On practicing what you preach

“You should write as often as possible” – that’s what I keep telling my students.

Currently, 99% of my students are intrepid English teachers either preparing for the Cambridge English: Advanced or the Cambridge English: Proficiency, which means that their writing skills will be assessed via two writing tasks. Needless to say, it is my duty to encourage them to write as much as they can and provide detailed feedback on their writing assignments.

A confession

The great Morpheus said: “(…) sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” Well, despite trying to instill in my students the need to invest hours and hours  into their writing skills, I have somehow become oblivious to the fact that I myself haven’t been taking my own advice. As the saying goes, “do as I say, not as I do”, right?  Seriously, though, as much as I’ve been reluctant to admit it, I haven’t exactly been practicing what I’ve been preaching. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on.

Why does it even matter anyway?

First and foremost, I believe that it’s crucial that we walk the walk. In other words, if you tell people what to do, it’s really important to set a good example. It’s as simple as that. Secondly, I’ve always believed that writing can be an incredibly powerful tool as far as our CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is concerned. To start with, writing helps us formalize our thinking. “Okay, what on earth does that mean?” – I hear you ask.

To put it another way, I feel that by writing, we have the chance to reflect upon whatever message we want to convey and to consider the most effective way to lay it out. Let me reiterate it by saying that writing gives us the perfect opportunity to rethink and reassess our assumptions and beliefs and organize them as coherently as possible. After all, we want our audience to understand and, hopefully, benefit from whatever we have to say. And if this isn’t a good enough reason for you to join me and start writing more regularly, I’ll give you one more.

A true story

While preparing for the Cambridge English: Proficiency, I vividly remember writing on a weekly basis about a myriad of topics: from globalization to the role of museums in our society. Interestingly, writing extensively had a knock-on effect on my grammar, vocabulary and, arguably, on my speaking as well. That’s right. In essence, writing frequently is also likely to help our language development, as it allows us to notice our output and work on it until it’s ready to be presented to the world.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

You may be thinking: “I’m hopeless at writing”. Well, for the sake of argument, let’s say that you – just like me – will probably not be the next Dan Brown. So what? Carl Jung said that “the fool is the precursor to the savior.” I believe that his quote brilliantly encapsulates how we tend to feel when trying something new.  However, we must bear in mind that until we’re ready to look foolish, we’ll never have the possibility of being great.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments 😉

Sergio Pantoja

Sérgio Pantoja is a CELT-P and CELT-S tutor, teacher, teacher trainer and Cambridge speaking examiner. He has been been in ELT since 2002 and holds, among others, the Cambridge English: Proficiency, a degree in Languages, a postgraduate degree in English Language Teaching and Translation, a TESOL Certificate, and the Delta. His Delta Module 3 Specialism focused on LDT (Language Development for Teachers).

  • Michelle Hudson Daniel
    Posted at 05:45h, 02 maio Responder

    Whan an inspiring text, Sérgio! Your teaching encourages us to get better organized about our CPD. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sergio Pantoja
      Sergio Pantoja
      Posted at 13:00h, 02 maio Responder

      Thank YOU for reading it, Michelle. I’m delighted to hear – or shall I say read? 😉 – that it has resonated with you.

    Posted at 09:19h, 02 maio Responder

    Your post was like a slap in the face for me. I have this goal of writing on a weekly basis and I’ve been failing at it big time so far. From today on, I promise I’ll do my best to reach this goal. Thanks for walking the walk with me. I couldn’t have chosen a better tutor to guide me through this hell also known as the Cambridge Proficiency exam.

    • Sergio Pantoja
      Sergio Pantoja
      Posted at 13:03h, 02 maio Responder

      Thanks a lot, Danilo! This means the world to me 🙂

  • Christiane Gheller
    Posted at 13:57h, 02 maio Responder

    My Teacher is the best!!

    • Sergio Pantoja
      Sergio Pantoja
      Posted at 15:39h, 02 maio Responder

      You’re really kind, Chris. I hope you’ve enjoyed it 😉

  • Tatiane da Silva
    Posted at 14:41h, 02 maio Responder

    Your insights are always thought-provoking, reflective, and remarkable!

    • Sergio Pantoja
      Sergio Pantoja
      Posted at 15:40h, 02 maio Responder

      I’m really happy to know that you’ve found it useful, Tati 😉

  • Anna Bezrukova
    Posted at 16:38h, 03 maio Responder

    Sergio, thank you for this article. I do believe and absolutely agree that writing can improve speaking. If we succeed in formulating written ideas clearly and avoid any possible ambiguity, it will be much easier to produce clear and coherent speech.

    • Sergio Pantoja
      Sergio Pantoja
      Posted at 19:34h, 05 maio Responder

      Thank YOU for reading it, Anna! It’s fascinating to see the interplay between two different skills, isn’t it?

  • Carolina Akool
    Posted at 15:28h, 10 maio Responder

    Great article, Sergio! It is certainly my biggest challenge in English, but I know that not writing at all won’t help me overcome it. But I agree with you. We should believe in our own advice to others. A piece of writing once a week can be an enormous contribution to our English.

    Hope I can read more of your articles!

  • Laurinda Carrilho Ferreira Murillo
    Posted at 17:04h, 20 junho Responder

    In light of practicing what we’ve been preaching, your text has thoroughly played a major role in inspiring us, as teachers in ceaseless professional development,
    Oftentimes, I keep saying to my students: Should you wish to widen your range of vocabularies and the quality of your writing, start off by reading as much as you possibly can, so as to feel yourself more confident and longer capable to best convey your ideas.
    Nevertheless, as much as I endeavor, I wind up not practicing exactly what I’ve been delivering.
    Luckily, I have had the opportunity to take a CPE course for Cambridge with Sergio Pantoja who has undoubtedly been a turning point in my teaching career. Not only has he instructed me to refine my speaking, but he has also assisted me in bringing to light substantial strategies to activate vocabularies and grammar which I had never been able to use before.
    I have lived in the United States, notwithstanding, I have lacked the opportunity to come into contact with those who use such level of grammar.
    Therefore, as luck as would have it, Sergio has made an impact on my English in all accounts. Thus, I am now starting a new path in my teaching career by pursuing not only a certification of Proficiency, but also improving my language skills in such a way that I’ll be able to embolden my students to do exactly alike.

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