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Stephen Gordon, head of English at Birkdale school in Sheffield, uses his loaf in Vermont

Course Bread Loaf School of English, summer graduate school.

Provider Middlebury College (www.middlebury.edublse).

Venue Halfway up a mountain in Vermont, United States. July-August 2001.

Cost $4,500 (pound;2,517) for seven weeks, covering tuition, food and accommodation. Bursaries available.

How did you find out about it?

From my old university tutor.

Why go?

For English teachers, this is the best training in the world. I'd saved the money working as an external examiner, so treated myself.

What did it promise?

Seven weeks of intensive tuition, led by world-renowned experts. The course can be done for its own sake or as part of an accredited postgraduate qualification.

Did it deliver?

Unquestionably. It reminded me that teaching English is an exciting and noble vocation.

Highs and lows

It was fantastic to be with other teachers, mostly American, absolutely committed to learning. But it was exhausting.

Message, mantra or motto

The mind is there to be challenged.

Best advice

If you're studying a play, always base your lessons around the text in performance.

Has it made a difference?

It re-fired my love of of learning - and that's the first step to better teaching.

Coming your way?

The Bread Loaf School of English is held annually in Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska and Mexico. Closer to home, there's one in Oxford. Full details on the website.

STEVEN HASTINGS

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