“Hey, you (…)
Together we stand, divided we fall”
Perhaps the ELT world was not exactly what Mr. Waters bared in mind when he wrote this song for Pink Floyd. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the message is meant for all of us, citizens of the world, language teachers. Being you a big fan of rock or pop divas, the quote serves just as a springboard to provoke a discussion on one of the wonders of our profession: the “S” factor.
I want to start it off by simply thanking you for having me – I really hope this is just the beginning of a long journey. I have been teaching English for six years and not even for a moment I have regretted choosing to become a teacher – and that is the reason why I decided to put some ideas down into words. Despite several identity crisis which could have strayed me from the path, the delights of being an educator spoke louder – one of them in special.
I remember being told that “sharing is caring” during one of the first pre-service training initiatives I underwent in life and, since then, that never stopped resonating with me. And that is exactly what the “S” factor is all about. “S” stands for sharing. The beauty of teaching lies especially on the fact that no competition among peers is needed or required and the slightest sign of it should be discouraged. If you stop to think and look around this frightening capitalized competition-oriented world in which we live in, our reality can be different and, therefore, should be celebrated, exploited and enjoyed.
We ourselves are the most powerful weapon to fight the battles for a better second-language education in our country. And so together we should stand. We are all in this fighting for the same cause which is to make our experiences the road to success to someone else. Thus, why not letting our peers know what has been working in class?
Just to put you in the picture, I am currently taking the CELTA and never before have I been so encouraged to question my beliefs and look critically to the way I have been delivering lessons. The course proved to be everything I had heard before from a priceless experience to a painful, yet essential, journey towards learning and personal growth. During the past weeks I had to observe a couple of lessons from my peers and what I found out was impressive huge amounts of different techniques, activities and strategies which were probably never going to be brought about – and that is a pity.
In my experience, I recall talking to my colleagues about either problematic or lovely students in the staffroom or how a tough lesson had finally come to an end or even how unfortunate was the fact that an amazing lesson had just ended. Little do I remember, though, about conversations revolving around what our practices were like and if anything new had worked out. And I am more than positive that a myriad of good things have happened there, inside each and every single room whenever a lesson was taught.
It is about time we dedicated ourselves a bit more to sharing and also caring for those who aim at building on the foundation of ELT. But, there is no need for revolution or reinventing the wheel, and that preconception is what makes most of our colleagues give up on sharing. As I said beforehand, what strikes me the most when it comes to being a teacher is the fact that not a single thing needs to be kept secret. Whether you had a simple effective idea or are experimenting with an out-of-the-box project, everything can, must, and should be shared. A simple act of communication can make a difference and end up impacting positively in the work we all have been delivering. In teaching, there is no such a thing as personal and exclusive repertoire. Our practices themselves are permeated with loads of background learning experiences we have been through.
So, the idea is to call the attention to the fact that not only talks and workshops in conferences or formal training initiatives bring ideas worth sharing. What you do every day in class may be of great help to a peer who has been struggling. By the way, struggling with an issue you might have the solution for. The secret is: SHARE. The more we share, the more we develop and the stronger we become. That is the key for success in our profession.
Some ideas are:
- Talk to your peers between breaks and let them know what went well in your lessons (informal chat);
- Organize a post-it bulletin board. Every month you can decide on one or two topics to share ideas about (e.g. changing patterns of interaction, giving feedback, correcting homework) – simple ideas on post-its may make a difference;
- Observe you peers and share with the team interesting things you could see in the lessons;
- Be active in the community: speak your mind, write, share.
Never should we lose sight of one thing: teaching is purely and ultimately about sharing. The work we do in class should be extended to the outside part of the job. There is nothing original under the sun, but I bet there is a bunch of marvelous ideas inside our classrooms. Let’s share?