English Language Fellow Allison Pickering recently helped facilitate an unprecedented English-training event in Estonia. For the first time ever, the Estonian vocational-school English teachers came together for two days of presentations and workshops designed specifically for them. With a focus on communicative teaching methods for the interactive vocational English classroom, presenters from the Estonian Ministry of Education, the U.S. Embassy, the British Council, and Innove tailored their presentations to the specific needs and interests of vocational-school teachers. Sessions on critical thinking, creativity, smartphone apps for classroom use, guided practice to communicative practice, and motivating students in the context of voc-ed were highlights.
The English teachers at the vocational schools face unique challenges. In addition to teaching dense, complicated material in industry sectors as diverse as cooking, car mechanics, and web developing, they have extremely diverse multi-level students—from no English to fluent. To have a conference dedicated to the vocational teachers of English, where the sessions were designed for their needs and the participants are colleagues with similar concerns, was inspiring for these teachers.