Once upon a time, there was a teacher trainer in Tunisia
10th October 2019
by Tanya Pugliese
…and so begins our tale. The story is set in five locations in Tunisia: Tunis, Ariana, Sfax, Sousse, Gabes, all very different venues spread across the country, the protagonists are 25 highly professional and dedicated teacher trainers and over 5,000 equally amazing and motivated Tunisian primary school teachers. What’s special about this story is that there’s a happy beginning, middle and ending.
From the 29th of July until the 7th of September, these players took part in a summer programme organized by the British Council and the Tunisian Ministry of Education for state school primary teachers of English as part of the Teaching for Success Tunisia project.
Groups of 25 trainees and their trainers worked together over 5 days to explore teaching English through story telling. The model was loosely based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This story was used every day to introduce a different linguistic skill, practise activities using the different skills, vocabulary and functions in the story, and have a go at micro-teaching the range of techniques presented by the trainer. This practical loop input approach provided teachers with lots of useful ideas, but the ultimate goal was for small teams of teachers to create an original story based on the Tunisian context, or translate an existing Tunisian children’s story into simple English. The teachers then used their stories to practise the target linguistic skills in the same way as the model demo and finally to present their work to their colleagues on the last day of the five-day training.
Like all good tales, the training was not without its challenges. Tunisia is hot in summer, very hot, and the ACs in the venues were not always as cooperative as the people in the training rooms, yet trainers and trainees braved the sweltering heat and managed to smile and have a great time from start to finish despite the sweaty conditions. Then there was the challenge of the heterogeneous nature of the participants’ abilities, local contexts and personal backgrounds. Managing teachers with very mixed abilities in English was quite a feat, and trainers had to grade their language and the concepts presented accordingly, but in this story, the trainers were the cream of the crop and real pros and knew how to capitalise on their trainees’ strengths and get the best of what each participant could offer, while the trainees themselves were extremely cooperative and supportive of each other, willingly sharing ideas and strategies with their peers to make sure everyone got the most out of the experience. The result was high energy, hands on, top quality, intensive training throughout the week culminating in an array of amazingly creative stories written and performed by the trainees, complete with self- made props, songs, costumes and even special effects! The moral of this story is, despite the challenges, with a little bit of perseverance and a lot of motivation (oh, and let’s not forget the very talented teachers and teacher trainers), this teaching English through story telling programme turned out to be a dream come true for all!