The metaphor used in the title successfully illustrates in my view, the special place an EFL educator has in the learning environment when using the tree analogy. Teachers are the predominant support of the tree’s structure and as such we need to grow solid and strong providing a constant flow of nutrients via the roots and the soil- that being our training and work experience- to blossoms, namely our students. Just as the soil needs to be replenished, restored and maintained to supply the tree with what it needs, our pedagogical approach as well as our methodology and skills need to stay relevant and up to date to embrace the needs of all the learners.
By Ellen Tsourounaki Peck, ELT Teacher
Teaching, however, is a profession which encompasses a lot of aspects so it is not merely the academic qualifications and specialisation of the educators but also a multifarious personality which help them respond to the complexities of their work. Expanding on the tree analogy above, the sustainability of the tree trunk is not only affected by the quality of the soil but also by changes in climate and the ecosystems and the same happens to us, as unique individuals living in various social environments, when we experience changes; intellectual development through appropriate studies, the pursuing of diverse interests as well as our experiences affect and shape our personality. Education is a never -ending process, so adoption of a forever -learning stance on life can help us grow as individuals in a manner that will affect our work in a positive way. Our personal development is, therefore, of vital importance; how we conduct ourselves and portray our personality defines whether we are dedicated and determined to set and achieve the goals, taking pride in our work and getting personal satisfaction out of it.
In this day and age, the opportunities for professional and personal improvement are endless and advanced technology provides us with a plethora of tools which can be used while sitting comfortably on our sofa. Continuing education through events such as conferences, courses, seminars or via the recently founded online platforms through which webinars are offered, aims at the improvement of our skills and the efficient delivery of our lessons. Professional training offers practical solutions to real teaching challenges arising while preparing course material, designing or delivering lessons. We can adopt different strategies and come up with ideas to focus more on content, create active learning opportunities, and support work-embedded collaboration to incorporate feedback and reflective practice. Undoubtedly, being efficient is a key element of our work as EFL teachers meaning we have to stay organised, plan our time and focus on promoting our learners’ growth by setting high expectations and meeting them using the latest educational technologies as well as applying classroom management techniques. Our development as professionals will ensure we are able to tailor our classes to the students’ needs and get the desired outcomes.
Speaking from personal experience, the driving force behind the active participation in events and courses described above throughout my teaching career was this perpetual quest of what is there for me to discover and explore. It was the interaction with esteemed scholars and academics and exceptional colleagues with whom I had a lot in common. It had always been this feeling of belonging to this special community of professionals and the desire to listen to experts in our field, who share information and views that is so irresistible in our profession. And every time I feel I am in stagnant waters because I have run out of ideas, my methodology doesn’t serve my goals or I just need to refresh my practice, it is extremely important to partake in educational events, to find out what escapes me , to mingle with colleagues and receive interesting input. And it is this unique characteristic of our profession that makes me so passionate about ongoing learning; the fact that, although we function individually in class, it is the collaborative work of teachers and constructive discussions that produce the most innovative ideas.
On a personal level, the pursuit of other interests is also part of my journey to maturity and wisdom and I have to admit I feel extremely lucky to live in an era which offers numerous opportunities for professional and personal development. Attending various MOOCs has become one of my favourite pastimes, even though it is rather challenging to adhere to timetables and the completion of assignments. It is my firm belief that we ought to move forward, embrace and integrate the latest technologies such as digital classrooms into our daily routines, take advantage of emerging methodologies and exploit every opportunity for evolution. EFL teaching is a dynamic multifaceted profession and there is a magic world out there awaiting to be explored and inspire educators; after all, we, EFL teachers, are tree trunks.