When life gives you lemons…

An unsuccessful lesson observation. A promotion you didn’t get. An opportunity you were not offered. I believe everyone I know has been through a tough professional moment at some point in their career. And I also believe I don’t know anyone who rejoices facing problems and always sees them as fantastic opportunities to grow and develop when they are going through those issues. Having said that, the attitude one takes regarding such situations is what will shape the professional they will become. Let’s discuss some of these situations, reflect upon how you would face them (or how you have if they have already happened to you) and how they would contribute to your development.

Let’s start with one of the greatest pet peeves for teachers – lesson observations. Feeling comfortable with being observed takes time (at least it did for me). It can be quite hard to act 100% ‘normal’ with an ‘alien’ in your classroom, be it an observer you were already expecting, or one that you were not. In these situations and due to nervousness, some teachers’ behaviors may range from speaking way faster, accidentally changing the order of steps in the lesson and getting students confused, or even using L1 unnecessarily. The result of the observation may not be what you were expecting, leading you to feel quite disappointed – how now? It is important to bear in mind that a lesson observation should not be simply seen as one of these two extremes – either a way to be punished, or a way to receive validity for your teaching. Instead, try looking at a lesson observation as an opportunity to learn more about how you can develop and improve the quality of your teaching. Was the result below the expectations? Make sure you schedule a feedback session with the observer to try and understand what you can do to improve; ask to observe a peer teaching a similar class; refer to the literature to learn more about the issues raised in the observation; in other words, be in charge of your own development.

Opportunities for development are present everywhere; however, at times they seem to be fewer and only given to some people when they do not reach our hands.

I’ve heard colleagues saying before (explicitly or between the lines) that they would only feel fully successful when they were promoted to a higher position at the company. The questions that then crossed my mind were, “What next? What would keep them happy after they had been promoted?” It can be rather naïve of someone to outsource their happiness in this way. I believe it is quite risky to wait for professional fulfillment to be achieved like this, as the responsibility for such achievement is basically on us (and not on others).
Of course there will be situations that are unfair and that will make us stop and think if we have chosen the right career, the right place to work, and if we truly need to undergo certain impositions. Nobody said it was easy; but since you might spend a significant part of your life with work-related matters, it just cannot be such a burden that you spend your days constantly nagging about it, feeling miserable and not managing to enjoy the bright side of it.

On a final note, the next time life gives you lemons, grab your best recipe book and go for the most mouthwatering option in it – I’d certainly go for a dessert!

Catarina Pontes

Catarina Pontes is a senior consultant for Troika. She is an ICELT main course tutor, and Cambridge Assessment English Team Leader . A DELTA holder, and currently doing her MA with NILE, she is also a conference speaker and has published articles on ELT and EFL. She is the co-author of "Getting into Teacher Education - a Handbook", and is currently the coordinator of IATEFL's Pron SIG.

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