By Daniel Murcia, Pereira, Colombia
Fifteen days have passed and I am still recalling places, food, and people that I met in the great journey to Iquitos, Perú this year. To my surprise, I was not the only one who was uncertain about our future in Perú. David Fay kicked off the presentation by asking, “So why are you here? You might be questioning…” All of the participants, many of whom I had not had the chance to interact with before the workshop, breathed a sigh of relief. We finally realised that the journey was the result of great planning and teamwork by several institutions that wanted to provide an extension to the E-Teacher online course on Critical Thinking that we took with the University of Oregon for 10 weeks.
Some teachers had to travel for almost a day to get there, and no matter how depleted of strength or energy they were, we were part of a group of curious teachers who were eager to learn, experience, and explore new trends in order to become more professional. Teachers felt unique; and this shared feeling from all the different members of the Andean community – Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Perú – was sparked as the workshop progressed, because in these particular sessions, we were encouraged to use teamwork as the essential tool for knowledge construction.
And, indeed, many lovely and funny things happened, such as the use of English as the standard language. Other than English being the language of instruction, we used it in order to clarify various topics. Although we all belonged to the same Andean community and therefore had the same native language (Spanish), there are regional differences that misled our conversations. I overheard many groups explaining the meaning of Spanish words and expressions in English so as to be understood. This brought a rich environment of sharing and cultural growth.
As for my case, I was interviewed by my curious peers at the university about my experience in Perú, and they have asked me to arrange a teacher study group on Critical Thinking and on how they can adapt it to their instructional design. I am very enthusiastic about spreading what I have learned and apply it to my teaching, from which I will surely share what new insight might spark.
It was a marvellous experience, meeting different kinds of teachers, presenting on issues that we have been reflecting on for several weeks, and growing as humans and educators. Our instructor Deanna Hochstein closed the ELT upgrade event in Iquitos with a plenary called “To infinity …and beyond” where she mentioned the necessity of teachers to explore new frontiers so as to improve their performance and enrich their practice. That is exactly what we did with RELO Andes and the university of Oregon, where we worked as a team to think critically and grow as professional educators of the English language.