How can teachers maintain their self-respect and gain their students’ attention and confidence? In what ways can they be helped to feel less alone? What options do we have to keep up to date with the latest advancements in teaching methodology and the subject matter knowledge? How do we keep in touch with teachers’ communities and what is the reason for doing so?
These and many more questions were addressed by the keynote speaker Mr George Vassilakis in the one-day seminar, entitled “Looking ahead to new challenges” that was held at the hospitable premises of Philippos Xenia in Serres, on Wednesday 07/09/2011. On this occasion we had the chance to meet our colleagues after the summer holidays, socialize and exchanges thoughts in view of the new school year. The meeting was completed with the professional presentations by Ms Fatsiadou and Mr Moschopoulos, of the publishing houses, Express Publications and MM Publications, who kindly agreed to sponsor this event.
Mr Vassilakis discussed the prospects of teacher development in the 21st century, starting by outlining the stages a teacher may go through in his/her career, from being a novice to becoming a respected professional, such as an institution’s manager or a teacher trainer.
However, regardless of one’s current position, the essence of being a teacher is about constant evolving perspectives. The subject matter is by its nature changing rapidly, language is a living organism and the language teacher has to keep him/herself informed. What is more, theories of language acquisition and consequently teaching methodology as well the field of education in general is changing. The latest researches should be incorporated in our approaches to teaching. The teaching context is another variable that should be considered, since the economic crisis has led many English teachers work in multiple contexts.
Mr Vassilakis thus stressed that what we should constantly be doing is DOUBT, question our practices, discuss with colleagues, evaluate, re-evaluate and reflect on our work in order to keep improving. Mere accumulation of experience, in the sense of the exact repetition of old practices does not add anything to our improvement.
In this pursuit of self-development the contribution of our colleagues is valuable and the Web is giving us the wonderful opportunity of networking and keeping in touch with teachers and field experts from all over the world. A collection of handy Web 2.0 tools were introduced and their use was explained. It cannot be denied that English teaching communities have always had better reflexes when it comes to reacting to stimuli from other countries due to the nature of their subject matter and the influences they get from abroad.
In the end, we may wonder…Why Bother? None of these translate immediately to a promotion or extra money or better working conditions! However, as years go by and we become more conscious and critical of our work, we become more able to CHOOSE. And choice has always been a fundamental characteristic of our existence both as human beings and teachers, an aspect that leads to freedom and maturity.