English Language Fellow Robyn Bantel gave her first workshop as a Fellow at the annual Teachers’ Talk Shop in Minsk, Belarus. Her topic? “Emotional intelligence.” Drawing on a New York Times article by the psychologist Daniel Goleman, Robyn moved from a definition of the topic to an exploration of vocabulary and idioms, reading comprehension, discussion, and self-discovery. The response from the more than 80 ESL/EFL educators who attended this popular conference was very enthusiastic. “Subjects that make students think about themselves and why they do the things they do are stimulating,” said a visiting teacher from Baranovichi State University. “This is an unusual topic for us and them, and I think it will really get their attention and make them talk.”
Robyn can attest that that’s true. Just after she arrived in Belarus, Robyn taught her emotional-intelligence workshop for three different groups of students studying intercultural communication at Grodno State University, and all found the topic fascinating. Her university lessons were so successful that she decided to demonstrate her lesson plan and approach for the teachers attending the conference. It worked: after her talk, conference participants snapped up all the copies of the articles Robyn had relied on, and discussion continued well after the workshop ended.