Learning, Sharing and Tweetups = My Week in Fleetham Lodge

Fleetham Lodge - My home for a week in January


It all started in the end of a session during the 3rd VRT (Virtual Round Table) last October. Berni Wall (@rliberni) said she would do another ELT PD Week for overseas teachers in January, and invited applications. I had my attention grabbed right there and went to her website to check the details. A week in Yorkshire, with other ELT teachers discuss teaching? I can’t think of many better ways to spend part of my vacation. A few email exchanges later I was buying my tickets.


The idea was to tackle the most important topics related to English teaching during the days and discuss/watch films of the Brontës novels in the evening. Most of us arrived on January 2nd: me and Wellington Oliveira (wellingtonros) from Brazil, Dina Dobrou (@dobroudina) and Maria Zygourakis (@mariazygourakis) from Greece. I had been interacting with Berni through twitter for a while, she is a moderator at the wonderful #ELTChat and is also the head (and creator) of Gapfillers – a great website for English learners. She came pick us up at the Northallerton train station. I recognized her as soon as she pulled up – another great help from twitter and PLNs. that day we got to know each other a bit better, then a wonderful dinner and we watched the first Brontë film: “The Tenant of Winfell Hall”.


Berni lives (and teaches) at Fleetham Lodge, an incredibly beautiful place, with fireplaces everywhere (Thankfully – it’s was a very cold week!). I slept alone for the first day, for my roomate, the fantastic Shelly Terrell (@shellterrell) had some problems making it from the US to Yorkshire. On Monday we went to Haworth, the city where the Brontë sisters lived at and their father was perpetual curate of the church. What a wonderful day! A charming, old town, cobblestones, buildings and business that have been there since the Brontë sisters lived there… We visited their museum with their possessions, clothes, manuscripts…), the church, the cemetery, strolled around the streets, tried reaching the ruins they say inspired “Wuthering Heights” – it was too cold to walk all the way there. It was a perfect day. We even had lunch at the pub where Bramwell (the Brontë sisters’ brother) used to go to! Personally I was fascinated. I always am when I see things that bring closer, bring to reality things I’ve read about in books. I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to visit Haworth. After dinner we started watching “Wuthering Heights”. Shelly arrived late that first night. And she is everything she seems to be on twitter: sweet, smart and an insomniac like me (which translates into looong talks into early hours of the morning).


Maria, Wellington, Berni, Immy, Me and Dina walking on the moors.

On the first day of PD we discussed Listening, Vocabulary and Technology. We talked about our views on teaching the first two and using the third to promote learning, but mostly – and more importantly – we shared. We shared our opinions, shared approaches and activities that worked with us, shared doubts and insecurities… When we discussed technology it was a real treat having Shelly with us, who not only is a fantastic teacher but also is a pro at how to integrate technology into the classroom and use it for enhancing students’ learning experience. At night we watched the second part of “Wuthering Heights” after dinner that I had cooked (some Brazilian flavors: caipirinhas for cocktail, fish in coconut sauce and cashew nuts rice).


On Wednesday Shelly had to leave us. In the PD front we discussed grammar (shared views on form X function and lots and lots of activities). we took a break to participate in the #ELTChat. At night, since it was the 12th night, we had a special dinner of goose and did our version of the “mummers play” – which Berni’s husband (and fabulous cook) filmed and photographed. We had such fun!


The Mummers Play on the 12th night



On our third day we tackled blogging, error correction and speaking.  Our serious professional development session was interrupted by a heavy snowfall which made the 4 of us – not really used to snow in our home countries – go outside to enjoy the snow on the ground a bit.


On Friday we discussed reading and in the aftgernoon Berni took us to Northallerton to walk around the town and do some shopping. On Saturday we had a day off, so the four of us took of and spent the day in York. We visited the York Minster, walked around the beautiful streets, had fish&chips for lunch… another perfect, fun day. Then on Sunday it was time to say goodbye – how quickly a week goes by when you’re enjoying yourself and the people you’re with!


