I had a great time when I dropped into Eva’s classroom. What I was immediately struck by was a sense of happiness, a sense of enjoyment and a relaxation about communicating. The room was full of kids from different nationalities – Spain, Holland, Japan (and more – Eva, can you make a comment and tell us the nationalities?!). These kids are all at various stages in their understanding and use of English and they were all working on tasks that matched their developmental levels. However, the room was buzzing with chat, laughter and risk-taking. These kids felt very comfortable in this environment, and because they felt comfortable they were ready to push their boundaries. It reminded me very much of an ESL teacher I worked with in Bangladesh, a wonderful woman called Rupa Chakravarti, whose approach to ESL was so relaxed, child-centred and joyful that kids begged to be “put into ESL”!
The first half hour or so of the workshop was dedicated solely to relaxing, chatting, trying out wireless connections, getting on to this blog and getting to know the people in the room. This was an experiment with atmosphere, setting a slow and purposeful pace… something that is often completely absent in the schools we work in. Our schools, in general, are frantic, manic places in which every day is crammed full of as much as possible. Yet, all of our mission statements pledge to produce balanced and responsible individuals who will create a better world! My wife’s recent visit to Reggio Emilia has really got me thinking about the atmosphere, environment and aesthetic that we are educating children in. I think the participants at this workshop appreciated starting this way.