Diversity in ELT networking.

After much reflection on my professional career, I must admit that everything I do I don’t do alone. I am who I am thanks to the collaboration of an endless number of people that have crossed paths with me and shared some of their wisdom, kindness, support, different takes on ELT and constructive criticism.
I am grateful for all of them having this immense impact in my professional life and I’m adamant that networking is key for professional and personal growth. Hugh Grant in the first minutes of the movie “About a boy” says something that caught my attention. His character said “all men are islands.” I personally like the parallel between both points of view and how we’re all simultaneously islands that are not quite isolated “no man is an island”. I respect his initial point of view but I would like to suggest that we are better together and this spirit of togetherness should embrace diversity, respect, and openness to dialogue. In this article, I’m going to try to promote togetherness in ELT in a more profound sense.
Diversity in networking helps me to improve myself as a person and as an ELT professional. I’d like to share these values with you and I urge you to feel free to disagree and/or disregard any of them. My purpose is simply to share.

1- Invite diversity into your circles

I must confess that I’m a biased person. I’m clouded by my own background, limitations, fears, insecurities and ego. Therefore, when designing my professional projects, I must realize my own level of partialities. Without checking those biases and dealing with them, my projects will tend to be far from their higher potential.

A way out of this conundrum is to allow different voices in my decision making. I do that by being open to two different criteria of people, the ones who are similar to me in terms of values, background and personality and the ones who don’t share my points of view. I have a trusted group of friends (trust is key)  with whom I can share my insecurities, doubts, happiness, victories and frustrations and I give them total freedom to disagree with me and provide me with a different take on the matter being shared. Having these honest moments with my amazing ELT friends is extremely reinvigorating.

The ones close to me say that I’m very rational, data driven and result oriented. In my circle, I have a dear friend who has more sensitivity towards life. Lightness and intuition are some of her main traits and she’s quite happy that way. Even though we may be different, that’s not a reason not to listen to her. On the contrary, because she’s able to shed light on my own limitations she has been an invaluable friend in moments of conflict. Our acceptance of each other’s differences is a powerful asset in our relationship. We can support one another in ways that had we had the same traits we would just mirror and echo our own psychological appearance and voice.  That would just display the same partial blindness towards our professional life.

2- We (may) compete but…

When my clients (teachers) purchase my services and pay by credit card I’m allowed to see how they did that.  Sometimes, fees (for my webinar for instance) which demand an investment of R$48,00 are paid in installments. You may wonder how on earth that happens. Well, my view on this is that due to a number of reasons, our category, as a whole, is not famous for being financially affluent. That means their money to invest in CPD is limited and even perhaps quite scarce. When we offer our services, we are competing for that amount of capital. This makes me think (I might be wrong) that we are competing and that’s absolutely fine for me.

This is so natural to me that I frequently promote my “competitors” because I believe that competition is healthy, welcome and it should be celebrated! Competing doesn’t mean being unfair (this shouldn’t exist), competing may lead to continuous professional development from an entrepreneurial point of view. It may also mean joining forces – how many great ELT professionals delivered courses together this year!? Our ELT community grows stronger because, among other factors, there’s competition, there’s a focus on improvement, on over delivery, on quality. We should just be extra careful not to engage in a war price. Another issue we cannot put up with is unethical competition. I strongly believe that competing is great and that is not an impediment for partnerships, honest and ethical debates, celebrations together and mutual support.

3- Ethos, honesty, empathy and dialogue.

No relationship can survive if there’s no ethos, no honesty. I’m not saying we don’t make mistakes. I do! I decided to embrace years ago empathy and ethical behaviour. We can’t be in a professional relationship if we are not able to be honest about how we feel. Moreover, we ought to check our assumptions and emotional hijacks and be open to honest conversations. In Greek mythology, emotions are often portrayed as wild horses that when break loose tend to run amok, causing more damage than good.  Ethical behavior, honesty, dialogue and acceptance that we are in constant progress is key!

To conclude, I believe that in times of so much that sets us apart, we ought to recognize that our differences are rather our main source of strength and great minds have the right to think different and then drink together, laugh together, grow together and, in the spirit of diversity, celebrate all the Brazilian ELT has achieved so far.

Júlio Vieitas

Júlio César Vieitas has been a TEFL professional for 20 years. He did the Delta course at IH London in 2012 and is currently doing his MA in TEFL at Birmingham University. He also holds project management Certificates by FGV and Insper. He's the founder and managing director of Julio Vieitas Consultoria Educacional (www.juliovieitas.com.br), a consultancy firm specialized in education management and teacher training. He's fascinated by the interplay between education management and teaching methods/approaches in ELT.

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