Friday, August 30, 2013

The Annual Faculty Retreat at MGM Grand Hotel in Macau

A photo of all new and returning faculty at the ELC.
 Last week after helping all the new teachers arrive over the weekend, we had our first faculty meetings and annual retreat. Below is an article about Day 1 of the retreat that was held at the MGM Grade Hotel in Macau. We were lucky to have a delicious 3 course meal and plenty of coffee, tea, and snacks throughout the day. They even had the sweet, sugar and cinnamon dusted churros which I used to sell on the local beach amusement park when I was in high school.  After a little research, I interestingly discovered that churros have a Chinese history.

To sum up the faculty retreat see a reflective article that my co-worker and I wrote up for the campus wide e-news bulletin about some of the events from the day. The semester does not start until September 16th, but we have been very busy with professional development workshops, course meetings, research planning, and event planning. Teaching and preparing our lessons is definitely not the only thing on our schedules!

Dear Colleagues and students, 

The English Language Center (ELC) kicked off the 2013-2014 semester with its Annual Faculty Retreat at the MGM Grand hotel on August 20, 2013. As the new semester approaches the ELC faculty may all agree on one thing; the nerves never go away before a new semester begins and we often find ourselves feeling exactly like our students with butterflies in our stomachs or like a child on Christmas morning not knowing what to expect from Santa Clause. With 8 new Faculty members joining the ELC concurrent with the expansion of the University, the retreat was a great way to get new and old teachers bonding as a team and familiarizing everyone with new ELC and University wide policies and expectations. New teachers Marie Webb and Azita Kuok reflect on the day spent getting to know one another under the sea at the MGM. 

A Handshake Game was used to reduce the tension and to get the group into a collaborative mood. Teams had to generate creative handshakes which incorporated both movement and sound, at each round increasing the number of movements as teams got bigger throughout the activity.

One of the more serious activities during the retreat was a group discussion on the ELC policy. Each group was formed with new and old staff members to discuss 3 questions related to the ELC policy. The questions covered all aspects, such as professional development opportunities, rights and duties, personnel rights and obligations, and support and funding for doing research. 

“We’ll take Important Dates and Numbers for 400 please,” a team shouted out during the American quiz show game Jeopardy. The Jeopardy game was used to revisit the policy discussion later in the day and served as a good review activity. “September 16?”, Subject Convenor at the ELC Barbara Weissmann asked, and team number 1 eagerly replied, ”When is the first day of class?” A team Jeopardy game served as an activity for teachers to review questions about policy and important days of the academic year. Of course the most important day, the first day of classes was highly deserving of 400 points. Personally, as new fellows in the program we both felt that the Jeopardy game was a great way to get all of the faculty thinking about exciting activities to integrate into their class lessons. But, we won’t deny the fact that the chocolate bar rewards also helped with our extrinsic motivation.

In addition to exciting activities such as the Jeopardy game, all level head teachers and new teachers participated in a poster session in which we shared teaching ideas for our classrooms with one another. This activity reminds us that as educators collaboration is what helps us to stay open minded and up to date in our classrooms. Sharing our insights into successful lessons or activities is not simply just a retreat team building activity, but a lifelong process in which teachers are involved in a community of sharing knowledge. 

On the note of community building, teachers were expected to build a unique structure out of materials such as spaghetti and marshmallows in another activity. ELC courses are creative and innovative and this tower building activity demonstrated the characteristics of ELC staff members. Each group had to build a tower with 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of string, a yard of tape and one marshmallow. The group which could build the tallest tower in 15 minutes would be the winner. We were so engaged in this activity that no one wanted to stop when time was up. We learned the personalities and talents of each group member and it was challenging to collaborate in such a short period of time. As a result many of the marshmallow towers collapsed to their death after the timer rang. It was inspiring for us to reflect about ways to work with each other and having opportunities to show our strengths. The best part of this game was that Barbara, Joan, Kevin and Azita won this challenge! 

Overall we are excited about working in the ELC and truly feel that the Faculty Retreat day one set the tone for a wonderful and bright semester filled with new relationships and friendships. We are looking forward to getting to know the ELC teachers and staff more and would like to see if round two of the spaghetti marshmallow building competition improves in quality after we have known each other for more time. Let’s all take time to reflect on the things we learned and thank one another for a successful day.

Also, check out the ELC's webpage ( for more information and photos. Thank you very much for your participation in ELC activities and for your support of our University's English Language Centre. 

English Language Centre (ELC)
University of Macau (UM)

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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