Natecla Day 1: in which I learn about excellent ideas for teaching teenagers, deliver a session and practice my Chris Froome “running in a bike race” moves. 

Oil has featured surprisingly highly in my day today. No, don’t worry, I haven’t inadvertently arrived at a mechanical engineering meeting, nor the Annual Convention of the Olive Oil Growers Association, but rather at the always wonderful NATECLA National Conference. The oil is a direct result of being stupidly over optimistic about the tolerances of a rear derailleur and completely shearing off the gear hanger. Yes, it is as dramatic and expensive as it sounds. Anyway, enough bike (temporarily sorted, you’ll be glad to know), and more NATECLA.

I hate to sound cheesy, but I love coming here. This is, I think, my fifth or maybe sixth year coming, and it feels distinctly familial now. Lots of faces I recognise, lots of new people: it’s rather like coming to that big family wedding but with extra learning of cool stuff. It’s made doubly lovely because I’ve been able to come thanks to winning the Trinity Ticket, courtesy of the lovely people at Trinity College London. It is, however, the first time I’ve been able to come as a participant rather than as a workshop leader. 

Or so I thought. Let me illustrate the conversation. It’s easier. 

So, a few hours to go, and I’m co-delivering a workshop. Luckily I’m an irrepressible show off when it comes to teaching, and have a few ideas about mixed Level classes, so the prospect was quite exciting.  Not to mention I got to co-deliver with two exceptionally talented and experienceD ESOL teachers, from whom I have happily cribbed a bunch of ideas for next year, so a bit of a win, really. The session was very well attended, and I think it went ok. Rough around the edges, maybe, but it worked. Obviously my colleagues were far better than me, so I can only hope I didn’t let the side down. I’ll wait for the feedback, but 45 minutes was a tough time to squeeze in that sort of thing! 

Then it was off to the second session. I chose “Top Tips for Teaching Teens” because a) I’m teaching 16-18s properly for the first time next week, and b) I’m a sucker for alliteration. I’d précis the whole thing, but if I give away all the secrets, then that would spoil things. However, my favourite top tips were around routines – a thing you hear people rattle on about but without actually giving some real ideas for these, and “stirrers and settlers” – thinking about pace and so on. There was also, and this is probably the biggest worry that I have, a discussion on how to handle disruptive behaviour, which was genuinely useful and, crucially for me, reassuring, although there weirdly the two ideas I think will stick with me is the idea of a vocabulary box as part of the classroom routine, where students write the vocabulary from the lesson on pieces of paper and pop it in the box for recap and revisit later. The other big idea was to think about classroom layout. I’ve always been fairly laid back about islands/horseshoes/rows, and just got on with things as I find them, so it was interesting to listen to the discussion about the relative benefits of islands and horseshoes, and a really useful reminder to actually think about these things properly. 

My contribution to the teachmeet was brief, and I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t stay, but it was probably the only gap in the event where I could fly to the bike shop (a charming old school bike shop in Beeston called Rocky Riders, which deserves an honourable mention here). However, there is more yet to come, today, of course, but some of that does involve food and alcohol, so I may have to see how we go with that sort of thing. It may be a job for the morning! 


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