Professionalism in ELT

There are many English language teaching professionals working under this umbrella term in specific areas such as English as a foreign language or English in the public sector. The diversity of smaller groups may be  a great opportunity for professionals aiming at increasing their repertoire of experiences as they have the chance to discuss the different contexts in online groups, courses or large events, such as the BRAZ-TESOL International Conference.

One of the common complaints among teachers in our field is the fact that we are not often respected as professionals, not even among English language teachers, depending on the context we work in, the background we have or the country we were born in. We may demand this recognition from other people, we may expect the society we live in to finally acknowledge that we make a difference. However, I believe that change in this matter starts from within. Here are some ideas that may help us all earn the deserved respect:

  1. Become the professional you dream of becoming. We chose to be educators, specialising in English language teaching. Keep studying to improve knowledge and skills to enrich our learners’ experience. It is a changing world, we need to be in constant move, take action towards being what we believe is most effective in our context. Do the best you can with what is given to you;
  2. Be proud of what you do. Showing pride for the profession may inspire others to join us and grow in the field. I have met inspiring teachers who work in very poor areas, earn very little money, and are extremely proud to be fighting for a better world. If we do not feel we are doing our best, we will not behave as if we deserve respect;
  3. Join forces with other professionals. We may be working in very different areas of the same professional field, but we are all English language teaching professionals. It is high time we came together for a common good, collaborating, sharing and contributing to everyone’s success. In that sense, we may work towards an official regulatory body that may eventually help learners, parents, schools distinguish between hard-working serious professionals and those people who believe that everyone who speaks the language can teach;
  4. Keep positive and cooperative attitudes towards the professional field and colleagues. If we complain too much about what we do, perhaps we should choose a different career path, being honest with ourselves. Also, speaking ill of colleagues who work in different fields without the knowledge about their context conditions and efforts may contribute to undermine our profession. When you do have something to say, consider talking to people who can do something about it, or finding out more about the situation you are talking about. This is extremely difficult to do, as we are often quick to judge and comment. However, if we don’t look at the way we talk about our profession and colleagues we may be doing a lot of damage without realising it;
  5.  Offer and look for help. It is great responsibility to be strong and part of a group looking for manners to professionalise the field of English language teaching. The change is possible if it starts with us, individually first, but definitely as a group. It is more purposeful, powerful and, if we help each other in all different areas, we may reach more effective results in organising and professionalising the field.

What do you think may help us develop professionalism in ELT?

Marcela Cintra

Marcela Cintra is an Academic Coordinator at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has been working with English language teaching for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in ABCI, LABCI, Braz-TESOL, TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A CELTA, ICELT and Delta tutor, she has an MA in TESOL.

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