Russian Teachers of English Unite Under the UMBRELLA
How it All Started: In January (18th - 22nd) 25 ELT teachers from 18 cities of Western Russia came to Samara for the conference focused on the founding and operation of professional associations of the teachers of English language. All the participants were the leaders of local ELT organizations and associations. There were representatives from Izhevsk, Kursk, Moscow, Nyzhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Penza, Petrozavodsk, Perm, Pskov, Rostov, Samara, Saransk,. Saratov, Syzran, Tolyatti, Ufa, Volgograd, Voronezh.
During the 5 days at their workshops together with the experts from the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation Samara Branch (Soros Foundation), Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the American Embassy in Moscow, British Council, National Association of Teachers of English and Peace Corps, USA, they discussed the ways of their further professional development, partnership, cooperation and interaction.
The participants decided to found a new regional Association of Teachers of English in Western Russia, which will be an umbrella organization for the local ELT associations. They developed and devised a Mission Statement and determined the core values and main objectives of the Umbrella Association. According to this Mission Statement, the main goal of the Umbrella Association of Teachers of English in Western Russia will be to coordinate the activities of local ELT associations for the beneficial representation of Russian Teachers of English in the country and abroad, and for the influence on the state policy in the area of teaching foreign languages in the Russian Federation.
The first regional UMBRELLA conference took place in Pskov in August, 2000.
Pskov 2000 - Umbrella #1
"Teachers of English, unite!"
These words of Svetlana Ter-Minasova, President of National Association of Teachers of English, were the guidelines of the Umbrella conference hosted by Pskov Regional Teachers In-Service Training Institute in August. The conference ELT: New Perspectives and Challenges was supported by BECA, British Council and CUP. Presenters included Johanna Kowitz, English Language Officer from BECA, Simon Winetroube, English Language Officer from the BC, Natalia Bochoroshvili, CUP representative in Russia, Maria Verbitskaya, Vice-President of NATE. The Samara delegation brought a specially designed module aimed at acquainting the Pskov ELT community with the format and the content of the First Certificate in English examination, with the textbooks suited for training students for this exam.
All presentations were lively, interesting and contributed a lot to teacher development. Another event of great importance was a number of working sessions where participants from Samara, Saratov, Kursk, Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh and other cities met to discuss regulations of local chapters, their legal status and structure. We made plans as to the 2000-2001 academic year events in the cities involved and started collecting information for the site of Umbrella organization which covers (the way any umbrella should) the European part of Russia within the framework of NATE. The idea is to exchange information in the sphere of new teaching materials, projects, seminars; to form inter-city teams specializing in a particular field of ELT methodology and linguistics so that these teams could come as guest speakers to Umbrella cities. The human mind is like an umbrella: it works only when it is open. To keep it open, it is essential to know what happens in all chapters of the community and to support each other with human resources and advice, by sharing experience and know-how.
At Umbrella-#1 Conference a new challenging project was launched. The National Association of the English Language Teachers (NATE) Russia, together with the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation and a number of other institutions agreed to convene a major international conference in Moscow on May 23-25, 2001. This conference, “Global English for Global Understanding” was aimed at revising and updating the goals and strategies of teaching English as a foreign language and its content in a new environment. World Englishes or new Englishes became a reality and could not and should not be ignored. This reality should be taken into account in a TEFL curriculum, textbooks and in teacher training programs.
(Umbrella Conference participants highly appreciated the cultural component of the Conference - a trip to Izborsk, Pechorskiy Monastery and Mikhailovskoye)
Marina Kulinich, Vice-President of Samara Chapter
Samara 2001 - Umbrella # 1'
In January Samara hosted Umbrella leaders from Moscow, Perm, Kursk, Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, Togliatti, Syzran, Izhevsk, Saratov. The meeting was supported by the Open Society Institute (Samara Chapter). Coordinator of the English Language Program Julia Markushina who initiated the idea was the heart and soul of the seminar.
The most spectacular ELT event of the year will be Global English conference in Moscow, and the Umbrella leaders discussed the ways of sharing what we do and what we believe via posters, presentations, panel discussion and the print.
The main topic of the three-day heated discussion was: how local associations could become more active players in the lives and education of language teachers, both from a policy and practical perspective? How to develop strategies that will help ensure the continued survival and relevance of the professional associations?
How might we change our ways of speaking to be heard more often and better through the media?
