing, and location). You may have wanted to, for instance, improve your fiction writing skills, but the workshop might be about technical writing. Sometimes, you may simply be curious and want to learn new stuffs. No harm in that but you may not apply the learnings when there’s a mismatch of the goals.
  1. Understand the modality of the workshop. Ask for the format, duration, and delivery style. Most of the time, workshops turn out to be long lecture sessions that put the participants into coma. You may have different expectations. And when your expectations don’t match with the workshop, your motivation (and consequently, overall learning) might slump down to zero.
  1. If you have signed up for a workshop, try to get in touch with other participants. This is easy these days because most of the workshops are promoted through Facebook where you can see who else have clicked ‘Going’. Also, try to get in touch with the facilitator and ask your queries and confusions.

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148. Reinventing Teaching from A to Z: A

Earlier, I had written an article titled “An open letter to passionate teachers” on how to overcome the wall of hopelessness. Since then I have received a lot of emails and messages on social media by teachers (and aspiring ones) expressing their belief, interest, and frustrations about the teaching profession.

Hopefully, through this article series, I am able to answer some questions, clear out some fog, and dismiss a few negativity. And, hopefully, I am also able to (re)ignite passion and inculcate pride among us about the profession we love so much.

(This concept is heavily inspired by Scott Thornbury’s An A-Z of ELT. Also, I have tried facebook-sourcing to gather more ideas.)

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A: Anticipation

Students need to know what they are going to study (objectives) but don’t give them all at once. Tell them there’s a surprise or tell them to make a guess. Start with a quiz and give the answer at the end of the class. Or, start with a movie clip and lead them into the class’s main objective. Make them curious. Open up a gap, make them fill it – help them fill it.

And, a couple more from my facebook comment.

Autonomous: Just don’t go on rambling through the session. Teachers tend to wrap the context even without caring about students’ learning. Course vyaunu cha, time thorai cha: Students make noise because the teacher is not teaching interesting stuff. (Kanchan Bahadur Bhattarai)

Absorbing: Needs to be able to hold attention and also have open mind to absorb what students express. (Abhilasha Rayamajhi)

08. Teaching becomes a dead end job


(Pic: Internet)

As I am also in the School Administration, I was looking for some training programs for few new and old (I mean ‘senior’) teachers of the school. I believe in the saying – the school is what the teacher is. I am not an overly experienced teaching professional in any way. But this is common sense. I also believe that, just like any other profession, teachers constantly need to upgrade their skill and refresh their minds.

Anyway, I talked with three of the teachers and informed them about a training program that would, I thought, help them move towards competency and professionalism. They were half-excited about the prospect. I told them the school was also ready to bear half of the cost of the training. Then the typical indifferent attitude in their response. Training. Extra hours. Two more hours for a week. Missing private tuition classes. Excuses. And excuses.

The training was not that expensive at all. The school could have managed the entire expense and sent those teachers to the training for free. But, I thought the teachers should ‘invest’ from their part as well, after all they are getting a chance to enhance their skill and gain new perspective on teaching.

I was really stunned when they gave me excuses to avoid the training. If I had got similar opportunity, I would have jumped right in with total enthusiasm.

Then, I just remembered what one of my senior teachers had told me a few years ago – “in Nepal, most of the school teachers do not chose the job to be teachers, they just need something to do for a time being while making plans for better profession. Few find that ‘better’ profession, but many get stuck with the teaching job, something they never planned for. Teaching becomes a dead end job for them.”

It could be true, almost true. They have turned teaching job into an excuse, one more in their pile of excuses.

I just smiled and said a simple “Sure. No problem” to those teachers. I still had hope that some other teachers would be excited for the training.

**

While I was googling for blogs by Nepali English teachers, I found a similar grievance on this article by Ram Abadhesh Ray.

As soon as Dr. Bhandari announced that the training was without allowance, the faces of the reputed teachers of the government school were to see. They started feeling disappointment and as there was break for half an hour and then after break no government teachers were seen in training session and Dr. Bhandari was amazed and we too.” (sic)

Read the complete article here: Teacher training: for money or for professionalism?