Sustainable English Teaching
Sustainability means ensuring a bright future for our society, our planet, and our business. Yet many of us face critical questions about the future of English language teaching. The field is changing rapidly, with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), flipped classrooms, blended courses and online student-lead apps that might replace the language teacher. The ͚business-as-usual͛ model will not sustain us. Adapting to this new educational reality is no longer an option, it͛s a must if we want to sustain our students, our career and ourselves in the future.
Although sustainability is a 21st century buzz word in business, the idea has been around for millennia.The ancients gave us valuable practical knowledge on how we can implement it. Socrates advised us to ͚dare to disagree͛ and not follow the herd. Aristotle proposed giving people meaningful tasks. Plutarch recommended role models to inspire us. Rufus suggested keeping a record of your progress. Epicurus offered thoughts on the art of happiness. Epictetus instructed us to build a strong mind set.
Drawing on these great thinkers, we can develop a sustainable road map to the future by following seven principles; looking up to a shared ideal, listening up and remaining aware of change around us, speaking up and making our voices heard, teaming up with others, stepping up and taking action, lightening up and remaining positive in the face of adversity, and never giving up when things go wrong.
Being a sustainable teacher means ensuring a future for ourselves, our students and our careers. This means establishing both short term goals (getting through the academic year) and long term goals (looking ahead 5 years), as well as local goals(making a difference in our classrooms) and global goals (contributing to a better society and planet). This can be achieved by following the 7-up principle outlined on the plenary.
Look up; we must first of all identify why we teach and develop a personal mission statement. Then we communicate this to our students, and help them identify their aim in learning English.
Listen up; next we develop the type of listening skills that makes good communicators.
Speak up; then we teach our students (and ourselves) how to communicate ideas through persuasion techniques.
Team up; after that we look for stakeholders outside the classroom to build a community for our students and our school.
Step up; now we act decisively and with organisation to implement our goals, using behavioural insights taken from the growing field of nudge theory.
Lighten up; we cannot ignore the growing burden of responsibility we all feel every day put upon us by various stakeholders. However, we should remember the value of not taking ourselves too seriously or taking things too personally!
Michael Robbs is from Britain and has lived and worked in Greece for 25 years as an English teacher, Business English coach, cross cultural trainer and teacher trainer for the Hellenic American Union. He has given numerous presentations around the world on human – computer interaction, project management, teaching teachers to draw, psychology for language teachers and professional innovation.
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