Welcome to another issue wherever you are in the world. We know that it has been a devastating year for many of our colleagues in the teaching and travel business and I can only hope that next year is better for everyone. Teachers have had a huge responsibility coping with a year group which has suffered a lot. Nobody wants 2020 to feature on your record as that year but whatever age our students or pupils are, it has been hard. As you know, our last two magazines have been themed around online teaching but for this one, I can detect a real desire to move forward, possibly still online but at least offering a blended course. Just like the medical staff all over the world have adapted to the experience and learned from it, so have teachers.

So as we move on, materials development is going to be a key part of our teaching lives. I am delighted that my colleague and friend, John Hughes, has written the opening article laying out some very clear guidelines on things which all teachers should get to be able to do. The other articles on the theme have the variety I have come to expect from our writers, covering the use of pictures, online writing tasks, specialised language for work, video drama and a great insight into how to plan and manage a whole series of readers.

As usual, we have articles from all parts of the globe, on all ages of learners and levels of experience. Ten of the articles are by teachers writing their first articles for us and three of them have been edited by someone joining our editorial team for the first time. Having read her first articles, she described them as fresh and immediate as the work of teachers researching and reflecting on their teaching experiences. That is exactly what we all try to do every day – plan, teach, reflect and make small adjustments for next time. Despite my having started teaching 40 years ago, I still have the same reactions before, during and after class.

At the moment, I am particularly concerned by pronunciation. In a class of multilingual students, you have a seemingly infinite number of different ways of pronouncing words and phrases. Provided the intelligibility is acceptable, learners’ individual accents can seem at first to be tolerable, but it is only as you realise that each learner is also understanding in their own way, that you see how quickly a complete breakdown can occur. For teachers it is relatively easy since we develop habits for recognising what people are trying to say. People outside the classroom and some of their classmates inside do not have that particular skillset or interest in trying to develop it. In recent oral presentations my students interchanged forest and ferret at will along with weather and water, and pests and pets. Every semester I say to myself that I will have to be stricter, so next semester I will try again.

We all have ambitions for next year, not only for our own teaching but for the whole world. If we consider what we can control, then I would recommend taking next year as one of positive change, not only how you teach, but where and who you teach. Think about materials development, think about how we assess and think about bringing an element of surprise to your classroom. It might just help. Wherever you are, have a great break and a brilliant 2021.

 

Robert McLarty

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