On teacher learning

Today I was very inspired by a group of professionals attending my presentation during the 3rd BT TDSIG one-day seminar and I decided to post my contribution to the blog only after having talked to many of the committed teachers about development.

Hall & Simeral (2010), in one of my favourite quotes about teaching, highlight that educators, much to the public surprise may be the ones that resent learning the most. That is a conundrum. If by providing our learners with a model and showing them how to do things we teach them better, how can we refuse to study, learn and progress? I cannot speak on behalf of all the teachers in Brazil, but I can assume that the professionals I met today do not fit in this description. That is why we need to fight against the perception that we are only doing what we do because we had no options, or that we are all looking for some other path. This is the career we chose, let’s speak highly of it when outside the ELT world and let’s work on what we need to improve and change.

On that note, it is important to consider development in our field. Talking to a group of ELT professionals during the latest IATEFL conference, a question came to our minds: what are we doing to ensure we walk our talk? Are we repeating the same workshop, talk, ideas conference after conference or trying something different, questioning our own ‘absolute’ truths? Are we sitting at someone else’s lesson, talk, webinar to listen, learn and discuss? Are we looking for different perspectives to what we do? How open are we to learning? How much feedback have we gladly given/ received?

How much training are we incorporating in our reflection to provoke development? Or is training assumed to be something for novice teachers only? Each one of us, regardless of position or amount of experience, has always something new to learn. This doesn’t mean we haven’t reached anything, or that we aren’t successful. Success is not the end of our career. That’s the beauty of the ELT path: it doesn’t end. But every now and then, we can indulge ourselves and enjoy the plateau we have reached – walk around it, learn more about that place we feel comfortable in. If we decide to move on and try something different, then it is the moment to embrace change. In any case, no two lessons are ever the same in our career – even if you do not change your plan, materials, instructions, approaches… Learners bring various reactions, forcing us to do something different. We might as well enjoy the learning process of developing into a new professional every day.

I hope the debate on teachers’ resenting learning moves towards choosing our next step in the career, how much I can improve from the professional I am today. It takes us a great amount of drive and motivation to keep going and investing in ourselves, and even a greater amount of courage and humility to assume we can always learn and do something differently. What do you think?

Hall, P. & Simeral, A. (2010) Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success. Alexandria: ASCD.

 

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. She is the current first-vice president for BRAZ-TESOL.

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