We might not have the influence or resources to change whole trees, but we can always contribute new leaves. New growth. Every single little sequence of growth counts. Image credits: Darren Hester
It's the start of a new season for most of us, and no doubt the start of a new term or semester for many as well.
It's the perfect time - before things get too cluttered - to think about what you're going to change about your teaching.
And you know what? It's also a good time to think about what you might be able to contribute to education - where you are, locally, as well further afield.
Many readers might see a comment like that and think "Yeah, sure - only problem is that I don't really have anything to contribute. I can't change anything..."
This reaction is a sad one which leads me to believe we suffer from something very close to clinical depression in certain areas of education. Depression is a serious illness. In education, depression encompasses that feeling of insignificance and irrelevance. Powerlessness.
No teacher should feel like that.
But every teacher has the chance to do something to prevent feeling like that as well.
Like a lot of other teachers (I suspect), I'm a big believer in change and making changes, but I often end up aspiring to changes that are too ambitious or unrealistic (leading to a bit of a crash), and then in reaction to that only really trying for changes that are pragmatic but in the end somewhat fail-safe.
Striking a realistic balance between ambitious and realistic change is a challenge.
But in any case, here are three changes I am aiming for this term/season...
One is local, and the other two are international.
Change 1: I'm going to get more involved in ELT and ICT locally
I live in the smallish city of Geelong, 90 kilometres or so south west of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. There is a vibrant community of migrants and refugees here, and while they are generally well catered to by local language learning initiatives, there is a lot seriously lacking.
I've generally (up to this point, only having returned to Australia 18 months ago) ignored what is happening in ELT locally. Time to change that. I'm not sure exactly what I can offer, but I can start by finding out what people feel is needed.
I've been approached to help local ELTers here improve their ICT skills. There's a good start, perhaps.
As the husband of a migrant in this area, I really feel that migrants' sense of isolation and helplessness isn't really understood all that well here. Local meetings and events? What about the enormous potential of social media to help migrants, not only in this area but right across the country, connect and build and benefit from a social network that is supportive and inclusive?
There's nothing in the way of a local English language teachers association. As a past president of a provincial TESOL chapter in Korea, and a national coordinator of a SIG, there may be something I can offer on that front as well.
There may be too many leaves here to consider all at once, and some of them might be a little too big to handle in a single season. But I hope I can explore and add at least one small leaf to the local tree here...
Change 2: I'm going to launch an innovative online extensive reading resource for children that will be 100% accessible for free
It's called World Adventure Kids, and I've already blogged about it a bit here. But the main change is that I'm going to ensure it remains an open and 100% free resource for teachers and their younger learners globally to access and enjoy. Oh, and the other change is that I'm actually going to really bloody finish it and launch it this time!
Is it going to cause changes to planetary orbits? Of course not. But it's something I can offer up, and hopefully something a lot of young people will enjoy and learn from.
Change 3: I'm going to travel to Japan in November and attend JALT 2010 as a professional listener
I haven't actually attended any sort of major ELT conference for a good 18 months or so. However, more importantly, it occurred to me recently - having just had two workshop proposals at JALT 2010 rejected based on a very silly error on my part - that it has been several years since I attended a conference purely as an audience member and not a presenter.
That led to some reflective thinking: what - I only go to a conference if I can be a presenter at it?
If so, something's gone quite wrong with that overall picture...
So, while this is a fairly major change for me and a potentially miniscule one for anyone else in the ELT world, I am going to attend JALT 2010, I am going to pay my own way 100%, and I am going to go there purely to listen to others.
I'm sure I'll pick up loads of new insights and ideas and benefit (personally) from it enormously. And on the 'contribution' side of things, it's one more attendee in several presenters' workshops, I guess, but they're all potentially leaves in the bigger (treeish) scheme of things, right?
So there are three changes I'm aiming for this season. By contributing outwards, there's no doubt in my mind that there will be a lot of nourishment inwards as well.
It will be interesting to blog about this sort of topic again in December - and see what's gone down!
And how about you?
What leaves do you think you might be able to offer this season?
There are always at least a couple you might be able to spare...
Think about it. Tweet about it. Blog about it.
Most importantly... do it and be it!