Cooperation among teachers of English -past and present
Let's talk about the years before APAC. There were also teachers' meetings and conventions then. What do you remember of those days?
The only reason for me to reopen a window to the past is that it gives me an opportunity to send a "hello", my love and thanks to the many colleagues I was privileged to cooperate with. In my memory everything starts in the mid-seventies, when a group of three batxillerat teachers -Ramon Pujol, Montse Dejuan and myself, started a small study group. We met regularly in a borrowed class at one of the ICEs (UAB-Sant Pau). We read, shared classroom experience and discussed it. In 1982, with the help of the ICE-UAB and of the EOI-Drassanes, whose enthusiastic director Miquel Llobera and teachers welcomed us to their premises ("hi", Neus, Mireia, José Miguel!), we started the first annual convention of Teachers of English in Catalonia. It was massively attended. Example and enthusiasm were contagious. Soon there were study groups in other ICEs and other levels of education, as well as annual meetings (Jornades) in other areas of Catalonia.
Was everything you tried succesful? No failures? What things would you do differently today?
Success was never a concept we entertained. Just cooperation. And, yes, some projects were stillborn. I personally was young and naïve and made errors. In the mid-eighties it seemed possible to organize a permanent training team with teachers from different groups. I let myself be convinced to do it through official channels. A mixture of institutional interference, individual ambitions, and poor skill from me frustrated the project. That was a big mistake and an impossible dream of mine. As I see it now, as voluntary trainers we should have kept our freedom outside the system. And this wasn't my only mistake. Support comes at a price. There are times when you cannot or do not want to pay it. APAC was a new start outside any existing channels.
Today APAC is a big cooperative venture. Was everything easy at the beginning?
A cooperative movement does not spring to life all of a sudden. It starts small and there's always a dreamer or a tiny group of enthusiasts behind it. So many lunch discussions ("hello" Ramon, Montse, Núria, Magí, ...) in the eighties before anything happened! APAC bulletin No. 0 was typed on my ancient Amstrad-8512 and manually stapled. Bulletin No 1 was almost manually put together by Pere Gallardo. How many weekends did José Antonio Martín and I spend cutting and pasting paragraphs! All of a sudden many dear faces come to mind. Pere, José Antonio, Cristina, Carmela, Pepita, Neus, Maria José, ... how many meeting hours on what seemed a Utopian venture! In the nineties, we reinforced APAC by merging it with our annual convention. For a while it had its venue at the University of Barcelona, then moved to the UPF. In APAC today are many synergies, people coming from different work places and sectors in education. My best wishes are with them.
What suggestions do you have for APAC in 2011?
It's not my role to do this. Beyond receiving the bulletin, now a very good-looking journal, I keep myself away from APAC's present deeds and concerns, and can express only general views. An association is a living system. Blooming seasons follow consolidation periods, maybe even rogue ones. Life flows through all of them provided two conditions are met: that cooperation among equals is strong, and that an association keeps meeting the needs of teachers when circumstances change.
How do you see its future? Do you see any obstacles in its path?
There are thriving associations all over the world. A few want total independence -I'm thinking of the Nordic Conference for Developing Autonomous Learning- which has been meeting for twenty-four years in Scandinavian countries (Barcelona 1997 was one of the few exceptions). Its small and all its members make contributions and collectively take responsibility for the economic side of things. On the other side, you have the huge multinational events (mostly in the UK, the States, and the Far East), where the convention is everything and where product presentations and the contribution of the big publishing houses is essential. Design control, quality, and finances are variables you have to play with, once you have a clear idea of what service you want to provide and how.
Ours is a small country with specific needs. Some associations of teachers of E. in Spain have ceased to exist because they did not have a model and were totally dependent on external sources for inspiration and funding. APAC is probably in good health. Again, I can only speak generally and my contribution is now to other fields. However, in all of them having your own model is essential.