What I’ve learned about learning from others

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we can develop as professionals by being involved in the teaching community. Not surprisingly, the most important lessons I’ve had on teaching came from people, not books, but it wasn’t an easy process and I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learnt from learning with others.

Be humble
Anyone can teach you something, no matter how experienced, qualified or renowned you are. The moment you adopt a know-it-all attitude is the moment you stop learning, and teaching is ultimately a learning process. Listen attentively to what others have to say, even if you don’t agree, and constantly question your own beliefs in order to avoid fossilization.

Be suspicious of miraculous solutions
A lot of books (and even conference speakers) still promise to extinguish all our problems with one simple and magical solution. Unfortunately, such solutions seldom apply to all contexts. The same is true for miraculous activities that sometimes appear in the staff room. The way I see it, the most important teaching skill we can develop is the critical thinking necessary to recognise the differences among our students and provide tailor-made solutions rather than one-size-fits-all ones.

Don’t make up stuff just to look good
We all want to feel useful, we all want to help, and the status of being a teacher trainer may be aspirational for many of us. However, we have to be extremely careful and responsible when we decide to put ourselves in the position of a more capable peer. Make sure you check your information before sharing it in the staff room, on social media or materials you publish. If you are not sure about something, don’t say you are or act as if you were. Be as responsible towards your peers and you would like them to be towards you.

Make friends, not rivals
Don’t burn bridges! Being part of a teaching community is accepting, sharing and caring for your peers. Sadly, I’ve seen my share of battles of egos and ironic remarks in the staff room and on social media. It might make you appear successful and popular for a while, it is true. But in the long run, chances are it may lead you to isolation rather than a positive role in the community.

Be generous
Did I just mention sharing and caring for your peers? Here it goes again, then! Even if you are not 100% confident about it, you do have a lot to say and contribute, so do it! It could be in the staff room, simply talking about what worked and didn’t work with your groups. It could be in one of many online groups of teachers. It could be in a teacher association. Regardless of the medium, make yourself heard. You are entitled to it!

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Rubens Heredia

I'm a co-founder of the blog and an Academic Coordinator at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo, where I'm responsible for course design, teacher training and e-learning initiatives. Having transitioned from a BA in Law to becoming a DELTA holder and a CELTA and ICELT tutor, I'm currently taking an MA in TESOL at NILE (University of Chichister). I'm also the proud owner of a whippet, a cat a fish and a rabbit!

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