PEST – Practice English Sessions for Teachers

Great teachers are not necessarily great at speaking English, but with practice we can improve!


These Practice English Sessions for Teachers (PEST) are hosted by SonS France Ambassador Michael Gregory, with the goal of helping teachers from all delegations gain confidence in English in the months leading up to the SonS Europe festival in Turku, Finland, August 12-15th 2024.


If you’re interested in the motivation and key points, read-on below, but if you’re already interested, you can skip straight to the interesting part and sign up to attend the meetings using this:

 Registration Form: 


Background and Motivation

In fall 2023, I travelled to festivals and events where I was on the jury to help select the national SonS delegations of five countries (Kazakhstan, Serbia, France, Bulgaria and Spain).  A recurring theme in all of them was that there are excellent teachers with great ideas to share who lack the confidence to express themselves comfortably in English.  This was often a factor when selecting members of a delegation, and countless times I heard the advice for delegates to practice their English before going to Turku.  However, we offered very few suggestions of how to practice English, and I began to realise the need for opportunities for teachers from different delegations to come together, meet each other and share ideas, all while practicing English.  


An idea was born: Practice English Sessions for Teachers!


The idea is simple, anyone who is interested is invited to join Zoom sessions to meet other teachers and talk about their SonS projects.


Throughout various European networks and projects, including SonS, I have come to notice that, despite being a minority of the population, native English speakers are over-represented.  Whether on the board, presenting webinars, leading workshops, or even just being able to engage visitors to a stand without the cognitive strain added by communicating in a second language, native and fluent English speakers have a clear advantage.  I feel a need to support non-native speakers to fully engage in our international collaboration, and to reduce the challenges of communication.


As an immigrant to France, and now starting doctoral studies in Spain and giving guest lectures, science shows and workshops in Latin America, I understand the difficulties communicating in new languages.  Even after teaching for a decade and a half in Paris, I am still self-conscious of how my written and spoken French is received, and as acting NSC for the French delegation, am in constant self-doubt of whether I sound French enough to lead my team in Turku.  Many delegates from most member states are facing similar challenges as we all prepare to gather in August.  I warmly invite you to these meetings so that we can all help each other prepare and gain confidence as we get ready to meet in a few months.


Key Points and Organization:

The main idea is to get together on Zoom to practice speaking English, to meet each other, and to share ideas.  Over the past months, I’ve discussed various versions of this idea with a number of you, which I’ve distilled into a handful of ideas:


To maximise time spent speaking and to minimize the intimidation of addressing a large group of people, I’m aiming for most of the meeting time to be spent in breakout rooms with approximately 3 to 6 people per room.


The most useful topic for most of us to talk about will be the projects which many of us will be presenting in Turku.  This will be the default theme for most meetings and breakout rooms.


There is also interest to discuss a wide range of other topics, including travel to Turku, how to set-up a stand for the SonS fair, ideas for follow-up projects and festivals, resource creation, other collaborations and general discussion.  These and any other ideas you suggest can be the topic for themed breakout rooms, which participants can move freely between throughout the meetings.


Some teachers are interested in meeting very regularly, while others are only interested in meeting once or twice before Turku.  Fortunately, the critical mass for success is extremely low (perhaps as little as two teachers), so I will try to hold these meetings once per week for anyone who is interested, which should also make it easier to find at least a few times that fit with your schedule.


Scheduling a time that suits everyone is impossible, so I won’t even try.  I’ll mainly just pick fairly random times which suit my own schedule, and assume that weekday evenings are generally a preferred time for most teachers.  (I’ll double-check this with a question in the sign-up form, and I’m happy to add other times if there is interest.)


Native English speakers are welcome and encouraged to attend.  Although I hope you don’t need practice in English, I hope these meetings will be an interesting way for delegates to share ideas, regardless.  Also, practice can help native speakers be aware of how to adapt their own speech to be more clear and accessible to speakers with various levels of English.


All educators are welcome, whether or not they are yet involved in SonS.  This can be a good opportunity to introduce new people to our network, so please invite colleagues to come along!  Maybe this can spark their interest to use some of the excellent SonS resources, and to attend your follow-up workshops or future festivals!


Registration Form:

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