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Emma Sue Prince



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Learning from India



“Blessings and may you be the best you can be”, so said one of the trainers at the end of a simple ice breaker at one of the Continuing Professional Development awareness-raising workshops I ran recently at the British Council in Chandigarh, India.

Within 5 minutes of meeting the group, they all enthusiastically took part in my “Copycat” warm-up where they led each other in a series of vocal, physical and energising improvised, on-the-spot exercises.

Working in India is inspiring, uplifting and joyful and I have enjoyed every single visit during the last 18 months. I know that British Council staff have a challenging role here in developing and running large-scale English language and employability programmes. In a way, I have had the “easy” bit as the external consultant facilitating, encouraging, advising, reporting and guiding on best practice for creating and implementing an India-specific CPD framework. My role here has come to an end and now the real work must begin of starting to implement the framework and tools into all projects in a streamlined, consistent and visible way.

Within this project, I have run workshops both with British Council staff (to develop the framework and the right tools, to facilitate planning and implementation and to promote a strong team) as well as with groups of teacher, Master Trainers and school principals and support staff. (to raise awareness and to get ideas of what sorts of CPD work in practice).

Working with Indian teachers and practitioners, the sentiment I have come across again and again is echoed in the words of the elegant, turbaned Master Trainer in Chandigarh “being the best you can be” and an immediate understanding that that is, ultimately what continuing professional development really is. Another immediate understanding is the concept of “self-awareness” – when I mention this to Western audiences, it is seen as ‘touchy-feely’ and there is generally a slight feeling of discomfort in the audience. Mention it in India, however, and everyone gets it.

For me, investing time and focus on yourself personally is at the heart of all professional development. In other words, finding purpose and meaning in your work and fulfilling your own potential. This creates motivation, excitement and a massive ripple effect on the way you teach or train, or actually whatever you do –  the impact you have in the environment around you and the way you feel about your work. Why?  Because, quite simply, you gain more confidence, enrich your own learning and achieve much more personal and professional satisfaction as a result. Self-awareness means having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. These are all things a teacher in India needs, if they are going to navigate their own professional development journey in a country where support may be erratic. But they are also all things we all need in a world where work has never been more competitive and performance-based.

One of the CPD tools that British Council staff will now start using in their projects is running simple self-awareness sessions – having discussions and conversations and understanding what motivates teachers. Looking for the purpose and meaning and exploring any limiting beliefs or barriers. I strongly believe that it is exactly these kinds of conversations that will start to open and unlock the doors to self-initiated professional development for anyone.

If you’re a trainer interested in your own professional development, you might want to check out our postgraduate qualification in delivering soft skills and experiential learning. Fully validated by the University of Roehampton, it equips you to work effectively and successfully in this pretty unregulated training environment.

Emma Sue Prince worked with the British Council India between March 2012 and October 2013 on the development and implementation of an India-specific CPD framework.

She is also author of The Advantage, a book which redefines soft skills as personal competences each of us can develop –

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Emma Sue Prince


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