The reason I decided to apply for a Comenius grant to be able to go to Pilgrims and attend a professional development course, back in 2011, was the same reason most teachers go to Pilgrims for: new ideas, to be refreshed and to experience the unique Pilgrims difference, which focuses on our continuous personal and professional development.
Its international environment, ensures you practice and refresh your own English at all times, and also make new friendships, that last a lifetime!
Six years later, in 2017, I came back to Pilgrims, on a scholarship! The “Bonnie Tsai scholarship” which I am very proud of ! Bonnie, was the Pilgrims Teacher Trainer who changed my teaching, for ever!
Actually, words cannot express how grateful I am to have been chosen as the scholarship recipient. My professional development has always been of upmost importance to me, and to be rewarded in this way is very humbling. That scholarship was an absolute answer to my prayers, as life does not always go as we plan. I will forever be thankful for this gift, and I cannot thank Pilgrims enough for that.
To learn more about the Bonnie Tsai scholarship, please, visit here.
Back to 2011….What colleagues who had been there before, had assured me of before I arrived there for the first time was that, the Pilgrims Humanistic approach was the key element, which made all the difference.
The Pilgrims Humanistic Approach, in brief:
- Effective teaching & learning engages the whole person – mind, body and heart
- The learner is the central person in the act of learning
- Creativity, involvement and enjoyment are the essential elements for lifelong learning
“Pilgrims, does not teach a method, but teaches people”.
“Wow”! I thought, back then….
After a really long journey from my hometown in central Greece, to Canterbury, which lasted about 15 hours (!!) and suffering from sciatica and terrible pain, I arrived on Kent University campus ,where a lovely young student had been waiting for me, to help me carry my suitcase to my bedroom and help me “with anything else I might need”!
“Thank you Lizzie” I thought….I had no idea that she would have remembered my request to have an assistant waiting for me upon my arrival, to help me with my heavy suitcase ,upstairs!
Lizzie Wojtkowska-Wright is the Business Manager for Pilgrims Teacher Training who ensures all the details of our course with them are managed effortlessly. Lizzie and her team are there to answer all our questions before and during our course, so we can focus on enjoying every minute of it!
I stayed in a basic student bedroom in the college with a private shower and toilet. Including bed and breakfast.Awesome! My bedroom window had a beautiful view over the little forest surrounding the campus and a couple of little squirrels and bunnies, were the first creatures I could see, every single morning , when I woke up and drew the curtains…
I had some rest and later, I went for a walk around the campus….
Such a beautiful place! Ideal for studying! A paradise!
Residential, teaching and administrative buildings are surrounded by green open spaces, fields and woods. I was within walking distance of all the excellent facilities the university had on offer including a Theatre and Cinema, a Library, a Campus Shop and bookshop, a pharmacy, an off-licence, banks and cashpoints, bistros, bars, cafés, bus stops and launderette.
One of the best ways to explore was on foot, allowing me to truly admire the historical architecture and exciting atmosphere of Canterbury. I often explored Canterbury and discovered for myself the beauty of its best known attractions and best kept secrets, history and culture .
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, shopping, country walks, the seaside, or eating out – Canterbury and its surroundings has it all! For example, a short bus drive away lies the quintessential seaside town of Whitstable, featuring beautiful beaches, cafes, art galleries…I will never forget the day I first visited it, with my friends Marta and Jose from Spain and Emma from Holland! We had a blast! I was lucky to visit it again this year, together with my good friend Tulay from Turkey ! Jim and Lizzie, were our hosts and both made us feel very welcome, in their picturesque hometown!
To me, Pilgrims Teacher Training courses empower you to be a highly effective, motivated and inspired teacher. Pilgrims, is its people…
Jim Wright, is the heart and soul of Pilgrims!
Jim is an amazing person, who has been my facebook friend all these years and whom I truly admire and respect.He is a positive thinker, with a great sense of humour!
He is the Principal of Pilgrims Teacher Training in Canterbury and is responsible for the overall management, vision and continued growth of Pilgrims. He is really passionate about creating an environment where inspiration, transformation and feeling good about ourselves are possibilities for all staff and participants.
I saw Jim again, this year and realised that he is such an inspiration himself!
He is a man who understands that greater happiness lies in helping others, not helping himself. Jim is a gentleman: polite, respectful, considerate and attentive to all the trainees’ needs, at Pilgrims! Having integrity, is another very important characteristic of him!
