Teachers’ voices

Support groups for EFL teachers in Ireland.   Here are some from LinkedIn – an old one,  Ireland ELT Teachers’ Support Group, and a new one, TEFL teachers in Ireland.    There is the ELT management Ireland support group too, which helps in bringing leadership ideas together and offering a helping hand to those who don’t get the support teachers do (as it’s their job to be the supporter!). And there is the fledgling ELT Ireland (see here for their Twitter) – who already have some exciting events planned.

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And about time too.

I’ve been in the ELT industry in a few countries now, and when I started out I was in a big franchise in Germany with lots of  in house training.  And then at a smaller school in Italy with some in house training.  And then a university in Austria where I funded myself to attend conferences and the like.

Those conferences are usually in the UK, which also has support groups and workshops for teachers, and support groups for academic managers. I’m now in Ireland so usually have to travel across the pond to access professional support.

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It didn’t used to be like that.  Ireland used to have great workshops which, whatever the subject, were great ways just for teachers to get together and talk.  Now there is one IATEFL SIG with an annual event – a good start, but just that.  A start.  I was asked to speak at the last conference, but offered the place to another school as we had had a rep there the previous year, and that’s not the point.  We need variety, more schools involved, more SIGs, so it doesn’t become an Irish clique, excluding those who are’t in the know or who aren’t interested in just one subject within what is a very rich and interesting industry.

Teaching can be very isolating – you are in one classroom with 15 faces staring at you and maybe you have to dash off to catch your DART straight after class, so you don’t get the opportunity to talk with your colleagues.  You need  to vent your voice, you need a space to do that.

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I make a point of having regular teacher meetings and make sure once a month I don’t facilitate it at all- it’s a teacher swap session or one of the teachers is in charge.  I gave up on my specified office hour and welcome teachers at any time. I have pushed for generous Teacher Development funding and handed over to teachers to decide what route they want to take, according to their interests and teaching.

But having lots of avenues of communication open within the four walls of one school is not enough.  Getting out and talking to other teachers, and having opportunities to do so, is why movements such as ELT Ireland are such a good idea.  I suggest an informal, non academic ‘teachers’ voices’ magazine too, open to all Irish teachers who want to share, show off and learn. I’d like to see more teachers participating in the very lively #ELTchinwag (every other Monday, 8-9pm – next one on 24th March).

Irish EFL teachers have a lot to say – and I’m looking forward to hearing their voices more and more.

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