Tweet-up! Shelly, me and Berni


My final assessment of that PD week? Well, before I went a friend, who also works with ELT asked me what she (Berni) got out of it. After all she is opening her home, her family life to a group of “strangers’, housing and feeding them with no financial payback. So what does she get from it? I didn’t ask her that, but I can wonder. I think she – as a passionate, committed teacher – loves sharing, exchanging ideas, learning how things are done elsewhere. Kirkby Fleetham is somewhat isolated as far as ELT goes. Of course Berni goes to conferences, she reads, moderates ELTChat… But mostly she works on her own. So I think in a way, the PD Week opportunity she offers is a way for her to have a bit of a teacher’s staff room for a week, as well as connecting with teachers from different cultures and realities. She is a wonderful teacher and has lots to share, and I consider myself very lucky to having had the chance to experience that. It only served to prove even further what I feel about sharing and how much sharing is an essential part of a teacher’s life (you can read more about my views on sharing in this post I wrote about it). Besides, Berni and her family have a heart of gold. I learned a lot that week. Things that I’ll use in the classroom, with my students and in my life in genral. And I thank Berni for the opportunity. :-)

23 comments on “Learning, Sharing and Tweetups = My Week in Fleetham Lodge

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell and Greta Shelly, Adam Simpson. Adam Simpson said: @ceciliacoelho Learning, Sharing and Tweetups = My Week in Fleetham Lodge: Fleetham Lodge – My home for a w… http://bit.ly/gaFVxb #ELT […]

  2. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Cecilia,
    It sounds like you had an amazing time! Opportunities like this are one of the reasons I love Twitter and my PLN – I bet you never imagined doing anything like this before you joined. Thanks for sharing your experience with us,

    • Hi Sandy,

      It sure was an amazing time, and you’re right when you say I never imagined doing anything like that. Now thanks to Twitter I have, and maybe will have another great PD week in toronto in July – it all depends on finding the tickets to get there and back! It never ceases to amaze me the amount of passionate teachers we have in the PLN, people who are genuinely committed to teaching, developing, becoming a better teacher every day – and sharing and helping others do the same.

      it was a pleasure sharing this experience Sandy, and I hope other teachers see it and go for it when Berni offers the opportunity again :-)


  3. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Ceci!

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for writing this…now you have whetted my appetite as well for a week at Berni’s!

    The projects and activities you all did sound so interesting, I can imagine all the wonderful ideas and opinions being heard in the house all week! And the places you visited…wow! A super experience. And great photos too – so wonderful to see all of you!

    Thank you very much for this post, Ceci. I will not get tired of saying that it is so great now with blogging and Twitter, that we all get to know about things that happen in ELT and get a taste of them!


    • Hi Vicky!

      I thought this post would whet your appetite for our upcoming PD week in Toronto with Tyson and Mike. I have my fingers crossed we can make it happen! It’s wonderful that Twitter not only connects us to like-minded teachers from all over the world but also makes it possible for us to meet and share with this people face to face too. That is absolutely priceless.

  4. Thank you so much for giving us a taste of what you experienced! You describe it so well I was excited jsut to read it!

    It’s nice to know that everyone is as wonderful as they appear to be on twitter!

    • My pleasure Naomi :-) I don’t think I did it justice though. But it would be a looooong post if I did it thoroughly, and I think people would be asleep about halfway ;-) And I can guarantee you that so far all the people from my PLN I’ve met (@harmerj, @shellterrell, @willycard, @rliberni, @kenwilsonlondon, @harrisonmike, @lukemeddings and @pysproblem81) were exactly the wonderful people they appeared to be on twitter. And I don’t think that was luck ;-)

  5. seburnt says:

    Ok, that’s it. I don’t care what you all have to do to get here in mid/end July, I’ll see you then! It’s great to read how your week went there so I can better understand expectations (at least yours!), but also get my mind in motion for how to divide the PD up differently.

    One obvious difference is that I’m far from isolated in the ELT world here. You’ll definitely notice that, I’m sure. =)

    • That’s the spirit!!! I can assure you I am doing my best to get those tickets…maybe it’s time to start threatening travel agents ;-) I think the essence is here, but I’m sure you’ll have great ideas and we’ll have a fantastic week Tyson. And as far as I know, you are the opposite of isolated – you’re very much in the middle of ELT things in Toronto! Can’t wait!!!!

  6. mark andrews says:

    great to read this Ceci, so good to have get-togethers like that! It also brought back fond memories of my time in Yorkshire. I went to Haworth many times when I was at university in Bradford and often went to Top Withins to see the ruined old farmhouse buildings up on the moors which inspired Emily so much.

