My trip to Sofia was without a doubt one of the highlights of the year – a really enjoyable and memorable couple of days for a whole variety of reasons. It was my first ever trip to Bulgaria, where I was doing two sessions at the OUP Day National Conference in Sofia, together with Michael Swan and Gareth Davies.
There were about 350 teachers at the conference, which had been brilliantly organised by Milena Vladimirova and the rest of the OUP team in Sofia. Michael Swan was making his 19th (!) trip since August to promote his Oxford English Grammar Course. I’d been lucky enough to see his talk in Budapest and then again in Ljubljana, where it had gone down very well. It was no different here in Sofia.
I hadn’t seen Gareth since our first meeting in Lisbon two years ago, although we’ve stayed in touch regularly since then. It was great to work with him again. He did two excellent sessions – one on using Solutions to tackle the topic of culture, the other on using Headway to teach receptive skills. Both sessions were full of practical ideas for the classroom, which Gareth showed using the iTools, displaying an impressive technological dexterity on his part and a lot of coolness under pressure as he toggled between the slides and the program. His sessions were really well structured and gave me a lot of food for thought. I was impressed, for example, with the way he used his contacts on twitter to gain insights into what teachers think about the topic of culture. A great example of how twitter and PLNs can provide practical help not only for the teacher looking for classroom ideas, but for the trainer planning a session.
My own sessions were on using the Happy series to create a positive learning environment and on the Project approach. The teachers in Sofia were some of the most receptive and enthusiastic I have worked with, making the whole experience a pleasure for me. Heartfelt thanks to those teachers who got involved and helped make the sessions so much fun. There is a link at the end where you can download the slides of my sessions in PDF format.
The funniest thing I saw in the conference hall was this sign, which Gareth noticed and brought to my attention. I was a bit nervous before the conference, but it was a relief to know that the security measures meant that I was unlikely to be shot at! 🙂
There was just enough time for a short tour of Sofia on Sunday morning. Beautiful weather and a long weekend meant that the capital seemed very empty, making the rich architecture of this diverse and historic city especially striking.
On the way back, Gareth and I even had a glimpse of how the real jetsetters get set for their jets, getting into one of the executive airport lounges at Sofia airport courtesy of Michael Swan, who graciously invited us in on his member’s card. A real gent. A lovely way to cap off a fantastic couple of days.
Teaching and learning with a smile
A Project Approach – a view from the classroom