The debates were interspersed with "reports from the interested cities". Victoria Tuzlukova from Rostov, Irina Kolodkina from Izhevsk, Marina Sternina from Voronezh, Inna Makukhina from Kursk, Natalia Rossomagina from Perm, Irina Afanasieva from Syzran, Olga Ignatieva fromTogliatti shared the most interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring things the local associations had managed to do since the previous Umbrella meeting in Pskov: video club, the best essay competition, the English club, play staging and many others.
The information about Umbrella members can be found in the Newsletter.
Marina Kulinich, Vice President of TESOL-ELT Samara
Rostov-on-Don 2001 - Umbrella # 2
The Conference was aimed at further support of virtual network of English Language Teachers local organizations to increase the efficiency of professional information exchange and interaction within “Umbrella” and with other national and international ELT organizations and associations.
The goal was to focus on highlighting achievements of Russian regional higher education institutions and personally TEFL/American Studies alumni and Umbrella members in fostering Global English and new EFL methodologies.
The participants planned to also encourage TEFL and American Studies alumni to launch new projects based on use of Internet technologies, to broaden the existing networks of EFL/ESL specialists and to create new mechanisms for professional exchange.
Here is how participants of the Conferences commented on the results of Umbrella # 2 Conference:
"The virtual entity "Umbrella Association" has had a profound effect on hundreds of teachers. It is probably the single strongest factor in creating professional cohesiveness among Russian English Language professionals.
Historically teachers in Russia were a part of centralized, rigorously defined system of information flow. With perestroika and the subsequent changes the teachers were cut adrift. This led to increased feelings of isolation and concern. As the Umbrella organization operates within National Association of Teachers of English (NATE), individual local organizations of teachers are able to connect with each other and at the same time to be in line with the National Teachers’ Organization. This is important because a sense of direction and empowerment at the local level is vital in teachers’ professional self. The development of the Umbrella organizations is significant in that this is a concept that is a future investment as the world continues to shrink and to use virtual communication more. Organizations like this will play an ever-increasing role in professional development and in on-going education.
"Hello-on-Line" Journal was launched as a priority project from the Umbrella Virtual Association
(It was great for the participants to visit Taganrog and Novocherkassk)
Samara 2002 - Umbrella # 3
Well-organized and well-planned by Julia Markushina, Ludmila Kozhevnikova and Marina Kulinich Umbrella-3 meeting highlighted best projects of local EFL teachers, dealt with project planning and project management, Global English issues and ELT in Modern Russia. First two days of the meeting were devoted to project work. Great presentations by Elena Belyaeva (St.Petersburg Bridges) covered issues of project evaluation, impact and dissemination. They were enthusiastically followed by suggestions of regional opinion leaders on future projects which can be lead by Umbrella. The unique gathering in Samara helped local teachers to learn more about e-journal Hello-on-Line (presenter Maria Verbitskaya, MSU), American communicative behavior (presenter Marina Sternina, VSU), challenges of Global English for EFL Teachers (presenter Lyubov Sokirkina, SSU) and many other issues. With great interest all Umbrella-3 participants listened to the presentation of Svetlana Grigorievna Ter-Minasova, MSU who spoke about NATE and Umbrella and shared her ideas on the English language in modern Russia.
Umbrella-3 meeting was a great success as it helped us to learn more and to share, to meet with our peers and friends, to get lots of energy before new school year.
(A lot of energy came from a Volga boat tour as well as a city tour)
St. Petersburg 2003 - Umbrella # 4
At the very end of August the traditional late summer Umbrella meeting was held in Saint Petersburg. About 40 participants from 25 cities took part in this wonderful ELT gathering. This year the meeting was organized by SPELTA and was as usual sponsored by the English Language Office of Public Affairs Section of the American Embassy in Moscow.
During the four day conference the participants had an opportunity to share their success stories of the previous academic year, discuss the new projects on American Studies Textbook, Academic Writing, Testing and Evaluation, as well as two ESP projects: Legal English and Internet and Computer Based ELT in Russia, and, of course, enjoy the beautiful sights of Saint Petersburg and its suburbs.
On the last day, August, 25, Umbrella members following a good tradition to participate in local ELT conferences, took part in SPELTA conference, where they made several presentations.
Delegates worked in 3 groups. One of the groups designed a Questionnaire on American Studies for EFL Teachers which was later circulated all over Russia.
