Christine Brechmier from France, Dustin Williamson from Maine and Martin Anders from Germany observe Sabrina’s French class.
Martin Anders teaches French in a Waldorf School in Kaltenkirchen, near Hamburg. He has attended every Agen Workshop since 2013, so his feedback is very important to me. Here is what he wrote about this year’s edition. My comments are in italics.
I was very satisfied with the variety of morning classes you were able to offer this year. Perfect.
(There was a French class with Sabrina Sebban-Janczak, a A2 English class with Tamara Galvan, a B2 English class with Judith Dubois, a Spanish class for beginners with Margarita Perez Garcia and a Breton class with Daniel Dubois.)
The choice of the afternoon workshops was excellent, too. It would indeed help if the workshops were longer and offered more practical training (David called it learner based activities). We almost always ran out of time. (I haven’t figured out how to make the afternoons longer. I guess running out of time means that it was a good workshop.)
On a second thought I would not extend the lunch break, finishing at six o’clock is ideal. Ben’s war rooms could not possibly start any later than 8.00/8.30 in the evening.
Some personal after-thoughts I wrote down in my notebook on the plane:
Our schools are sick. As a teacher, I have to ask myself: What do I want? Teach the language or math or physics to the minds of my students? Or do I want to reach out to them as individuals, create a safe place, rely on their strengths and not on their deficits, and help to develop their individual personalities?
It is not only the students who have to learn to show up as human beings. In the first hand it is us, the teachers who have to do this and eventually learn this. We must learn to be more than a big brain on two tiny legs. We must learn to be really present in front of our students, learn to open up to them, to feel where the energy goes in the room.
But how can we show up as human beings when we are not even able to do this in our own private lives, in our relations to others who are important to us? We cannot reach the heart of our students when our own hearts are heavy with fear or anger or arrogance.
What makes Agen so special to me? Because there will always be old friends as well as new people I may communicate with from heart to heart. I will never be able to thank Judy and Teri enough for giving birth to this safe place.
At the heart of the conference are the language classes where experienced teachers demonstrate how to do a week of Comprehensible Input and invite the participants to stand up and get coached afterwards. Not easy to be the first and take over the teaching for some time. But nervosity disappears in front of a group of open-minded students eager to acquire and get to know another teacher daring to stand in front of them not only as a language expert, but also as a human being opening up to them and inviting them to do the same.
Without wanting to offend any other of the great people who found their way to Agen this year but whom I had not the opportunity to talk to, I would like to give my special thanks to Ben, Laurie, Angela, Petra, David, Kathrin, Sabrina, Robert and, last but not least, Imara, Meika’s wonderful daughter participating in the French class, for helping me to be a little bit more myself.
Thank you, Martin, for your kind words and thoughtful reflections.