26 maio 2016 A new version of me
When I was a teenager, one of my favorite TV series was Felicity. This show was about a young girl discovering college and herself. Though I was not in college at the time, I could relate to the main character on many levels. Perhaps that is the recipe for good shows: drama, laughter, questionable hairstyle choices and someone on a quest to find themselves.
Growth is painful. Change is hard and there are days you wish it would just stop. Wouldn’t it be great to be sure? To feel like you finally solved the puzzle? As teachers, the pieces are always missing. Each student is a new person who brings us challenges.
Much is discussed and researched about student needs, we tend favor their motivation and neglect a simple element in this equation: ourselves. Low wages, poor working conditions, uninterested students. How can we keep ourselves motivated when there is little perspective of what lies ahead? When ahead sounds like another word for eventually getting expensive and being replaced by a cheaper model, it is time to re-think our career and goals.
A very special person taught me a lot about motivation recently. He started with an activity by Hadfield & Dörnyei (2013), a reflection on our goals as language teachers. We should them separate them in four sets:
- Easy to achieve;
- Possible, but more long-term goals;
- Very hard to achieve;
- Not really achievable.
Formally revisiting my goals gave the chance to see how far along the way I am or not. For instance, having native-like pronunciation is never going to happen. As much as I would like to sound like Prince Harry, I am proud of my Portuguese speaker undertone.
Hadfield & Dörnyei (2013) argue that creating a vision of an ideal future self will show the discrepancy between our present and ideal self and we will be motivated to reduce the gap between the two. However, for that to happen, the vision has to be substantial, elaborate and vivid.
When setting goals, a common mistake we all make is thinking of our achievements backwards. Our goal is often the result of how that achievement is going to benefit us.
One of the goals from my very-hard-to-achieve list is getting a PhD. However, a PhD is essentially a piece of paper that attests you studied a lot. I questioned myself: what am I really going after with a PhD?
Sounding like an RP speaker was a goal when I first started studying English. I consciously made efforts to learn about and change my pronunciation, trying to reproduce sounds and intonation patterns. Truth is, speaking that way did not make me feel anything, so I stopped focusing on that.
We all know people who are extremely successful, yet miserable and bitter. We have bought into other people’s version of success and this is one of the reasons why we are disconnected. What I would like to propose is that when we create our vision, our core-desired feelings (LaPorte, 2014) are also taken into account.
The conclusion I came to is that a PhD for me is about the feeling of being better able to serve my students by becoming an expert in a certain area and making a difference in the world. It is still a hard goal, but it resonates powerfully with me.
I would love to know what your professional goals are and how they relate to the way you want to feel as a person.
Hadfield, J., & Dörnyei, Z. (2013). Motivating learning. Longman.
LaPorte, D. (2014). The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. Sounds True.