(The Conference participants were lucky to visit St. Petersburg during the year of gloriuos jubilee and to explore museums and Peterhoff)
Nizhniy Novgorod 2004 - Umbrella # 5 (Best Practicies in English Language Teaching and American Studies - Combined with Alumni Re-Union)
Fifty leading academic figures from the English teaching and American Studies communities across Russia -- from Arkhangel’sk to Vladivostok--gathered in Nizhniy Novgorod on August 23-25, 2004. The event included a three-day conference devoted to best practices and educational reform, with USG exchange program alumni giving 30 presentations on topics as diverse as summer camps, integrating American culture into EFL teaching, and testing and assessment. The host of the conference was the Linguistics University. ELO Bridget Gersten opened the conference. A display of 35 seminal publications devoted to English teaching, civic education, and American Studies were a highlight of the event, demonstrating the long-term impact of the International Visitors (IV) and other exchange programs represented at the conference (PIE, JFDP, TEA, Fulbright, IREX, and FLEX).
Delegates from 20 cities continued their work on a new American Studies series of textbooks
Yaroslavl 2006 -Umbrella-6 "Widening the Circle”
Over the course of three days 50 representatives from 30 EFL communities actively participated in panel discussions, debates with over 200 EFL teachers, sharing the results of projects, developing policy and plans for ELT community for the next academic year. Local TV covering the event highlighted the Conference twice in prime time. You can listen to presentations of Prof. Mariya Verbitskay, Prof. Elena Solovova and Round Table Discussion on English Language Summer Camps at http://www.vg.lingvograd.ru/
(The Conference organizers arranged a spectacular city tour with a visit to the Kremlin, a boat trip anf a visit to a Monastery)
Ryazan 2008 -Umbrella -7 "Building Networks for Change"
English language teachers treated to Debate
Umbrella Conference Marries Best Practices from Access, Associations and ELF Program in Russia
English Access Microscholarship coordinators, English Language Fellows, Fellow counterparts, and teacher association presidents participated in a three-day teacher training event that presented new methods as well as showcased best practices from all three programs. The first day of the event, held in the historic city of Ryazan, about 3 hours from Moscow, included over 100 local English language teachers, instructors and students from the host institution, Ryazan State University, as well as secondary school teachers from the area. Participants chose from among 25 different sessions, most of which focused on teaching American-Russian cross-cultural studies, assessment in the U.S. and Russia, and materials developed by the U.S. Embassy’s English Language Office. Plenaries were made by two of Russia’s top linguists, Elena Solovova and Svetlana Ter-Minasova, from Moscow State University, by the rector of the host institution, Irina Sheina, and by the U.S. Embassy’s English Language Officer, David Fay. Three Senior Fellows contrasted Russian and American English language teaching practices and cultural issues, including slang and terminology used in the U.S. Elections.
The second day of the event was highlighted by a mock U.S. presidential elections debate with speakers Ann Stone and Allan Lichtman. Each pretended to be top advisors to the two presidential candidates and responded to questions that touched upon U.S.-Russian relations, education and the death penalty. When asked about the troubling prospects with the economy and its effect on the rest of the world, a fire alarm rang in the conference hall with a recorded voice that announced, “Beware of a fire.” The teachers appreciated the timing of the announcement, hoping that the economic problems were equally a false alarm.
On the final day of the conference, the participants broke into thematic groups and drafted a list of action points, deadlines and partners responsible for each point. Goals include building websites for teachers’ associations, conducting training with new student-generated material in Access site cities, and supporting English Language Fellow programming in more rural areas. The core group of 50 trainers, association officers and Access coordinators arrived in Ryazan from the furthest reaches of the Russian Federation to take part in the annual Umbrella Conference and to ensure plans and projects for the upcoming year were run in close conjunction with those of the English Language Office. All participants also celebrated the Office’s 15 years by sharing power points showcasing a long and fruitful history of cooperation between the U.S. Embassy and the various programming partners.
(A special treat to the Conference participants was a city tour and trip to Konstantinovo as well as a stop in Kolomna Novo-Golutvin Manastery on the way back to Moscow)
Kaliningrad 2009 - Umbrella # 8 "Strategizing and Managing Change in ELT in Russia"
KATE welcomes Umbrella Conference!
In November 2009 Kaliningrad Association of Teachers of English (KATE) was pleased and honoured to welcome the Umbrella NATE Conference 2009 “Strategizing and Managing Change in ELT in Russia”. The urge for development of effective strategies and methods of ELT brought together in Kaliningrad the participants who were distinguished not only by the diversity of their professional interests and topics of their presentations but also by geographical diversity. Nevertheless, the general atmosphere of the conference was that of cooperation and mutual acknowledgment of each other’s ELT perspective development.
