What are you learning? What have you learnt?

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If you’re reading this then you’re probably a teacher. And you’re probably the sort of teacher who is in the habit of questioning. You perhaps question your practice, your methods, your use of technology, your dependence on materials, your attachment to avoiding materials… Questioning is not a bad thing by the way.

Questioning opens pages, or in our case windows. And when we open these windows, we glide into the self-discovery of reflective practice. We become empowered in admitting that we don’t have all the answers and the act of accepting that often makes our professions come alive.

Our industry has some very strong voices. iTDi is but one platform that hosts some of these voices. They’re so strong in fact, that we now have the force of being ‘an industry’ which we weren’t really about 50 years ago. We were perhaps a ‘field’, and we still are a ‘field’, but we are an internationally-established blogging, conferencing, publishing, educating industry… with strong voices. These voices theorize, they debate, they argue, they reveal, they research… and they resound with the eloquence of self-questioning and echo the philosophical values of education.

Over the summer I heard an educator whom I deeply respect describe our ELT industry as one of pendulum swings. I took some time to digest the impact of these words… and yes, I suppose there is a pendulum. It has perhaps swung methodologically from learning by translating to translating learning into real life. It has perhaps swung ideologically from the performing teacher to the autonomous learner. It has perhaps swung economically from investing in learning to learning to invest of oneself, in our age of technological and information abundance. But what is so fabulous about our industry is that we all ride the pendulum. I believe that few of you who are reading this have not heard an idea or a method or a lesson plan or game at a conference, in a blog post or from a colleague and have not just gone into class the next day and had a go at it. That is why ELT teachers like you and me are an extra special niche of teachers… because we love the stuff we make and live it with childlike uninhibitedness.

For me, one of the more textured moments on the ELT pendulum’s trajectory was when we all started worrying about motivation and affective processes. When we did this, we started worrying about the meta-perspective of why we do what we do in big way. This texture is for me so rugged and so determined because we yielded the floor to so many other fields; psychology, sociology, philosophy and business. We took so much newness into stride based on the entry-level qualifications of being interested and wanting to be educated. I have colleagues who have embraced Complexity Theory and Regression Analysis with matched enthusiasm. I know peers who read for doctorates alongside full-time careers, without funding. I know teachers who have instigated online debates on the use of technology as their job security is churned through turmoil of a magnitude that they didn’t imagine possible. And I have friends who have rocked my world and then rocked it again a few months later because they’re just so damn inspiring.

So, what have I learnt in 2012? That our not-so-rugged practitioner voices need to carry on being heard. That classroom stories and the teachers that tell them are ready to take centre stage in the research spotlight. That these stories, the essential accounts and recounts of the magic in our classrooms, will shape the textures of the future. I think we need to capture the magic in as many ways as possible because you and I, the practitioners, are perhaps the real pivots that suspend the pendulum and let it swing.

What have you learnt in 2012? What are you learning?

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