Volunteering For Teachers' Associations with Milena Tanasijevic

24th October 2023

I have always believed in learning from peers and sharing experiences. Noone would understand our position better than like-minded professionals who almost always, as I have seen, feel the same. The pressure that teachers and lecturers feel from administration, educational policies, parents, students... has grown.

Our PLN as support is invaluable in that respect. That is why I have become a firm advocate of national and international teachers' associations. I feel grateful to be given the opportunity to share my professional journey as a volunteer with you.

First, on a national level. ELTA Serbia is an association for English language teachers with membership stemming primarily from teachers in primary and secondary schools. My colleagues face numerous challenges which may be typical of our country, and as it turns out, beyond it, and feel the need to be given a voice. What better way to do so than to publish and share ideas in a newsletter by peers for peers. I was an editor of the bi-monthly e-publication
ELTA newsletter for several years. Then I became the editor-in-chief of the publication. Colleagues from Serbia, the region and beyond, submitted articles for publication including lesson plans, book reviews, their research and team projects, experiences from teachers' conferences they had attended, works from their students... and whatever else they found meaningful, practical and useful to be shared among their peers. I have become more aware of
the circumstances in the working lives of my colleagues in contexts I was not familiar with. I have learned a lot about various types of classrooms which were not the same as mine, but still similar, as well as important. I have grown to respect my colleagues more and more. I have also learned how to be encouraging and understanding, since it is not easy to write to be published. It has never been. I have learned a lot about myself and how to manage a team of like-minded professionals who were willing to dedicate hours of their free-time to edit articles. To this end, I would always support everyone who has not had the courage to share their experience and views. It is valuable and important. It will be read. And you will feel acknowledged and encouraged. You will feel heard. You should go for it!

On an international level, I have been a member of IATEFL for years. After some self-reflection and serious thought, I applied for a scholarship to attend the ESPSIG PCE 2019 in Liverpool which I then won. I will always remember that day. That was an evet focused on a singular topic with international professionals who shared their experiences, who attended my talk and gave me feedback. And ones who showed me that my work and research was good. Invaluable! I still feel the need to thank the committee for giving me that opportunity. What comes next after you have been given such an honour? To give back. So, I have been serving as a joint-events coordinator for the ESPSIG committee for three years and have just started my second term. What has happened since? Numerous webinars which I have hosted with the help of my colleagues (do apply to become a webinar presenter if you work in the field of ESP), the annual Open Forum online events, the annual PCE for the ESPSIG, as well as the Showcase days during the IATEFL international conferences. All of them took place during challenging times, due to the Covid 19 pandemic. And there are still more events to come.

What do teachers' associations need? Networking and connecting with teachers' associations on national, regional and international level through international events, for example, such as the Fifth International Conference on Languages for Specific Purposes which was hosted by the LSP SIG of the Serbian Association for Foreign Languages and Literatures Studies in 2021. It was such a challenge to organize that event. When the Serbian Association needed help and assistance, the ESPSIG got involved and co-organized the event. It became a huge success, with six plenary sessions, over 60 talks and more than 100 participants. It is worth mentioning it was held online, which was a stress for most of us on the organizing committee since it was the first event of that kind for us. What came next? After that event, the Serbian Association of Foreign Languages and Literatures became a sponsor for the ESPSIG PCE2023. There will be more joint events to come.

Associations need help and assistance. Cooperation is the key. Each one of us matters. Never doubt that. Get involved to the level and degree you feel is possible for you. Become a member. Write to be published. Apply for a scholarship. Present at an event. Volunteer. You will be heard. And it will matter.

About Milena Tanasijevic

Milena Tanasijevic has been working in the field of ELT for more than twenty years. She is an assistant professor in English at Belgrade Metropolitan University where she has been preparing and implementing EAP, as well as ESP courses for students of IT, management and design related majors. Her research interest are second language acquision, online language teaching pedagogies, curriculum development, assessment.

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