On September 4, a new EF, English First Center for Adults was opened in my home city of Novosibirsk. My first impression was one of light, since it is situated in a new very modern building with panoramic views over the city and even glass walls and doors inside. The word transparency thus acquires a new meaning. We could see the students and teachers, and watch the sessions conducted in various rooms: one-to-one lessons, groups of six students and an instructor, and a bigger auditorium for larger classes and events. Every classroom has all the modern equipment needed; more than eighty per cent of teachers are native speakers of English from various countries. EF is probably the biggest private schools organization in the world, with more than 500 schools in about 55 countries.
Carl Cronstedt, the EF Schools in Russia Director, flew in from Moscow to take part in the proceedings. I was not the only one to be impressed by his language skills. He effortlessly switched from English into Russian and back, yet his own native language is Swedish. Naturally he was asked about his own studies, and Mr. Cronstedt explained that he had English as part of his school curriculum, while he studied Russian as an adult for one year only. Then it all comes to practice, motivation and diligence. He told us about blended learning, flexible schedules for adults, stressing that today communicative approach came to the fore in EL teaching. Adults come to EF and similar centers to continue their education, to overcome language barriers, and to begin using English as a valuable tool. In addition to the regular lessons, EF arranges extra-curricular activities where students can use their newly acquired communication skills in an informal setting. EF offers both real-time and online classes; the latter are organized on a 24/7 basis. There are regular individual feedback sessions; both the student and the instructor can discuss problems, ask each other questions, and think out the future plans.
One of the key speakers was Ekaterina Ilyuhina, a charming young lady, and an Olympiads snow-boarder. She told us about her own experience, a six-week pre-Olympiad intensive course of English which she and the other sportsmen took at the local EF school. I came up to her afterwards and asked her to speak English with me. Indeed, she spoke quite well, and she obviously had no language barrier. So the system is really working.
Naturally, if we EL teachers had those same conditions in our work, we could probably achieve the same spectacular results. But then, teaching children is different from teaching adults. Yet the questions we discussed at this pleasant event were quite familiar: motivation, curriculum, flexibility, communication. Well, discipline is definitely not a concern in this case, since all the adults who come to such a center are highly motivated.
Observing how your colleagues teach, exchanging opinions on different approaches to ELT are very important for all of us, regardless of the level and age of our students. If I wish to attend any event, lecture or conference, I re-arrange my own schedule if and as needed, collect all the necessary tools and just go. Later, I look at my notes and photos, digest the new information, and think out what I can do with it. Share whatever I consider new with my colleagues; write a short report for a newspaper; create a new post.