His most important characteristic though, is his positive attitude, which may be difficult to find today,since we live in such a negative society. With his positive attitude, people want to be around him and share the fun. He seems happy with his life and the world around him and he wants to look out for others and to help them.
He is one of the Pilgrims smiling faces and always brightening up people’s days.
But, the best part about the Pilgrims experience for me, was the training courses I attended !
By having read their brochure, before I applied, I knew that I would get
- 22.5 hours per week Training Course
- Up to 10 additional hours of Afternoon and Evening Activities
- Work in multinational groups
- Free Seminars, Workshops and Activities to choose from at 16:00 or 20:00 on 3 or 4 days per week.
These workshops usually include : Idioms Update• Fun with Poetry• Songs and Music• Yoga• Storytelling• Teaching Through Art• NLP• Relaxation Techniques• Using Metaphor •Multiple Intelligences• Shakespeare• Joke Telling• Lexical Approach• British Life & Culture• Folk Dancing• Drama Workshop• Grammar Around You• Tai’ Chi• Alphabet Games• Teaching Pronunciation• The Creative Use of Texts• Salsa Dancing• Celtic Evening
I had my best time in those afternoon classes, where I shared unforgettable fun moments with my international colleagues! Concerning this year,I will never forget the afternoon dancing classes fun!
My most favourite afternoon trainers, back in 2011,were Adrian Underhill who taught me pronunciation through his beautiful music and Peter Dyer , who utilised his drama experience with his teaching methodology.
Adrian, helped me fix the wrong way I used to pronounce ‘“G” sounds…..Adrian also, taught me how to incorporate his Pron Chart layout into my teaching, first just to help myself, and gradually reveal it to my learners as they became ready for it.
It was the best introduction to the phonemic chart I could ever have had.
He gave me a huge boost of confidence as I realised it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and using the chart as Adrian does was incredibly engaging.
One thing that stood out for me was that he advised us not to wait to use the chart in class until we were ready, but to dive in and go on a journey with the learners.
His chart is now an integral part of my lessons.
Peter’s classes were aimed at any teacher with a relatively good level of English and they were all about making us feel more relaxed about the way we communicate, to be more responsible about how we fit in with the world both professionally and privately. He used to tell us that, “As teachers, we are actors. Even the first entrance to a classroom is terribly, terribly important. We need to be aware of our appearance, gestures but voice as well.”
I admire Peter’s work and I have been his fan, all these years! So happy, I managed to attend his afternoon classes again, this year!
In 2011,I decided to attend Bonnie Tsai’s NLP course which has practically changed the way I have been teaching since then and has deeply influenced me as a person!
For me, Neuro Linguistic Programming was something very new and certainly challenging. I chose it because somewhere deep inside I wanted a change. There was something in my teaching or my approach to teaching that seemed to be missing or out of tune. I was looking for answers that were deep inside of me waiting to be uncovered.
NLP enabled me to explore deeply learning styles and teaching styles.
What I remember the most about that course though, is the joyful period of giving and receiving little sincere messages of thanks and gratitude, called metaphorically, “FISH.”
I am thankful to Bonnie! I will always be…
In her lifetime, Bonnie inspired many people, like myself, with her natural desire to learn and understand the magic of it. When I heard of her premature death, I prayed to thank her for inspiring me and opening me to change…
Bonnie transformed people’s lives. She became my mentor and inspiration !
With her help, I learned to see the teaching process through the student’s perspective and also saw that students have different ways of learning and we have to adapt our methods to the students, not the other way round. She showed me that teaching was not only a profession but an art, and the teacher is an artist that interacts with his/her students in a creative way.
The most vivid memory though was the day, she had us walk outside the classroom , in pairs, one behind the other, freely moving around, dancing or hopping, jumping or running, following our partner’s movement and trying to “walk in his/her shoes” in order to achieve rapport! Rapport is important. We need rapport to influence others, to teach and learn, to achieve difficult tasks in groups and even to mate….
That special day, Bonnie asked ME to be her walking partner! I still remember the feeling…She was walking in front of me, and I had to walk in the same way, avoiding obstacles on the way and forgetting about my own sciatica pain for a while!….Bonnie taught me rapport and humanity.
I still remember the day, Stefania Ballotto, an amazing Teacher Trainer, and Bonnie’s close friend, visited our class to teach us about Brain Gym!
