A week away…A week together…

Our guest post this month was written by Dina Dobrou, a teacher who followed our CELTA  course in July 2010 and who was one of  our first trainees who took to Twitter like a duck to water!

Dina’s post is an account of a week of free Professional Development which Berni Wall offers to a group of teachers from around the world every year. Dina was one of the few lucky teachers to join Berni just after New Year’s along with one more CELT Athens trainee,  Maria Zygourakis, who is also mentioned in Dina’s post below.

The week sounds inspiring and reading Dina’s lovely account made me want to go there myself next year!

On Twitter – she is @DinaDobrou

A week away…A week together…

‘Step out of your comfort zone!’ That’s got to be my favourite motto of the year, though I seriously considered it as the previous one was drawing to a close.

I had been on Twitter only for a couple of months and was just beginning to get the hang of it and appreciate its value for educators.

Then an update came up by Berni Wall (@rliberni) advertising her professional workshops for teachers in North Yorkshire and that was more than just another pleasant surprise coming from Twitter. In fact, it was just the opportunity I needed to follow my favourite motto. And so I did, the minute the tweet was up, and I was delighted to be offered a place.

Needless to say, I got a couple of discouraging reactions from social-media-phobics, such as: “No, way! That can’t be free!”, “How do you mean you just met on the internet and they invited you to their home?”, “You must be out of your mind going up there in the middle of winter!” And the list goes on to the point I stopped talking about it as I was already determined to defy anything and anyone that would go between me and…‘Stepping out of my comfort zone’!

So, I set off for England one day earlier, on January 1st, feeling the need to make a short stop in my favourite capital, London, and made sure I returned to it for another day after the workshop had ended, thinking I would miss it being up North and far from a city centre for so many days. Well, I was wrong. It’s true what they say “London is not England”. The train journey revealed marvellous landscapes and a quick peek of the city of York would only whet my appetite for the day trip we would have there at the end of the week. The highlight of the train journey, though, was meeting Maria (@mariazygourakis) and Wellington (@wellingtonros) on board the train and discovering that we had been travelling in the same compartment for some time!

Fleetham Lodge where Berni Wall lives

Berni awaited us in Northallerton railway station where we also met Cecilia (@CeciELT)and we all set off for Fleetham Lodge.

We spent teatime in an amazing Christmas ambience with a candle-lit tree and choir sounds while we introduced ourselves and discussed how we would spend the days to follow. Dinner was next, and among other wonderful dishes, we got to taste Imogen’s (Berni’s youngest daughter) plum crumble and count the plum stones while chanting “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar, thief” for every stone we found. Tradition has it, when you get to the last stone in your dish, you’ll marry such a man. (ehem…I think we indulged in counting stones as much as we did in eating)

Monday: January 3rd, 9:00 am, we set off for Howarth, the so-called Brontë village and much more than just a name on the map. First stop, Brontë Parsonage Museum, once the house of the Brontë family. It was wonderful to be there and imagine what it would have been like in its heyday, when Reverend Patrick Brontë, filled with hope for the future, brought his family to live in Howarth but sadly ended up outliving all of them, though he made sure his gifted children would always be remembered.

We later walked around and explored the picturesque village, had lunch in a pub frequented by Branwell Brontë himself and walked up towards the moors to get a feel for the landscape that inspired Emily Brontë to write ‘Wuthering Heights’.

As it was way too cold to walk to the Brontë falls, we made do with a visit to Howarth Railway Station (setting for the movie ‘The Railway Children’) and saw the steam train arrive. I remember feeling like one of the cast of Harry Potter, but it was ‘Wuthering Heights’ we had on the movie menu for that night and what a setting we had to watch it…

Watching "Wuthering Heights" in front of a roaring fireplace!

Tuesday: January 4th, 9:00 am, our PD workshop officially begins. We covered Listening, Vocabulary and, of course, technology. Teacher and student blogs, wikis, mobile learning, Web 2.0 tools, (all new and exciting to me) were now taking shape as we explored them with the help of Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) who, despite having spent forever and a century to get to Fleetham Lodge from the US and having lost her luggage on top of all else, was all excited about sharing amazing tools and providing ideas on how these can be integrated in our lessons to bring the best out of our students.

