by Bosco Bonilla
The 3rd Nicaribbean TESOL Conference held in BICU at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua was a very educational and edifying experience. Teachers in Bilwi and its surroundings face significant challenges. One of those challenges involves having students from multi-ethnic groups as they can only speak their native dialect and are not able to communicate with other students using a lingua franca. These teachers have to resort to very creative means to deliver their lessons and occasionally, they require a dialect interpreter to develop the content of the class. All the while, they have to bear in mind the issues of human and children’s rights, which is a very sensitive topic in the area.
Also, there are very limited resources available for educators. Most schools in the area lack internet connectivity, computers or sound systems that enable teachers in other locations to develop their classes. The lack of these tools restricts instructors from carrying out activities that could contribute to developing their courses more effectively. However, teachers driven mainly by their passion and love for their profession, make use of all kinds of tricks to enhance their students’ learning. Some of these resources include using realia in the classroom, which sometimes entails carrying around and recycling several bottles or boxes of cleaning products. That goes to prove how passionate and committed they are in Atlantic Coast.
Among other examples, the following can be mentioned: Some teachers have to travel long distances to get to their workplaces, time that is not part of their working hours. Moreover, instructors are required to attend workshops and meetings organized by MINED, which deal with current debates around ethnic rights and political issues that affect education in the area. So, they have to work beyond their regular working hours too. Notwithstanding such inconveniences, they love their job and go the extra mile on a permanent basis, and there is always an aura of camaraderie and cheerfulness around them. People in Bilwi have a great sense of humor and are very transparent.
The teachers who attended the workshop not only participated actively by asking questions and exchanging their experiences but also took the time to talk about their local culture, food, and idiosyncrasy. The presenters who traveled from Managua to Puerto Cabezas also had the opportunity to share their teaching experience and knowledge in the hopes of making a meaningful contribution to EFL teaching in the zone. These teachers delivered creative and relevant presentations that surely had an impact on the audience. Their topics ranged from Language Codes focused on the differences between accents and pronunciation to making mini whiteboards with cardboard and tape to engage students in participation.
The delivery of the presentation Professional Development from within aimed at giving the audience a broader sense of what Professional Development is and how the needs and characteristics of our students play a vital role in its definition. An additional objective was to demonstrate that Professional Development should not always come from external parties, such as the institution or the government. Instead, it is an ongoing process that starts with instructors’ desire of learning and growing, and finding solutions to problems that they face on a daily basis in their classroom. Furthermore, different resources such as MOOCs and Epub’s were shared with the participants so that teachers could use them to enhance their professional development. Finally, the instructors were informed about the various activities carried out at Keiser Language Institute to boost teachers’ professional development. Just to mention but a few, they heard about Collaboratory sessions as a space for teachers to exchange and share successful practices, activities, innovative ideas, and resources.
In brief, the event turned out to be quite a learning experience for this presenter (author of the article). Both teachers and presenters were very kind and professional and altogether they contributed to making this presenter a more humane, open-minded and sensitive teacher. Thanks to ANPI (Nicaraguan English Teacher Association/Spanish Acronym) for the invitation and organization of the event, and Keiser University Language Institute for the opportunity as a presenter.