Whenever I start reading a post in which my fellow blogger ardently complains about the somewhat unsatisfactory situation in the ELT industry, I catch myself thinking: Well, I see the point but this doesn’t really concern me; I have my safe and relatively well-paid job (if not compared to other professions!) in the State sector of education here in the Czech Republic, and despite being a female non-native speaker, I’ve never been a victim of discrimination. So I’m sorry but I don’t really know what all these freelancers are talking about. It sounds too ‘political’ to me anyway.
But I keep reading and it often happens that due to an argument which somehow strikes a chord, I reconsider my way of thinking. That’s the moment when I realize that what I’m reading was written for the common good, not just for a select few.
Revolutionaries like to encourage us to subvert the current state of affairs by undermining the power of the established system – in this case, the ELT industry. It seems to me like biting off more than they can chew. But then I remember who I am now in comparison with what I was like before I heard those ‘putschists’ speak for the first time. I remember the time when I regarded certain people out there in the ELT world to be real superstars. I automatically held these authorities in high esteem just because I was told to by other authorities. Mind you, I don’t have a problem with that; having someone to look up to is normal at a certain stage of development. For example, there’s nothing wrong with teenagers admiring their celebrities unconditionally. Most of them grow out of it anyway and one day, blind admiration vanishes or changes into well-deserved respect.
So I also like to think that I’ve gradually grown out of my blind authority-worshipping. The truth is though that I’m not the one who should be credited. In fact, I’ve always been surrounded by people who weren’t afraid to air their views and slowly, their
rants sensible counter-arguments undermined my old, almost fossilized convictions.
This all happened very slowly and nonviolently, and the new mindset was strengthened by some of my own discoveries. For example, when I went to a local conference, a talk given by a lesser-known person was often as good and useful, sometimes even better (from my perspective), as a plenary speech given by a big ELT name.
Also, and this is why I can’t deny anymore that it does indeed concern me directly, people are willing to listen to what *I* have to say. The miracle of me being given a voice happened in the realm of the ever-expanding blogosphere, originally on this very blog, a place which for me subsequently became a great source of professional and personal development as well as unique opportunities. And some of these opportunities have already become reality: for example, I was asked to write articles outside of this blog and I was invited to give a conference talk based on the posts I’d written.
I doubt that any of the above would have been possible 20 years ago – at the time when all we teachers could do was to obediently listen to what the big names had to say. If I had been a well-established academic, then yes, I may have had a say. But otherwise? In any case, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even imagine the things as they are now – I was too small a potato and small potatoes don’t believe they really matter in the big world.
But confidence is the key to it all. The confidence of a regular teacher like me can be built with the help of all those brave people out there, who either provide support openly or serve as examples to follow. And then the sky is the limit. So I say it out loud again: it does actually concern me – because it’s all about us.