Wednesday: January 5th, we talked about Grammar and had a mini art class about how to draw coffin bodies :D.

While Berni was busy stuffing a goose for Twelfth Night celebration (when Christmas decorations are put do w n), we indulged in what was o ne of the most surreal moments of #ELTchat I will ever have: chatting to people I was sitting around the same table with! That nig ht we had an amazing dinner (not that the other ones were not), took part in the second session of #ELTchat, performed at a Mummer’s play (got to remember to thank Cecilia, for if it hadn’t been for those Caipirinhas, St. George aka Dina Dobrou, wouldn’t have uttered a word) and played parlour games.


Th ursday: January 6th, was all about blogs and collaborative writing, err or analysis and speaking. How could we fit so m uch in so little time? I could only compare it to a live #ELTchat. The flow of ideas was so natural! Our evening was spent at the local pub where we tried a couple of different beers (all in half pints, of course).My notes during one of our workshops

Friday: Janu ary 7th, we explored Reading and Literature in the ELT classroom, but our notes on that day are not that many as snow started to fall outside the window so instead of ‘daydreaming in class’, we decided to go out and have some fun!!

S aturday: January 8th, no PD session, but a trip to York. We were excited to be visiting such a historic town, but at the same time sad to realise our week was coming to an end, and grateful for the memories we will always cherish.

As teachers we very often forget how to be students again. We ‘gracefully’ take our position of ‘authority’ behind a desk and at times may pretend to know it all. Being encountered with PLNs, Twitter and Blogs for the first time I was introduced to a whole new world where teachers exchange and share ideas as part of their daily lives and act as both teachers and learners and this workshop was a wonderful blend of both teaching and learning.

An evening at the local pub: Dina Dobrou, Cecilia Lemos, Berni Wall, Maria Zygouraki & Wellington Oliveira

Having had an amazing week of complete and concentrated immersion in the British culture combined with the exchange of ideas and experiences among an absolutely fantastic ‘crew’ of seasoned educators from various parts of the world, I can now say that this workshop was one of the most fun and enriching experiences I’ve had, it far exceeded my expectations and for a week…I felt at home away from home.

About or Guest Blogger

Dina Dobrou is a teacher of English who is keen on her Professional Development and has been a teacher of for more than  five years. She has a CELTA Certificate and is keen on learning about new technologies and on pursuing a career in TEFL.

Categories: Guest Post

10 replies

  1. What an experience! Thanks for sharing. Will be following your blogspot to see where your life takes you next!

    • Julie mou,
      life indeed seems to have taken an interesting turn after CELTA and PLNs. I wouldn’t have imagined it before. I don’t have a blogspot (at least not yet) but it’s great to keep in touch through facebook and twitter and hoping to learn more about your journey too. Miss you!

  2. Jealous..wish I had been there >>congratulations on learning so much and appreciating my country and a great blog write up!

    • Well Sharon,
      I think I should be jealous because you spent more time than me in that country. 😛 It’s a great country and I always love going back.
      As for being there, you can always apply for another PD week. Twitter will not disappoint…an update like the one I saw will come up sooner or later. Just be there to see it. BTW, I thought of you this week. I tried post-it notes activities with nearly all my classes. Hope to see you more on #ELTchat! 😉

  3. I’m keeping your post as a favorite Dina 🙂 You did a wonderful job in describing the experience. And I loved the videos of course! I hope to have other chances of sharing and learning from you face to face again.

    • Cecilia…
      what can I say…the experience wouldn’t have been complete if you were not part of it. You held my hand through both #ELTchats I mentioned (ok, AND after the half pints and the caipirinhas! lol).
      I love the way you commit yourself to what you do and I sure hope to see you soon again.

  4. Hi Dina, I ‘ve finally read this carefully and followed all he links and it’s such a beautiful record of our week! Thank you. I can’t believe that we managed to do so much. It was a lovely experience, a lot of fun and I think we all learned a lot from each other.

    • Hello Berni,
      I promised you a review and thanks to the invitation I got from Marisa it took the form of a blog post because a short review wouldn’t do justice to the complete experience. In fact, I had a hard time keeping to the highlights as there was so much more to it. Pictures and videos will be sent soon…

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