Stefania’s lesson was so inspiring ! The very next day, Bonnie asked me to demonstrate few of those Brain Gym activities! Somehow,that turned out to be the most hilarious lesson, ever..! Bonnie, thanked me in the end, for…” all that fun”!
As for Stefania Ballotto … I ‘m looking for adjectives to describe this outstanding teacher trainer!
She is so inspiring, caring, dedicated and committed! She is a devoted teacher passionate about her work !
She’s just….Supercalifragilisticexpialidoci ous!! She inspired me, the very first time I saw her teach!
All in all, what I got from the Pilgrims Course was more confidence and now I really believe in myself.
And I also made and kept great friends : inspiring and inspired educators with most of whom we have already created strong partnerships! They have become members of my precious PLN and we are always there for each other to help and support.
Pilgrims is a family…..I was so very happy to see Hanna Kryszewska again after so many years, in Thessaloniki, where she was one of last year’s Tesol M.T.N.Greece Convention presenters!
Hanna is a Pilgrims trainer and editor of HLT Magazine, which has been my ELT Bible, all these years! She is such a friendly person and an inspiring educator!
She is also a teacher who believes in a humanistic approach to education ,like me…. Her Tesol MTNGreece Convention workshop, was actually about that approach!
Next time I manage to visit Pilgrims, I do hope to attend one of her classes !
When I told her that it was almost impossible for me to be able to visit Pilgrim’s again because of the financial crisis in my country and the difficulties in funding opportunities, she rushed to suggest several alternative ways to help me achieve my goal ….
Amazing educators have promoted the Pilgrims Humanistic approach idea ,all these years, among whom:
Hanna Kryszewska, Paul Davis, Adrian Tennant, Magda Zamorska, Mike Shreeve, Daniel Martin, Linda Yael, Peter Dyer, Tim Bowen, Stephania Balloto, Aleksandra Zaparucha, Judit Feher, Isil Boy, Beyza Yilmaz, Julie Wallis and lots more outstanding professionals.
This year, I had the chance to meet a few of these outstanding people ,again: the always smiling Magda Zamorska,Mike Shreeve ( who was one of my two amazing teacher trainers in the “Teaching Difficult Learners” course-the other one was Phil Dexter ),Linda Yael (whose mother comes from Greece..Isn’t that cool? ), Judit Feher(who was Bonnie’s close friend), Julie Wallis ( so very helpful and always there for us all),Marina Marinova (who visited our course class and shared her personal story ,which inspired all of us so much),Mojca Belak ( I noticed that she’s a great dancer, among other things),and Amadeu Marin ( so energetic and fun to be with- like most Spanish people that I know)…..
And of course, for me ,as well as for most teachers that I know,“Pilgrims” calls the incredible Mario Rinvolucri to mind! I first met him in Athens, in one of Tesol Greece Conventions, a few years ago ! Actually , the first time I decided to go to Pilgrims , was because I wanted to see him again!
Mario started teaching English in my country ,Greece in the mid-1960s when there was nothing around called ‘methodology’.
I had been a regular reader of many of his articles in different publications as well as his “Creative Writing” , before I meet him in person!
The book that deeply influenced my own teaching was “ Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Drama Activities for EFL Students,CUP” .
Actually, I have used most of his books in my career, among which : Humanising Your Coursebook , Dictation: New Methods, New Possibilities , The Confidence Book: Building Trust in the Language Classroom , Using the mother Tongue, Once upon a time and so many more!
Mario, worked for Pilgrims since 1974, a period of 34 years or nearly half a career.
In 1999 , he became the founding editor of Humanising Language Teaching (HLT), my ELT Bible!
Pilgrims, is everything a traditional teacher training center isn’t.
In every moment Pilgrims Teacher Trainers are people that live values that attract positive attention throughout the world.
“Pilgrims is a company we love to work with and for” as they say…
They are so vibrant that new ideas and innovations arise one after another through co-operation and creative energy.
They stand for the possibility of personal and professional transformation through their own continually transforming leadership, inspiration and coaching.
People in Pilgrims, believe in a humanistic approach to language acquisition and to personal growth.
They have an overwhelming passion to develop the confidence of all our learners and guide them with support and enthusiasm to achieve their goals.
Pilgrims is a worldwide community of passionate people. Join them! I have!
P.S To know more about Pilgrims and how to apply for a course, you can visit its site. Dare to live the Pilgrims experience!