domingo, 2 de julio de 2017

Can Circumstantial Burdens Hinder Teachers’ Professional Development?

 By Flor de María Vila 

Sometimes when we stop to think about our professional life, we feel as if our career has grown unruly and probably it has reached its peak. Suddenly, we may feel as if nothing about it could be changed since we have already tried everything there was to be tried. This fatalistic way of thinking comes together with other ideas that support or excuse the fact that our professional life cannot become any better, so we do not even think of changing anything because the die is cast.
One of the reasons why we take no further action is that we have faced situations that have blinded us and instead of having taken them as challenges, we have considered them as impediments.
Which are these obstacles?
1.  Lack of time: We spend many hours preparing and conducting classes, creating materials, writing lesson plans and other documents, and even commuting to our workplace. Furthermore, probably we have more than one job in order to make ends meet. Consequently, we can rightfully exclaim that there is no time to develop our professional life.
2.   Lack of money: We have just remarked that we work hard and likely in more than one place to earn enough money so that we can support our family. Hence, we may not have enough income to afford any other expenses such as the ones required to pursue further studies, leave alone expenses on books or online material.
3.    Lack of opportunities to improve the level of the target language: This could be true for us who teach the same course, level, etc. every month, cycle, or year. We may even employ the same books we used years ago which will not defy us to learn even new vocabulary.
It is true that our profession is no longer wholly valued and very likely fits among the most scantily salaried. However, it is also real that when one really wants to advance, there are no barriers but challenges.

It is a matter of changing the perspective:
1.    Lack of time: The ones who feel that their effort will have a reward do walk the extra mile while the rest of them sleep. They know that spending more time on their improvement will mean a better pay and thus the need of working so many hours will be reduced because a higher payment will allow them to work fewer hours and earn the same or more than before. Their improvement in teaching or level of language will enable them to apply for better positions.
2.   Lack of money: I remember that when I began teaching many, many years ago, I did not earn much money but I still managed to save a little money to buy books that would help me learn more about teaching. I already had children, but instead of spending money on treats I would put that money in an envelope and save it until I could have enough to buy that special book. (Probably, you remember the book The Practice of English Language Teaching by Jeremy Hammer (1991) or maybe Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur (1988). I found them the other day when I was moving to a new home. I realized that they were two of the best investments I had ever made).
Do not consider these disbursements as expenses but rather as investments which will pay back and bring you a better professional and personal life.
3.   Lack of opportunities: Even if you do not have the chance to ask for another course or level, do not give up so easily. Fight! Try to see it as a new beginning and reinvent yourself. Look for other ways of giving the lessons. Find other sources, activities, exercises and avoid the routine. If you fall into a rut, you will lose interest. And if you get bored, you will start working wrongly. If that happens, you will hate yourself because you will know that you have become dull. In addition, if you get bored and your students get jaded, your boss will most likely get fed up too and get rid of you. Thus, take chances. If you do not do that, you will not ever win and, even worse, you will miss the opportunity of learning and improving.

Do you agree with these ideas?
Are there any other impediments? Do they stop you from advancing?

Biographical Data
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Pedagogic Advisor and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico and Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory). She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS)