Being a newly-qualified holder of an internationally recognized teaching qualification and an MA in Linguistics, during my first job interview with a school owner, I aspired to share my vision of teaching and have a profound professional discussion on the subject matter of teaching. However, they just put my CV aside and started dwelling on a plan of how teachers bring profit to the school. What I heard was that there was no point in making any investment in teacher training by that school because teachers could, and would, leave them. The idea that reverberated in my mind was that they should have been thinking: ‘What if teachers actually stay? It is our reputation at stake, isn’t it?’
They say you cannot step into the same river twice but what if you actually find yourself in an in-company or tertiary level context where, on the one hand, your professional development is solely your responsibility and, on the other hand, when you find a continuous professional development (CPD) event to attend, it turns out they will not let you go because there is nobody to substitute for you.
Therefore, if your direct manager or employer does not encourage you to grow and does not appreciate your wish to do so, for whatever reason, there is another powerful force that does – your learners.
It’s crucial to realise that in any given educational encounter, first and foremost, you are representing yourself as a professional.
Wherever you are in your teaching career and whatever your context is, consider following these suggestions.
- Clarify and set your own career and development goals and milestones. Claim responsibility for your own growth: it may feel scary and you may even feel disoriented at times, but it’s worth it.
- Communicate goals and aspirations clearly to your employer or the end user of your services. Without you telling them, you cannot expect anyone to imagine how that conference you attended in April will benefit them and their learning.
- Be proactive about finding CPD events that you want to be a part of, be they online or face-to-face.
- Learn from other spheres and adjacent fields to get a new perspective. For instance, getting to know how real estate agents or lawyers treat their clients might be helpful to accommodate your business learners’ needs.
- Share your experience of attending professional events with your learners: not only does it spread positive vibes and build rapport but this also motivates them to grow in their respective industry
And most of all, talk to your colleagues about your ideas. When I shared my story with my colleague, Rob Howard, founder of EFLtalks – teachers teaching teachers, he came up with some brilliant tips of his own.
It seems everyone is talking about CPD and teacher development but the number of teachers actually doing it these days has sharply declined. This is a very unfortunate state as a teacher who stops learning not only becomes stagnant, but over time forgets some of the best practices that they have acquired over the years. I started taking advantage of every learning opportunity early in my career and I haven’t slowed down since. Just the other day I was reminded of a technique that I used years ago but, out of habit, let slip from my repertoire. As Oksana mentioned, sharing the fact that you are continually attending conferences, webinars and reading, sets a great example that learning should never stop and also demonstrates your commitment to their learning. Personally, I wouldn’t go to a doctor that isn’t keeping up-to-date with their own continuing education and seeing what is new in medicine. Why would we expect the same from our students?
Years ago, while working for a US Binational Language Center, I was known for going to every publisher event, conference, association meeting and training that was available in my city. Other teachers would often criticize my quest for further development. They thought it to be a waste of time, money and energy. They were all surprised when I received one of five financial promotions out of 200 plus teachers based solely on my commitment towards self-improvement and sharing with other colleagues. The company took notice. My students took notice. I didn’t do it for the money, but it was sure nice to be recognized and complimented for my commitment.
Of course, I realize that CPD is time-consuming. This is the reason I started EFLtalks, where a collection of almost 200 education professionals offer up their ideas and techniques in just 10 minutes and share them for free with teachers all over the world. Seeing that we have reached over 500,000 teachers, those without the opportunity to attend training courses and even those who can, and knowing that many are still eager to learn more and dedicate time to their development, gives us new hope that there are still many who take their craft seriously.
Just today my student in Belarus, when I asked about his hobbies, responded “learning.” He said that after he had finished his PhD, he felt a hole in his life by not continuing to study like he did for school. I told him that he is inspiring. The student, whom I have needed to reschedule often due to my travel for conferences, answered quite simply, “I get inspiration from my teacher.”
Oksana Hera is a freelance Business English Trainer in Lviv, Ukraine, and a Joint Coordinator of the IATEFL BESIG Online Team. Her interests include learners’ motivation and the effective use of technology in teaching English. She also blogs about films for English learners at Movies by Levels.
Rob Howard is an EFL Teacher, Neurolanguage Coach and teacher trainer as well as teaching Business English. He is Joint Coordinator for the IATEFL BESIG Online Team and Online and Video Coordinator for the Visual Arts Circle. He has authored and co-authored several books and is co-founder of the Independent Authors & Publishers Group. He is a speaker worldwide on Continuing Professional Development, Business Development and Image Presentation and the founder of EFLtalks, a finalist for the 2016 British Council ELTons Award for Innovation in Teacher Resources. His website is www.RobHoward.me. He lives in Poland.