Wednesday, 14 December 2016 20:54

Solitude in a crowded staffroom

Elsewhere on this blog Antony has penned some notes on solitude. That reflection arose through comments made at the book launch for Tom O’Donoghue, where teacher professional development was a consistent theme. Solitude is a wonderful opportunity to reflect and to improve, but even when time is available, that reflection can get pretty foggy and it may be hard to cut through to something meaningful.


But whatever its merits, solitude is about as elusive as quicksilver for the average ESL teacher amongst a sometimes roisterous teaching and admin schedule and the ever-crowded staffroom.


Professional development for most must be found elsewhere, and that somewhere should start with mentoring, PDs by experienced teachers, and, most of all, through teacher-teacher observations.


As a CELTA trainer, one of the main benefits to me from doing that work is the reflection that I am able to make on my own teaching through the observation and analysis of others. This is a luxury that most teachers do not have; the obvious solution is to build into the teaching program the opportunity to observe one’s peers.


PDs and workshops have their place and are valuable (this is not an either/or argument), but there is no substitute for seeing and doing.


Such observations do not have to be of experienced teachers only, and in fact experienced teachers would also benefit from watching new teachers, who bring thinking unencumbered by fatigue (it’s December, and I’m tired), bad habits,  fossilised teaching creeping in here and there…


A great thing about CELTA training is that I get inspired by the trainees, even through their mistakes when striving to push their boundaries, to go off and try some new idea or approach.


In sum, then, I think that observing others’ practice is the greatest resource we have for professional development, yet it is the least utilised. It may also be one of the best opportunities for productive solitude that many teachers will have.