As the summer holidays come to an end, the thoughts of many teachers will be turning to the new term, with the many opportunities and challenges that it will undoubtedly bring. Whether your summer has been spent dodging the showers in the UK or relaxing somewhere on a sunny beach, I hope you have had a good rest and that your batteries have been recharged for the coming months.
Many people believe that cooperation and collaboration – between teachers, between students, between teachers and students – are amongst the keys to successful teaching.
In our main feature in the September issue of ETp, Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley remind us that it is the interaction between teacher and students, all contributing to the same endeavour, that makes a lesson move beyond the confines of a lesson plan to an experience that is akin to a jazz performance, full of experimentation and improvisation.
Qiangba Yangjin describes how learning to work with fellow teachers on a training course and to contribute her own ideas in discussions, as well as taking on board those of others, changed her opinion about the value of groupwork in the classroom, a technique she has now introduced to her students in Tibet.
Faced with the new challenge of content and language integrated learning (CLIL), teachers often feel the need to get together to support each other and share expertise. Christa Mundin and Charlotte Giller describe courses they run in Spain for teachers, some of whom are coming to English teaching for the first time. The level of cooperation from the participants is high: many are voluntarily taking courses in English at the end of a busy day’s teaching and they value the new ideas and classroom techniques that they are picking up at the same time as they improve their own language ability. Current economic conditions in Spain and elsewhere have increased the pressure on teachers to raise their skill levels, so this kind of cooperative enterprise is particularly important at this time.
Also in the field of CLIL, Erwin Gierlinger outlines his seven commandments, one of which is that CLIL teachers should not go it alone: successful CLIL involves the cooperation and collaboration of fellow teachers, students, head teachers, parents and educational authorities.
To some, the idea of cooperation and collaboration in the classroom may seem like a pipe dream. So what can we do when there is little cooperation from the students? Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa reflects on the success of Mexican ‘dog whisperer’ Cesar Millan. By asserting ourselves with the same calm authority he uses to quell a pack of unruly dogs, we have to become ‘leader of the pack’, which will allow us to lead the students into more cooperative and collaborative ways!
Helena Gomm, August 2012