It’s 5.30pm in Buenos Aires. For most of the city, this means that the sun is finally letting up and people are leaving their offices to go and have a beer. For my colleagues and I, this means we have a maximum of 15 minutes before the evening classes start, and it is in this precious quarter of an hour that one is most likely to hear the plaintive cry “has anyone got anything on [insert language point here]…?”
While the answer to the above is most often a slightly harried “yes…”, followed by a blizzard of folders and photocopies, sometimes there’s just plain silence, broken only by the breathless cursing of someone trying to refill a board pen.
Recently, the above scenes have become less frequent in our staff room. Just under a year ago, we implemented a teacher-development programme: with so many teachers doing the Cambridge Delta course and so many others having already completed a profesorado (Argentina’s teaching degree: so in-depth that it’s almost an MA in Applied Linguistics), it seemed essential that we share this knowledge among the entire staff for the benefit of our students. So we started, every Friday afternoon at 1pm.
After about three months of these teacher development sessions, we realised that we had enough material to fill a small coursebook, and the folder we were using to house them began to burst at the seams – so we came up with the idea of uploading all the information onto a blog. Initially a reference point for our own teachers, we very quickly realised that we were receiving hit after hit from outside in the big wide world. So not only did we send it to various authorities in the world of ELT for their comments but now that the IH Journal itself is online, this is an ideal opportunity for you to see what the fuss is about.
Ok, you’re thinking, so you have some teaching material on the internet, doesn’t everyone these days? Well, I’ll bet you’ve come across as many helpful ELT sites as you have “subscribe here for ONLY $15 a month” pop-ups and we didn’t want to be another one of them. We wanted to make all the sessions open access, so that everyone who is interested can get hold of the material that we have created.
Well perhaps that’s enough preamble, let’s give you a look at the blog itself. Navigating around the pages is easy enough using the tabs at the top (you’re reading an on-line journal, right?), but here are a couple of really important ones:
The home page: here’s the place where you can access all the sessions we’ve uploaded – just click on one to download all the material and it’s free for you to use. We’re well into double figures with the sessions now, and we add new ones as soon as they’re ready.
You’ll also find a few quotes from some of ELT’s household names who have seen our blog and whose comments have helped us to develop it. As you can imagine, we’re pretty chuffed with the responses so far.
And this is us! All the staff who have contributed to the blog up to now, along with a little biodata so you can see who we are and what we enjoy about teaching. As with the rest of the blog, as more staff contribute, more staff will be added, so you will always know something about the material writer personally.
In the near future we’ll be adding more features, such as a discussion board for guest writers as well as a “students’ room”, where students themselves will be able to interact with both the material and those who are contributing to the blog, to let everyone know what really works for them or even what they found less effective, so that our classrooms’ most important resources don’t let us get above ourselves!
At the moment, the site is getting traffic of between 70-100 hits per day, which for a new-born blog, isn’t bad at all. In fact, we recently received a call from the director of an IH school who’d heard about the blog and wanted to know if we had anything on teaching teenagers to talk – we were only too happy to oblige. And on a local level, since the blog went live, we’ve had neighbourhood teachers coming into our institute for teacher development sessions because they’ve seen what we have to offer.
This has proved to us that the site’s helping not only our staff but the wider ELT community: we’ve reciprocated by featuring links to other blogs we’ve found helpful, which you can see on the aptly named “blogroll” to the right of the screen. These of course will link you to writers and sites which we have found invaluable inspiration for teaching our students and feel that as many people as possible should know about them.
In fact, at IH San Isidro we believe in allowing everyone to see everything we have created, for the benefit of not only our students, but those in other IH schools and beyond. This isn’t some touchy-feely sentiment: it’s based on the very practical fact that as each IH school is a treasure-trove of material, sharing it would be a good idea.
So all of the above has made our staff room a calmer place these days, and – in my best First Conditional – I hope that if you have a look at our blog, we can do the same for yours.