FUTURITY: Teachers on the move

If you are an active LinkedIn user involved in ELT, you have most likely come across Silvina Mascitti’s posts. Since the beginning of the year, this experienced English teacher has been sharing amazing lesson plans on her website EFL Creative Ideas, which I highly recommend visiting. When Silvina approached me with a few questions for an article on teachers living abroad, I was very happy to share my story. You can find her text in the following magazine:

FUTURITY: Teachers on the move

As we know, people involved in ELT love all kinds of abbreviations, so let me briefly explain what this is about. IATEFL stands for International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, which is a prominent organisation involved in various activities, including hosting a huge international conference. SIG refers to a special interest group that focuses on a specific area. You can find a list of 16 SIGs associated with IATEFL here.

FUTURITY is an e-zine published by Global Issues SIG. Silvina Mascitti’s article titled Teachers on the move appears in the latest issue (#3) of the magazine. If you aren’t a member of IATEFL GISIG, you can get access to it for a small donation on this page.

Teachers on the move features stories of several people who decided to teach English abroad. It was really nice to read about other teachers’ experiences with adapting to working in a new country. I was also happy to see that the TEFL in Colombia blog was mentioned in the article. If you wish to find out more about topics related to living in Colombia, you can read my posts on learning Spanish, travelling, and obtaining necessary documents.

Most of my recent blog posts have been on professional development, so let me tell you a little bit about what has been going on in Colombia. You may have noticed that you can now enter the country without proof of a negative PCR test, so basically anyone can travel to Colombia without any restrictions. That sounds like positive news, but the actual situation in the country isn’t that rosy.

Colombia was supposed to co-host this year’s edition of Copa América, but CONMEBOL decided to move the tournament to Brazil, which is a clear sign that something isn’t right. COVID-19 still isn’t under control and several regions of Colombia have been heavily affected in recent weeks. There have also been strong countrywide protests taking place for more than six weeks. I understand that many people are keen on moving to Colombia to teach English, but I’d recommend postponing those plans because relocating to a new country when the local environment isn’t very stable wouldn’t be without its risks.

The good news is that more and more people in Colombia are getting vaccinated, so there is hope that things will improve in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, I am still teaching online and spending most of my time at home. It isn’t the most interesting experience ever, especially when you are an avid traveller, but I prefer not to get frustrated by stuff that is outside of my control. I decided to focus on taking courses, reading books, and trying to develop as a teacher. Even though it doesn’t make for very exciting blog content, I hope to benefit from that in the future.

I believe that it’s important to stay positive and have something to aim for, and I’d like to end this post with a quotation from Silvina’s article:

Sometimes the beginning of the journey can be tough: language barriers, employment difficulties, bureaucratic obstacles and homesickness can make migrants doubt whether they took the right decision or not. It is true that reality can hit you hard in the face, but being patient and learning from good and bad experiences will make them stronger and resilient, as long as they firmly believe in what they are doing.

Webinar: How to use Web 2.0 for professional development

Centro Colombo Americano is a private language institute with branches in major Colombian cities. Last Friday, I delivered a webinar at a national ELT conference organised by CCA Bogotá. I had previously run a few workshops for students and teachers, but this was the first one focusing on a topic that I had chosen by myself. My webinar was one of many sessions taking place at the same time, so it was a low-key event attended mostly by people I know from real life.

How to use Web 2.0 for professional development

This is the abstract of my webinar:

Professional development is associated mainly with workshops and conferences, which are part and parcel of our teaching lives. It is also important to mention that there are additional sources of information available to teachers. This presentation aims to highlight the value of user-generated online content for professionals involved in ELT.

Social media sites can serve as much more than a platform for sharing memes and photos of food. They allow teachers to create their own personal learning network and learn from more experienced colleagues. It is valuable to stay in touch with teachers from around the world and share ideas with them, which can include ready-made lesson plans that can be used in one’s teaching practice.

There is also a plethora of useful information on ELT blogs. This type content is based on the author’s personal experience and it may provide the readers with inspiration for their own actions. Blogs also include guides for successfully obtaining advanced teaching qualifications.

Web 2.0 empowers teachers to get involved in the parts of professional development they find relevant to their own needs and interests. The presentation focuses on practical tips for taking advantage of this content and for getting involved in its production.

I know very well that Web 2.0 is just a buzzword that was popular fifteen years ago, and that it isn’t really used anymore. I figured that using fancy terms like that would increase the chances of having my proposal accepted. I was right because the organisers asked me to deliver a 40-minute workshop with a short Q&A session. This is how it went:

At first, I used Mentimeter to find out what ideas the participants associate with professional development.

Mind map: professional development

I then referred to Matt Ellman’s excellent blog post CPD is dead and here is why. I am sure that most teachers have attended workshops that turned out to be a complete waste of time. Ellman provides valid explanations for ineffectiveness of some CPD sessions, and suggests combining expert-guided learning with self-guided development. In my webinar, I stressed the importance of taking responsibility for your development as a teacher.

The main part of the session comprised of demonstrating how teachers can benefit from using social media and blogs. As I have mentioned before, there is a really nice community of ELT professionals on Twitter. I also find blogging very useful because it makes me reflect on my own teaching practice. By the way, I recommend watching Jim Fuller’s interview with Rachel Tsateri because they talked about the benefits of blogging and discussed other topics that developing teachers will find relevant.

There most likely isn’t a recording of the whole session, so I will leave only my slides here. I hope that you find some of the links to social media posts and blogs interesting. I imagine that a couple of the images may seem a little bit weird without an accompanying commentary, but I’m sure it’s obvious that they weren’t meant to be taken completely seriously.