I’m truly honored to be the inspire leader for one of the #30GoalsEdu goals of the 2014 Cycle. Last year I followed in the footsteps of the amazing, diligent Shelly Terrell and other wonderful educators, and enthusiastically accomplished some of the goals they had put forward and agreed on collaboratively. I should stress in this place that I’d never have had the courage to start blogging hadn’t it been for Shelly and the support of The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators Facebook group, which is now made up of more than 800 members! You can achieve a lot on your own, but you can achieve much more with others.
In this post I’m going to share a goal I proposed myself. By writing these words, I hope to inspire others to join in and reflect. And because the Spring Blog Festival is going on at the moment, why not take the opportunity and start a blog if you haven’t got one? And if you’ve got one, why not encourage others to start blogging?
Back to my original goal. Every day, we work hard to achieve success – we want to become better educators, better parents, better friends, better people … We enjoy our small victories which keep spurring us to go on. The more successful we become, however, the more responsibility is required from us. And the more we offer, the more is expected from us. This can become overwhelming and stressful. Thus it’s necessary to pause, breathe in, reevaluate and reconsider from time to time. In other words, we need to get rid of the unnecessary weight to be able to go on.
Enough of metaphors. You’ve experienced the following situations yourself, haven’t you?
1) Your desk in the staff room is neat and clean after the holidays but with the passage of time it becomes a real mess, and it takes you longer and longer to find the things you’re looking for. You can say to yourself a million times that you’ll always try to keep your desk tidy but it’s just impossible – the breaks are so short!
2) By postponing seemingly unimportant tasks you finally get to the inevitable point when you don’t know what to do first to keep up. But you HAD to postpone the things because there was always something more important: A student broke down in tears and you had to comfort her and discuss the problem. A parent phoned and you didn’t have the heart to interrupt him in the middle of the sentence.
3) You have loads of fantastic learning material but you can never find what you need, so some of your amazing resources suddenly become useless. Yes, you have files and drawers and you are very organized, but your office is not inflatable (neither is your PC hard disc).
Those were just a few examples of everyday issues a teacher has to handle. Let’s zoom in a little and move on to a more theoretical ground. As an EFL teacher I also have to cope with burdens related to the subject I teach.
At our school we use coursebooks and materials that mostly present the standard variety of English. My colleagues often discuss the right ways of pronouncing certain words and the conclusion is always something like this: ‘OK. It is correct but we are teaching them British English so they should pronounce it in the British way.’ I don’t agree. Being a non-native speaker, I undoubtedly speak with a specific, unique accent and the same can be said about my students. Moreover, not all my students will necessarily need to speak the standard variety in the future. For some it will suffice to be able to ‘just’ use English – be it orally, in writing, receptively or productively. It will be sufficient if they speak intelligibly. We don’t need to turn our students into robots and parrots – they’ll probably never speak the same way as a person born in Britain (or the USA, Australia, Canada, etc.) and has lived there all their life. And we shouldn’t force them to speak one particular accent, although they ought to have the choice to do so if they wish.
Moreover, there are lots of wonderful examples of alternative pronunciations or missteps that have become standard usage. Read this article and you’ll see for yourself that error is the engine of language change, and today’s mistake could be tomorrow’s vigorously defended norm. So our EFL/ESL learners can actually become pioneers – they can inadvertently open up new areas of thought and development.
I’d also like to recommend that you watch this interesting seminar by Laura Patsko and Katy Davies on teaching English pronunciation in an English as a lingua franca context. Laura and Katy offer some great practical ideas on teaching pronunciation, but what I find even more useful is the message they are sending. I had had a sneaking suspicion concerning the issue of pronunciation for some time but after watching the videos, I completely got rid of the ubiquitous, burdensome feeling that all my students must always speak the standard variety to actually succeed in mastering the language and that I am obliged to do my best to bring them as close to the ‘ideal’ as possible.
I’ve got rid of some of the unnecessary weight…. and you? To accomplish this goal I’d like you to answer (one of/some of) the following questions:
1) What is your burden you wish to dispose of at the moment?
2) What’s the biggest burden you’ve ever had to get rid of? How did you go about it? Was it a painful process?
3) How do you usually get rid of the unnecessary weight that makes you walk more slowly – in your personal and/or professional life?
Thanks for having stayed with me till the end. Finally, I’m going to take you on a short virtual trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world – the Czech Republic.