In this post, I would like to discuss the teaching profession from a broader perspective, looking at the group of professionals collectively and using the metaphor of a constellation to analyse team work and cooperation.

A while ago, when discussing teacher development with a colleague, he repetitively gave me feedback reminding me that I am an idealist professional. He is right and thank him for insisting that I acknowledge my own beliefs about teaching to make discussions more productive. The idea of a group of professionals in teaching working together is what I intend to share here to open a discussion about how realistic it is to work more collaboratively, what the challenges are (how to overcome them) or welcome the pessimistic view that an ideal is unobtainable (while keeping a shred of hope that keeps us moving towards the ideal).

The metaphor chosen to describe a group of teachers is a constellation; the belief being simply that every teacher has the chance to shine and contribute to a very beautiful ‘sky’ or the educational context. This perspective can be contrasted with having a teacher in the staff room who is the ‘sun’, a ‘super-star’. Much as it seems positive to have more light coming from one sun, this can, as anything, have a negative impact on the group of professionals or the teacher him/herself, who would feel the profession as a lonely career and struggle to teach communication, a key skill in the 21st century and so important for language learners.

There is room for the ‘suns’, but they don’t necessarily help leaders or teachers to build a collaborative environment. The sun outshines all the stars, making them all ‘disappear’. Can we afford to empower one teacher to the detriment of all others in education? I guess it may depend on the context. The sun is also responsible for ‘blinding’ some of us who are looking at it. If the aims of education, more specifically language education, include to open minds and cross borders, embrace diversity, teach skills that will prepare learners to better communicate and perform in the world nowadays, perhaps ‘blinding’ learners or colleagues is not aligned with those goals.

The stars in the night sky, however, can all shine together. Some shine more than others, as they are not the same, each has their own qualities to add to the full image. But there is infinite room for all the stars that are willing to be part of the group. The beauty of the constellation is only possible when we look at a group of stars coexisting, hence the need to have multiple stars/ teachers shining, forming cohesive, meaningful professional groups. The same can happen with a group of teachers in a school or even the country: some will perform better, but each one will have their contribution to the profession and to the learners they are going to teach.

The night stars are not competing with one another; it is as if they knew they can all shine brighter together and that one shining brighter allows others to keep shining. That is the power a group of teachers have: being more powerful together, sharing knowledge, experiences, space, innovation, ideas. Teachers who are the ‘brighter stars’ have the opportunity of being an inspiration for other ‘stars’, maximising development opportunities within a professional group.  Like the stars, teachers will not be around forever and having the courage to teach and share having this knowledge also reinforces the collaboration for more effective and long-lasting education and professionalism.

What do you think? Is it possible to look at the profession of teaching as a constellation where every teacher has the opportunity and the potential to belong and shine?

Marcela Cintra
Marcela Cintra is a manager at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has taught English for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in Disal, ABCI, LABCI, Braz-TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A DELTA holder, CELTA and ICELT tutor, she is currently taking an MA course in TESOL.