English Language Teacher Associations play an important role in promoting the professional development of teachers in diverse countries and regions. Within the framework of the EU funded Erasmus+CITA (Cooperation and Innovation in Teachers’ Associations) project teachers’ associations from Hungary (IATEFL-H), Lithuania (LAKMA) and the Balearic Islands (APABAL) brought teachers from 3 countries together to help us learn from each other by sharing our experiences and views. The project offered an excellent opportunity to learn about ourselves as teachers, as personalities and as our countries’ representatives by job shadowing.
I had a partner job-shadower, Aina Trias Roca from CEIP Gabriel Comas i Ribas, Esporles, Mallorca, Spain. Aina is an experienced, enthusiastic teacher who is respected by students, parents and colleagues at her school, in the local community and among professionals of APABAL, the teachers’ association.
Our job-shadowing work had two phases:
The first one took place in Karinthy Frigyes Hungarian-English Bilingual Primary School in Budapest, Hungary between 4-10 October in 2015. In this phase Aina visited my English and Civilization lessons, observed how my 13-year-old students are preparing for the Cambridge PET exam, how we share work with native teachers from the USA, participated in school activities, and introduced Mallorca, her school and students, Mallorcan traditions and festivals to me and my students. She observed my colleagues’ CLIL lessons and the native teachers’ English lessons in lower primary classes as well and learnt about features, benefits and challenges of bilingual education and content-language integrated learning, teaching a foreign language to young learners. She also got insight into the Hungarian educational system and gained experience of professional issues in workshops, talks and informal chats on the 25th conference of IATEFL-H. During our free afternoons, we visited some famous sights of Budapest and tasted home-made Hungarian food.
In the second phase I travelled to Esporles, Mallorca and spent a week between 7-13 February in 2016 at Aina’s school in CEIP Gabriel Comas i Ribas. Esporles is a Catalan village with about 5,000 inhabitants in the Tramuntana mountains, about 15 km north of the capital, Palma de Mallorca. The school has 450 pupils from the age of 4 to 12 as it is a kindergarten as well. Some of them come to school from the neighbouring villages like Banyalbufar by the school bus everyday. The school is bilingual as they teach Catalan and Spanish but none of the school subjects are taught in the second language (which is Spanish for them). Pupils start studying English at the age of four and have 30 minute long lessons twice a week. From the age of 6 they have 3 lessons, 30 or 45 minutes long depending on their age. Methodology and materials are adequate for their age, motivating for all age groups. Each class has a class teacher who teaches all subjects for them; only English, PE and Music are taught by specialised teachers. The lessons start at 9am and finish at 4.15. Pupils have lessons from 9-10, 10-11 then 30 minutes break, 11.30-12, 12-12.30 which is followed by a 75-minute long lunchbreak when pupils can have lunch at school or go home to eat. The afternoon lessons are from 14.45-15.30 and 15.30-16.15. Having this type of system and timetable, I didn’t see children to get as tired as our students do.
During my job-shadowing week I observed lessons both in the kindergarten and in the primary school. I was involved and did peer teaching in the primary school part. I also taught some language games matching the course material and had a presentation about Hungary, Budapest, Lake Balaton, my school and festivals for the 6th graders in all the 3 classes. Pupils put questions about our traditions and everyday life. Our interaction was a motivating example for them to study English and use the language as a tool to get information about a very different country and contact people from other parts of Europe.
I participated in school activities like Pancake day where pupils learnt a rhyme for how to make a pancake followed by their teacher’s demonstration. The following day, the pancake race was organised then eating pancakes filled by the teachers (us) and practising how to ask for something.
I also learnt about the educational system of Mallorca, requirements for teachers and students, about the curriculum, 3 terms and holidays in the school year and got an insight into a staff meeting and the English teachers’ weekly planning session.
The week ended with participating in the conference organized by APABAL, the English Teachers’ Association of the Ballearic Islands and giving a presentation about the experiences gained during job-shadowing in the CITA project.
During the project we shared our experience, discussed and compared methodological issues, developed and shared materials fitting to our teaching situations. By learning about each others’ culture including everyday life, history, famous sights, traditions, food etc. we had the opportunity to compare and contrast the two countries and widen our horizon. I will include the acquired knowledge not only in the English lessons but in Civilization, too. The cultural activities I was really fond of eg. Jaia Corema’s tradition during Lent are now parts of my lessons to make certain topics more colourful, interesting or thought-provoking.
I found job-shadowing a very meaningful project where both teachers and students gain a lot by learning about other cultures while sharing the same language.
I also thought about action planning how we could make benefits of the project in the long run. On one hand, on a professional level by further cooperation among the teachers’ associations, joint projects between the schools or classes involved in the job shadowing process and between the two of us by sharing ideas and materials we found useful via e-mail. On the other hand, on a personal level. I think the two weeks of the project is a beginning of a lifelong friendship. We keep in touch and planning further meetings on the family level.
Concerning dissemination of this experience, I have already had some opportunities like the APABAL Convention in Palma (12 February 2016), the Creative Café organized by IATEFL (4March 2016) and informal talks with colleagues and friends.
From a personal point of view Aina was not only a professional teacher, expert on her field and a good colleague but a fantastic host who helped me a lot to discover beautiful parts of the island, learn about its history and traditions, understand Mallorcan way of life, taste Mallorcan food and get lifelong memories of my stay.
It was a fantastic experience and feeling to meet new colleagues from different countries with different backgrounds and culture and share the same language, thinking and aims both as teachers and humans.
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
Siró Enikő, IATEFL-Hungary