With respect for the great merit of all the participants and their immense contribution to the success of the conference it is important to single out and emphasize the presentation given by distinguished Russian and American methodologists - David Fay, John Mark King and Gail Weinstein as well as representatives of more than 10 regional ELT Associations. It goes without saying that the Umbrella NATE Conference had a lasting impact on the whole ELT community that is quite young in Kaliningrad.
In conclusion it is interesting to cite Prof. Maria Verbitskaya (NATE Vice-President) who, appealing to the conference participants, said: «Your mind is like an umbrella. It works only when it is opened». This powerful conceptual metaphor has crucial symbolic meaning for the whole teachers community that is ready to meet ambitious goals in ELT that were established during the Conference in Kaliningrad.
Stavropol 2010 "- Umbrella # 9 Cooperating on New Methods in Learning and Teaching English"
About 300 English language teachers from 94 cities, towns and villages enjoyed a 3-day immersion into the English language environment at Stavropol “Umbrella” Conference on November 5-7. Thanks to the ELO support forty-five grantees from all over Russia could come to Stavropol to share their unique experience with the teachers who live in a very unstable region and need help immensely. Two hundred fifty teachers represented 39 districts of the North Caucasus. The English Language Office has provided every participant with Forum magazines, DVD-ROMs and up-to-date information on available teaching materials and resources. According to the participants, the conference was a “turning point and an eye-opener” for them. Among the highlights of the conference were presentations made by grantees. Thirty Access teachers were extremely popular, conference participants asked them numerous questions during and after their stellar presentations. Access program success stories made a great impact on everyone. On the eve of the Conference ten opinion leaders had a brain storming session on language policy. The results of the discussions in a form of three new projects should improve the present situation with teaching English at Universities. Priorities will be given to the development of autonomous learning and use of new media in ELT.
Smolensk 2011 - Umbrella # 10 - "Getting an "A" with Autonomy"
Russia’s Xth annual Umbrella Conference, a by-invitation-only event, brought together ELT leaders from all around the country, most of them founders of the nation’s 58 English-language Teachers’ Associations, principal administrators and methodologists in premiere Russian universities and schools. This year the conference took place in the regional capital of Smolensk. The 320 conference participants spent 2 and ½ days brainstorming and strategizing to bring to fruition three DVD-ROM projects sponsored by U.S. State Department grants and organized by the Moscow Embassy ELO, all on subjects of key interest in Russian EFL today: Busting Myths in Testing and Assessing, Sharing Best Practices of the Access Microscholarship Programs, and ESP Best Practices and autonomous learning.
As is the tradition, the conference participants also took part in a local 1-day mini-conference for the Smolensk Teachers’ Association. The theme of the conference – “Getting an A in Autonomy” – was very popular, as was evidenced by the standing-room only crowd of nearly 300 teachers, including quite a few who spent hours travelling in from provincial villages for the rare opportunity to hear American educators and Russian experts share their views and ideas on ELT best practices.
"Orlyonok" 2012 Umbrella # 11 - "New Times, New Requirements: Improving Students' English Language Proficiency".
This year's Umbrella conference, traditionally supported by the English Language Ofiice of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, was hosted by the Russian Children's Center "Orlyonok" on the Black Sea coast.
This peaceful place with sandy beaches and sun-lit wooded hills has a long history of developing creative potential and leadership skills of several generations of children in Russia and abroad, and this time it was turned into a centre of excellence for over 60 ELT scholars and practitioners from all across Russia that came here to discuss the latest developments in their professional field at the annual conference entitled "New Times, New Requirements: Improving Students' English Language Proficiency".
With the overall focus on embracing new challenges and opportunities for the ELT community in Russia, the participants were particularly eager to discuss the recent changes to the National Curriculum in the part concerning the State Exam in English. The other major aspect that was brought to the spotlight was harnessing technology and social media for the benefit of learners and teachers of English.
A real highlight of the conference was the presentation of the ongoing Access program aimed at granting disadvantaged Russian kids opportunities to study English and explore the history and culture of the United States. Children in 21 Russian cities attend free regular language classes as part of the program, and are eligible to take part in the annual Access camp that is usually hosted by "Orlyonok". This year's Access camp brought together 90 kids from 9 cities for an exciting program combining English studies and fun. The conference participants were overwhelmed to see Access kids having the time of their lives performing, doing artwork and generally developing their English language and cross-cultural skills. This was the most inspiring and rewarding part of the conference for every teacher involved in these efforts.