    Nothing like a good bit of literary tourism to fire the imagination especially in the company of such nice peope.

    • Hi Mark,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. Yes, these get togethers with all the sharing are great moments to stop, reflect and learn. And add to that the tourism: wow! I am a very visual person and an avid reader, so it was an incredible experience to walk around Haworth and just feel the place, try to picture them there, walk on the moors and think of the stories… It makes them and their stories even more real. I get very emotional in these situations… I bawled like a baby the first time I visited the Museé Rodin in Paris (I have a background in art history). So, I totally agree with you – nothing like literary/art tourism in great company :-)

  7. rliberni says:

    Hi Cecilia, such a lovely piece! Thank you for all the kind comments. My reasons for hosting this – to get people together to discuss, explore ideas, share their ELT lives for a week and, of course, have a little fun. I believe that teachers are the key to good education and the more chances they have to collaborate and share the better – it enhances all our work and, I hope, our lives.

    • Hi Berni,

      I’m thrilled that you liked it. I found it really hard to put into words the real feel of that week, all we learned, the cross-cultural exchanges… I still think I didn’t do it justice :-) And all the comment are not kind, but truthful. You have to be praised for creating such opportunities – and incentive for others to do the same. Your PD Week triggered Tyson’s plans on the PD week in Toronto (that I hope we can make happen) in July and as you can see in the comments, another teacher in Brasilia too.

      Collaboration, sharing practices and expertise – yes, the more the better. And I agree with you, it makes not only my work and lessons better, but my life as well. Not to mention my group of friends, bigger and more diverse each day. :-) Those are priceless! So, thank you. And remember you, David and the girls will always be welcome in Brazil too. Maybe it’s time to plan a tropical vacation? ;-)

  8. Luciana says:

    Hi Cecilia,
    I’m a teacher in Brazil, Brasilia and was amazed by your experience. Thanks for sharing. I was thinking of the possibility of doing the same, but here in Brazil, and bringing teachers to spend a week here, to discuss and share experiences I’m sure we could provide a very enthusiastic and friendly meeting. What do you think?

    • Hi Luciana,

      What a great thing that more and more people are inspired by Berni’s idea and the experience and think about doing the same. I think it’s a great idea, and I am sure it would be friendly, enthusiastic and a great opportunity for professional development. Let me know if you think I can help you in any way to bring this to reality. Are you on twitter? Do you know Henrick Oprea – who’s also from Brasilia? I’m sure Rick would like the idea as well.

  9. Luciana says:

    Yes, I know him from twitter, where I am @luthcal and already follow you. Let’s think of the idea, here at Centro Interescolar de Línguas de Sobradinho, a public school we would have many teachers who would be glad to house other teachers from Brazil and overseas. Well, as you have had the experience you have a better idea of what it would be like. Let’s keep in contact and plan it.

    • Wow… I can certainly help Luciana – not sure I can take a very active role though, at least not right now, because I have a lot of different things going on right now. And this would take some serious planning/work. But I’ll help in any way I can. :-) Valéria also enjoyed the idea…who knows? Maybe we can pull it off ;-)

  10. Hi Cecilia,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I think Berni’s idea is simply wonderful and this possibility of sharing is really what our profession is about. I do like Luciana´s idea, problem is finding a place big enough – I at least live in a flat with no extra rooms…but wouldn´t this be a good idea, going back to Dave´s post on free conferences etc – this is an alternative way to learn and share…Like this a lot!

    • Sharing was my pleasure Valeria, and I am 100% with you on how sharing is an essential element in our profession. One of the things that make twitter and the PLN so amazing for PD. And as I said to Luciana, the idea is great, but pulling it off will take a lot of work and volunteers… Hard to manage when we all lead such busy, hectic lives. Maybe sometime…. I like it a lot too. Tyson (seburnt) is trying to do one in Toronto in July. We’re working on finding tickets now :-) Hopefully there’ll be another PD Week report in another 6 months!
      Thanks for the feedback :-) Beijo!

  11. Marisa Pavan says:

    Hi Ceci!

    It sounds like an incredible experience! It must have been a great opportunity to share that week with colleagues in an isolated place.
    Hugs from Argentina!

    • It sure was Marisa :-) It’s incredible to see how we can spend hours and hours talking about teaching and learning without noticing the time go by. it was an unforgettable experience. Maybe we’ll get to do that sometime!

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