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The British Council to the rescue

In 1962, I was assigned to teach in a teacher training college in Eastern Nigeria. I was responsible for teaching literature and language and for supervising teachers during practice teaching. I had taught literature in English and Spanish during my own practice teaching so I was not totally incompetent in these two areas.

But I was totally incompetent in supervising practice teachers both because I had never done this and because the teachers were teaching content that was new to me–Nigerian history and geography, pounds, shillings and pence, two name a few areas and because I had never taught primary school students.

Fortunately for me, the English Language Office for the British Council in Enugu, the capital of Eastern Nigeria was charged with visiting teacher training colleges to introduce methods of teaching language in primary schools as well as in teacher training colleges.

John Rogers, the BC rep not only introduced me to Michael West, F.G. French and Frederick Lionel Billows but demonstrated some of the activities these pioneers had written about.

I have tried to follow John’s practices throughout my professional life–seeing teacher preparation as a joint enterprise in which I jointly use the activities we read about together.

When Alan Maley asked me to write a chapter for a book he edited for the British Council in 2018, I was thrilled, more than thrilled really–over the top. The title of his book–Developing expertise through experience–was what I had been trying to do since the British Council Rep.,john Rogers ,introduced me to this idea in 1962. To be able to write about the development of my expertise through experience after 56 years was one of the most significant moments of my professional life.

Alan based the theme on NS Prabhu’s ideas.Unfortunately, I had missed out on reading Prabhu till Alan invited me to write a chapter. When I read him and then his introduction to Alan’s book and say him refer to Billows I was breathless! I met Lionel in Kampala when I was doing teacher preparation for the Peace Corps in Somalia. He kindly signed my copy of his book–a treasure. He was at the time the British Council Rep. in Uganda.

So around and around, from Enugu to Kampala to London with the British Council during 56 years.

Though Developing expertise through experience is mainly intended for those who prepare teachers, it is a great read for all teachers. Alan asked each of the 20 authors to answer the same 8 questions. In addition he invited us to write some additional reflections that readers could access via a URL that he provides at the end of each chapter. So teachers can read responses to the same 8 questions plus additional reflections about their personal development.

Many of the authors are non native speakers of English so the book is especially rich, showing that the profession has moved way beyond the ideas in 1962 when I started when native speakers were considered the norm. We have moved beyond the narrow idea that native speakers are more significant than non native speakers, due to many but to Alan Maley in a large part.

Do buy Developing expertise through experience. If you cannot find a place to buy it, the publisher is The British Council, let me know and I will try to get a copy to you.

ENJOY, ENJOY! A glorious experience to have been invited to write a chapter and to have read the other 19 chapters!!

John

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