#30GoalsEdu: Get Rid of the Unnecessary Weight

 

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.

 
 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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11 Responses to #30GoalsEdu: Get Rid of the Unnecessary Weight

  1. Debbie says:

    Daer Hana,
    What a lovely post and challenge! Your first ideas still ring inside my head. Being a connected educator has undoubtedly a huge positive impact, and I would say to our personal lives as well. However, the more we connect the more exposition we get, some might adore and be excited with this, while others might feel overwhelmed by unexpected and unplanned expansion, and eventually might be longing for time to reflect and to keep a healthy life to learn and teach.
    I saw Chuck Sandy’webinar at Belta, which I highly recommend: http://youtu.be/S3e_Uf-M-qw, see one more thing I am inviting you to do!. His wise words helped me understand about the impact of unwanted burdens, and how we are responsible for our actions. It’s always us who choose the course of action, well… being one of the princesses of uncertainty doesn’t allow me to make such a statement so confidently..
    Hana dear thank you so much for bringing your ideas about your burden regarding pronunciation (I agree with you, though doubts return once in a while).
    Sending you lots love and light
    Debbie

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  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Debbie. I like what you say about the sometimes stressful exposure we get as connected educators… 'others might eventually be longing for time to reflect and to keep a healthy life to learn and teach'. I totally agree with you and I'd say that it is blogging that helps me keep a healthy life. I teach my classes and when I come home, I sit down a write about my emotions, which is immensely relieving. And doing this I come to love my job even more because while reflecting I become aware of the positive I'd never be able to notice during my busy days. What is more, blogging helps me get rid of the unnecessary weight I put on doing my job and thus helps me start every day anew, from scratch, with enthusiasm to repeat what went well and with the determination to avoid what wasn’t so successful.

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  3. venvve says:

    Hi Hana,

    Just wanted to say that I, for one, am truly awed at the energy you put into participating in and contributing to so many things: #ELTchat, this blog, interacting with other bloggers, keeping up with webinars…I'm sure there's lots more :)…and teaching!
    I might just take you up on this challenge, if I ever work up the courage to share as much of myself on my blog as you do on yours. But that's what makes for good reading. 🙂

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  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Vedrana. I'm surprised at how many things I actually do. I have to be careful not to spread myself too thin 🙂 You know, once you find somebody who inspires you and motivates you, you don't even realize you do all the things you do – they just happen naturally. But what really keeps me going on is people like you – people who read what I've written and take the time to leave a reply. These interactions are the most valuable for me because they make things real.

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  5. Hana you always surprise me !!!! and of course you inspire me to think and reflect! Those questions are hard to answer!! but…I won´t stop thinking about it!!!
    I really agree with you with the accent thing! So hard! We all have an accent in our native language and we transfer it to our foreign language unless you were raised in an English speaking country where you will acquire the local “accent” too!
    From my own experience, native speakers of English will understand you even if you have an accent. You may sound strange but they do their best to understand you, and the same happens when you do not use proper grammar. The only people who judge a foreigner are those who have prejudice, but I do not want to get into that! Just by watching the Academy Awards a couple of Sundays ago and Cars 2 I love the Italian accent in English. Although, It is so true many of us will never sound like native speakers, I can see that some of my students try their best to sound well!
    Well, this conversation is not over! Thanks so so much for inspire me so much!

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  6. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your comment, dear Fabiana. I'm glad I got you thinking. By the way, I listened to your webinar Why Blog and I was surprised how native-like your English sounded. But even if it didn't sound native-like, I would love you all the same 🙂 Take care.

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  7. Silvers says:

    Hana, those questions are so challenging and ones I need to ask myself – I feel as if I'm on your sofa – and I've know idea how I'm going to do this challenge – which means it's one I shouldn't skip;)

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  8. Hana Tichá says:

    Don't worry, Sylvia. This has happened to me many times but once I sat down and started writing, suddenly ideas started mushrooming 🙂 By the way, you are such an enthusiastic, active and energetic person that I think you don't even realize the weight you are carrying – that's part of the challenge as well….

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  9. Zhenya says:

    Hello Hana

    Thank you for this post: starting from the title and till the very end (including the warm video about your country), your post kept me attentive and made me think a lot about the weight to carry, and about the ways to let it go. I also remembered “Up in the Air” movie with their idea of getting rid of a backpack with heavy things. Like Vedrana, I am amazed how open you can be n your writing (in a very positive way that makes your reader feel comfortable, which Sylvya wrote about) Also, like Fabiana, I believe that it is not the 'right' accent that determines the level of communication, but the communication itself (understand and being understood, isn't it the magic that needs to happen in any language we speak?) Thank you for the great post, I will be thinking which 'burdens' I can get rid of 🙂

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  10. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Zhenya. Thanks for being here and reading it all till the end (including other people's comments). When I think about the title, I always visualize those adventure movies where the characters try to escape the villains in a hot air ballon and to get faster, they have to get rid of some of their valuable 'weight'. They sometimes even think of desposing of some of the travelling companions to become lighter :-). I don't want to sound harsh and cynical, but we occasionally do have to say goodbye to some of our friends or colleagues (even if just temporarily). I don't mean it in the selfish way, e.g. refusing to help somebody who needs it. But we may simply feel that such a decision will make things better for both parties – definitely in the long run – and thus we're helping ourselves as well as the ones who we are leaving. I hope it makes sense to you…

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  11. Zhenya says:

    Dear Hana, thank you for your reply and for more thoughts about making such important decisions. One quote I think I saw on Twitter is meaningful to me right now and reflects what you wrote about, I think: 'Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer grows you'. Have a great start of the week!

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