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.