What was your path to EFL? Did you think about becoming a language teacher from an early age? Perhaps you changed jobs after initially pursuing another profession? Or you may have begun with a CELTA and built a career from the ground up. These are just three of the many paths that lead to our
diverse and exciting profession, and each may influence our pedagogical approach and general attitude towards EFL as a career.
In the 1990s, the UK Government launched a publicity drive aimed at encouraging people from other professions to move into teaching. These involved
several vox pops of highly paid professionals who had decided that teaching would be a more fulfilling career. And they were brilliantly satirized by the British comedians Armstrong and Miller in a series of “Be a teacher” comedy sketches. You can find them on YouTube. But be warned, these aren’t for the naturally indignant. And those of us whose careers developed following one or more post-university gap years may find some of the jokes hitting a nerve or two. But I hope you’ll appreciate the humour.
So, having chosen a career in EFL, how do we feel now? Being part of ETAS shows that we take our profession seriously, are open to new ideas, and want to be part of a wider teaching community. We are also likely to have amassed an impressive amount of resources if we’ve been teaching for a while. My two main weaknesses are the two main types of recipe books: those for food and those for teaching. They all look good on the shelves, but TBH, only a few get
At the centre of it all is the teaching. It’s creative, essential, and appreciated. My approach to the EFL class is similar to my take on cooking. I’ll sometimes wing it with a lesson that I know will go well, but taking the time to try something different can be especially rewarding. When cooking, it usually takes me two or three goes to nail a new recipe. It’s the same with a new lesson plan. While it may be true that much of the teaching goes in the planning, it’s not until our first class gets going that we can see whether things will work out as planned. It will often take some fine-tuning until the aims of a new lesson plan coincide with its actual outcomes. But it’s worth it for that high when you come out of a class that has gone well and which the students have really enjoyed.
Of course, it’s not always plain sailing. Teaching has its many high points, but it can have its darker moments. We may feel underappreciated. Misunderstandings between colleagues may hinder constructive teamwork. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the workload. In the extreme,
we could come dangerously close to burnout. The pandemic has taken its toll on us in many ways, and this is one of the considerations behind the Summer 2023 Focus topic of Mental Health. As the call for submissions says, the pandemic continues to consume our thoughts and energies, and it has become more critical than ever that we take care of ourselves and each other, whether we are teaching, learning, or both.
In my last editorial, I suggested we take some of the time afforded by the summer vacation to review our teaching and update our courses where necessary. This time around, I’m going to suggest that, as far as possible, we take advantage of the festive season to be … well … festive. If we have the luxury of two weeks off work, then let’s set our out of offices as soon as possible and not check our emails until we’re officially back again. Let’s take a complete break from work and enjoy time with our friends and family without worrying about work. We’ll be better teachers for it, I’m sure.
And then let’s all register for the ETAS conference (28 – 29 January 2023). Because while taking a complete break is essential, there’s nothing more likely to get us fired up and looking forward to being back in the class than a weekend sharing ideas and having fun with other motivated teachers. Hope to see you