It was a life-changing experience. I know that this is exactly the kind of word choice you were expecting to find in a text to promote one of Troika’s courses. However, I write this text from the perspective of a course attendee back in January 2019 and not from the standpoint of a member of the Troika staff. My aim with this piece is to share with you, dear colleague, my experience with the course and muse over the reasons why I believe the Troika Teacher Trainers have the potential to be a watershed event in your life - as it was in mine.
Before talking about the course, the modules, and what I learned, I would like to share a bit of who I was in January of 2019. I’ve always been involved in professional development initiatives and I’ve said a couple of times that I could easily live in a conference and that the best part of our profession is our community. However, back in 2019, I felt as if I was stuck in a rut with very little perspective over what to do in my career. I couldn’t see the road ahead, you know what I mean? I enrolled in the course because I thought I wanted to be a trainer. In hindsight, I guess I enrolled because I wanted to find myself in the profession again. So that was it. I signed up for the course, booked a hotel room and flight, and came to São Paulo in search of the next step in my career. And my, did I find it.
In short, the course goes over the principles and foundations of teacher training. In full, it is an empowering, humbling, community-building, self-awareness-raising experience for everyone involved. We learned about the differences and similarities between teachers and trainers, we talked about the difference between training and development, about designing training sessions and the techniques involved, how to keep track of indicators of teacher development, how to observe lessons and give feedback, how to plan your professional development, and what the four pillars of professional development are. Allow me to expand on some of these in the following paragraphs and connect them to the colorful adjectives above.
It is clear how the course aims at developing the basis of an aware, trusting trainer. Understanding the pillars of professional development, designing training programs to address these pillars, keeping track of key performance indicators, observing lessons and giving feedback to teachers, and designing your development path is a clear, objective, logical process towards trainer development. However, there is so much more to these aims than meets the eye.
For example, when talking about the four pillars of professional development (knowledge, attitude, skills, and awareness), the tutors had us reflect on our strengths and weaknesses regarding these areas and share them with peers. This self-awareness-raising task had us exploring facets of our personal and professional identity in such a guided way that it helped me confront my imposter syndrome from an analytical, empowering perspective. When we talked about designing training programs, we were supposed to delve deeply into a case study and design a training initiative to help the teachers at this hypothetical, but highly realistic institution. It was a group task aimed at putting into practice what we had been learning about training techniques and methodologies but provided the whole group with the opportunity to hear each other’s plans and give and receive feedback. It was such a humbling experience to learn to truly receive feedback from a deeply supportive community.
In his courses, Harmer talks about suitcase language - the language you take home after a lesson. From Troika Teacher Trainers my suitcase back to my hometown came freighted with powerful doses of self-awareness, Hermione’s bottomless pouch of ideas and plans for the future, an eagle’s eye view of a myriad of possible paths ahead, and an electrifying jolt of energy and enthusiasm that, frankly, still energizes me. At the risk of being cliché, I know for sure that the person who finished the course back in 2019 was definitely different from the one who enrolled for it.
Aside from the hard goals of the course, which are absolutely coherent and fundamental to trainer training, I believe my main takeaway from the course was the realization that you do not need anyone’s green light to help others develop. We all have lots to learn - but we also have lots to teach. And finally, should you decide to take the course, it would be an honor to have you join the ranks of those helping professionalize English language teaching in a country so in desperate need of professional educators. I would be delighted to see you there.