noun: resilience; plural noun: resiliences

1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.


Some of you may be wondering why I am talking about resilience in a blog post for English teachers, but for some reason I think most will guess. And even though most (or all) I’m going to “say” here may be common knowledge, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20+ years as a teacher it’s that we need to see something many times before we really learn it, we need to be constantly reminded of things. Life has a way of making us forget even what is (or seems to be) obvious.

Today at my school, at the first session of our “Welcome Back” / Pedagogical Week after the holidays and before the semester (or shall we say teaching) begins, we talked about managing stress and ways of doing that.

Many workshops and talks for teachers focus on the students’ learning, techniques and approaches to teaching and ideas for activities to use with our students. A very small percentage of such PD sessions focus on the well-being of the teacher. And yet, the well-being of the teacher is the most important thing when talking about effective teaching. If the teacher is not well, not happy, he/she can’t really do his/her best to help their students learn.

(English) teachers are under a lot of stress these days… demands from the schools, from the students’ parents, from the students themselves. There’s the need to adapt to new realities (and use more and more technology), the very long hours (teaching, preparing, studying, correcting), the need to motivate students who find the internet more appealing than the classroom, impending threat of losing students, balancing personal and professional life, financial worries… the list can be endless.

Avoiding the chronic stress of a teacher’s life can be impossible most times. So better than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist or sugar-coating it, teachers should face it and work on strategies to diminish its impact and find ways to better deal with it. No better time for a workshop to help you with that before it all starts!

What Ana Cláudia Calazans (the teacher leading the workshop) proposed today was establishing your values in the different domains of your life: work, leisure, relationships… Bear in mind one can have many sub-domains within each of the afore mentioned! Think what your priority in each domain in your life is and put it into words, write a sentence. What do you want? What is important for you? For instance, a value I have in my leisure domain is reading. I think reading is a key. So I wrote that reading was important for me as a leisure activity. The next step is to reflect and analyze how close you are to being true to your values – the things that really matter to you. Then establish a plan of action, to get closer to your value. In my case, I vouched to read a book – for pleasure – for at least 15 minutes a day.

We teachers have to remember to take care of ourselves and our well-being, our happiness. Being happier and having a more balanced life make us better teachers. And this is as important as continuous professional development, work-related reading, courses, planning or correcting. We can’t take care of our students if we don’t take care of ourselves first.

Keep that in mind before the semester starts. You are the main element, the most important one. Take care of it.

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Cecilia Lemos has been working with ELT since 1993 and is an Academic Coach for Educate Bilingual Program. She has worked a teacher trainer, writer, coordinator and teacher, presenting at local, national and international language teaching events. She’s a member of IATEFL’s Teacher Development SIG committee. Her main interests are feedback, correction and lesson observation.

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