Two factors help my non-stop development as a teacher: continuous learning; and sharing what I learned with others.

Truth be told, at times I feel like I have already developed.

Yet every day may bring in a new challenge: any book may present an unknown word or expression, and an unexpected language problem may pop up in any medium, be it a TV show or a news item read on the internet, or a phrase I heard at a meeting with a native speaker. The trick is to catch the moment so to speak, and to do something about it.

Continuous learning

Let us take an example. While reading a detective novel on a plane, I came across the expression “an isosceles stance”. My ELT mind, though somewhat dulled by the motors droning, immediately dissected it into several aspects.

1) I remembered the word “isosceles” from mathematics, though I had no idea how to pronounce it.

2) “Stance” was naturally a familiar one.

3) Together, the words made no apparent sense, but the meaning became clear from the context.

4) Leave it or explore it later? Ah, that is what I mean by “continuous learning”.

True, I would probably never say the adjective out loud. But I may run across it in other books, and even in real life situations. To quote an old principle, a person likes to know.

Later, when I had some time at home, I explored. The English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, first published in 1917, does list “isosceles”, so this is definitely not a new coinage.

The Free Dictionary site, once I typed in this same adjective in the search line, surprisingly threw me into a page named The Weaver Stance. Consequently, I read about Weaver, and various stances, and even watched a clip on YouTube. Why do all this research? For two main reasons: first, I was curious; second, no other word stopped my eye in that book.

I do believe that learning is a never-ending process. We are professionals. As such, we know multiple techniques, like reading for gist or reading for detail. And then there is reading for pleasure, which is also reading for self-development.

Sharing what I learn with others is important

As a teenager, my father told me: “Before you speak to the world, think if you have something to say and to share”. The lesson stuck. An impulse to tell the world, or in my case my students and colleagues, is ever-present.

Rather than blurting out my findings, however, I think them over and check if the subject is already well researched. The years of teaching and parenting have taught me yet another important aspect, a different side of the same coin: what seems matter of course to me may be new or even incomprehensible to a beginning teacher. For instance, I am often asked if pupils’ behaviour depends on the way they address us. In some countries, children would say Teacher; in others, they use the first name, or name and patronymic as in Russia; or Mr./Mrs./Ms. plus surname. Or Professor followed by name/surname, like they do in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The manner of address may not be paramount; it is the attitude and position that count. In other words, a rose is a rose by any other name.

What can one share? Older, more experienced teachers would help their younger colleagues with discipline and motivation. As a teacher trainer, I deliver teacher development courses and make reports and presentations at annual events. Since my own student years, I acquired a nickname, Miss Dictionary, and a reputation to accompany it. It seems natural when a colleague conducting a seminar at which I am one of the participants, calls out to me to help explain, say, the difference between “wrong” and “false”. If a question is posed to an audience of two hundred, and there occurs one of those unbearable silences, I know that I will be called upon to answer.

Naturally once I began using the Internet in my work two decades ago, the opportunities to share have been growing exponentially. The trick is to know that indeed, one has something to share. After all, those familiar letters mean the Whole Wide World.

As I am more a teacher trainer and consultant now, the last twelve months were spent in writing, making presentations and reports, consulting teachers and students of all ages. TE blog has helped me organize my own thoughts better, and also to share all the wonderful resources it offers.

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