The English Teachers' Day, supported by NILE for a number of years, gave me the opportunity to revisit one of my favourite cities – and to add on a few days’ leave. My invitation came from the conference organiser, Silvia Jindra, who had been a participant on the Literature and Drama in Language Teaching course which I ran with David Farmer at NILE Norwich in August.
The Teachers’ Day featured an ambitious programme of 12 concurrent talks and workshops (including one by former NILE trainer, Sally Kowanda) and was very well supported, attracting several hundred teachers from all over Vienna.
My own workshop on UK culture and contemporary English (“New Landeskunde, New Language”) was over-subscribed and had to be repeated. With two large groups of very enthusiastic teachers, we looked at the clash of home language and standard language, language play in public spaces and representations of contemporary British life. Materials included poetry and prose, short films and examples of ‘linguistic landscapes’.
I also ran a second workshop (“Hidden Agendas and Unreliable Narrators”) on developing critical reading skills. After looking at some of the ways in which texts position and exert influence readers, the group enjoyed deconstructing the famous (or infamous?) ‘Big Society’ speech given by David Cameron at Liverpool Hope University in July 2010.
The academic proceedings were followed by a raffle with multiple prizes donated by publishers, theatres, cinemas and restaurants in Vienna. NILE donated one of the two ‘star prizes’, a place on one of our 2017 teacher development courses (face-to-face or online).
The day closed with a rousing performance of traditional Irish music by a group of Austrian musicians, which by the end had the entire audience on their feet, with some incredibly energetic dancing, led by Silvia.