Teaching an old dog behaviour and content

Half way through this training course at Harborne Hall, near Bournville in Birmingham or, at least, deep enough in the heart of Birminghamshire to be only a bus ride from New Street. One course done and one more to go. Here’s what I have been learning…

The first course, which just finished, was basic teaching skills, something I have never really been taught, despite teaching for years at Leicester Poly/DMU and since then Imperial and Kings. The thing that stuck most clearly in my mind was the use of different types of questions to achieve different purposes in a classroom situation, and having names for types of question: open and closed questions, ‘pose, pause, pounce’ and so on. It was great doing my evening teaching practise — telling midwives and therapists about packets, clients and servers on the internet — and spotting myself going from open to closed in order to steer them towards what I had in mind. Now what I really need to work on is keeping my speech slow and measured when I am getting enthusiastic as we get near the key points.

At the end of the course there was a free afternoon when four of the five of us made a desperate bid for freedom and managed to get outisde the perimiter fence of the compound and into a muddy nature reserve at Saltpits. Very enjoyable after a week of 12-hour days at the institution. Even buying sugar-free gum at Safeways, to take away the taste of our school meals, was an enjoyable experience. What’s it going to be like when I have been living in the institution of Holy Rosary College for a few months?

The second one is about adapting teaching skills for use in the developing countries. Last night was the first session of this new course; we talked of our expectations and looked at photos and video footage of the type of schools and colleges we might end up in, and stated to identify the issues — availability of resources, different languages and culture, etc. — that we might have to deal with. Oh, and I almost forgot the “name the countries in Africa” test, which my team won but because my partner knew all of them. My own ignorance of the area I am about to live in for two years was brought, subtlely and powerfully, to my attention.

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