Featured school: Academia Blue Door
Teachers from Academia Blue Door in Córdoba, Spain, have impressed us with some great winning entries to the onestopenglish Lesson Share competition. We talk to Head Teacher, Paul Ashe, about his school, how his teachers use onestopenglish and how he believes the Lesson Share competition can play an important part in an institution's teacher development programme.
Established in 1999, Academia Blue Door, a privately-owned, well-established language school in the picturesque city of Córdoba (Andalucía, Spain), currently has over 500 students and a total of nine teachers. It is a member of the Association of Private Language Schools in Andalucía (ACEIA), which aims to provide quality assurances in the teaching of foreign languages in the south of Spain.
Blue Door teach general English at all ages from as young as five. The school also specializes in the Cambridge and Trinity exams. Small groups (with a maximum of six in each class) and well-trained, experienced teaching staff allow for a relaxed and productive atmosphere with the focus being on the learner at all times. Classes are normally held on the school premises but are occasionally given elsewhere, such as in-company. Courses are nine months long from October to June and summer courses also run from July to September.
Blue Door takes the welfare of both learners and teachers seriously. The school conducts 360º feedback and actively takes on board the feedback it gets from teachers and students each year. So much so that one of the reasons cited by all the Blue Door teachers for continuing with the school for a third year running is the great staff room atmosphere.
Blue Door strongly believes that teachers need to progress to be better able to help their learners to learn. To this end they have developed a comprehensive Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Programme which includes pre-course induction on both the school and life in Córdoba, ongoing in-house and external training, as well as subsidies for those teachers wishing to take external courses (e.g. DELTA). This has all been influenced by the real desire of teachers to improve and so our CPD Programme is based around the needs of the teachers themselves.
How teachers at Blue Door use onestopenglish
The teachers at Blue Door believe in the importance of professional development and, so, are constantly on the look-out for new ideas and materials. Apart from the ideas taken away from their weekly workshops, teachers have never failed to share the ideas they have found on onestopenglish. Out of all the TEFL sites on the web, the Macmillan website is by far the most talked about in the staff room. Below are some of the ways Blue Door teachers have used the plethora of resources found on onestopenglish:
Bronagh: “It has a wide variety of warmers which is always something I use a lot”.
Jeremy: “I have used the lesson plans focused on exam skills to help my First Certificate groups. The lessons have also given me ideas when planning my lessons”.
Blue Door and the Lesson Share competition
Given Blue Door’s achievements in the Lesson Share competition, we got in touch with their Head Teacher, Paul Ashe, who had this to say:
Onestopenglish: First and foremost, Paul, congratulations on winning the Lesson Share competition three months in a row. You must be very proud. Can you tell us, Paul, how Blue Door actually got involved in the Lesson Share competition?
Paul Ashe: Well, it probably goes back to when I first discovered onestopenglish surfing the net many years ago. I was glad to find a site which was easy to use with very practical materials and the lesson share competition was a great way to further my own professional development - and it also looked good on my CV! What’s more, when I was doing my TEFL Diploma back in 2003 the books I received as a prize for contributing my lesson plans, as well as the methodology section, helped me a great deal with the course. As head teacher at Blue Door I believe in helping our teachers to become the best teachers they can, so passing on my good experiences with onestopenglish seemed to be a logical step.
Onestopenglish: Could you tell us how you introduced the Lesson Share competition to the other teachers at Blue Door?
Paul Ashe: When I first arrived at the school I saw that there were a lot of talented teachers and I realized I could channel this talent to the benefit of all. In one of our weekly workshops I asked teachers in pairs to write up one lesson they had recently taught. The lesson plan they wrote had the same conditions as those of the Lesson Share competition, i.e. 20 minutes or more, introduce or practice a language point or skill and include simple teacher instructions. I then typed up the lesson plan and any extra materials that were required for the lesson and sent them to onestopenglish. Teachers agreed that if the lessons won, the prizes would be for the staff room library for all to benefit from.
Onestopenglish: What benefits have you noticed from using onestopenglish as part of your professional development programme?
Paul Ashe: Well, where shall I start? Winning any competition is a great experience, and when your teaching ideas win it is a great feeling of someone giving you a pat on the back – something you don’t always get from students! There has been a noticeable increase in motivation amongst teachers and a feeling of shared success which helps to strengthen the good feeling in the staff room. I think that a good atmosphere in the staff room is essential in creating a team of teachers who are willing to help each other do the best they can. What’s more, the books, which were chosen by the winners as prizes, are for the staff room library, which both teachers and consequently students can benefit from. Let’s not forget the fact that teachers all around the world who use onestopenglish have been able to benefit from these tried and tested lessons written by our experienced teachers. The experience has also helped me as Head Teacher and teacher trainer when I come to look at our professional development programme for the future. Everyone benefits all round!
Onestopenglish: Well, thank you very much Paul. Congratulations once again to you and all the teachers at Blue Door for the quality and diversity of lessons you have sent in. Keep up the good work!