There is no doubt that the events of the last twelve months have had a massive impact on English Language Teaching, to such an extent that many institutions and the people connected to them will never recover. Here in New Zealand I feel incredibly lucky that we are continuing to teach our classes in normal classrooms, unmasked and pretty much safe. We have had the odd scare and moved back to Zoom occasionally but it is quite probable that for the rest of the semester we will be fine. Numbers, however, are far from fine and we are really going to struggle without international students. We have a large population of migrants and former refugees who need to learn English in order to stay here and train or get a job, but with the borders closed, international students cannot come, no matter how many might want to.

The impact in the private sector has been particularly severe, with language schools in many destination countries simply closing due to the lack of students. Other schools which have always had a percentage of international students are also suffering, as are the universities. The tour operators and agencies who have provided language courses over the years suddenly find themselves with no destinations to send students to, and the homestay families are similarly losing their customers. Of course, the pandemic will end at some point but a lot of the above will not be coming back. Online delivery has become the new normal for the time being and there are all sorts of implications if that is to be the future. What sort of pedagogic approach is best for online delivery?, what sort of materials should we be using?, what kind of progress can we expect? and how can it be accredited? are some of the questions we need to get answers to.

So it seemed a little odd to choose Teacher Development as our theme for this issue. At first I did not get a huge response to the topic and I was getting slightly concerned I had chosen an irrelevant theme. But then as the months went by, things started to happen. I spoke to a couple of people who reached out to people they knew and suddenly I had a few more articles. I spoke to one regular contributor who replied with an article including the advice to reach out to colleagues as a regular part of professional development. How very apt! I attended a webinar at four in the morning New Zealand time and was amazed to find a couple of hundred people there, there is definitely a hunger for it when it is good. One contributor began with a story about not doing things the same old way and I was amazed to find a similar idea in the article I was writing for this issue. Great minds…! And it is this tip about trying to do things a little differently which stays with me. Getting a magazine out and running a course are very similar, so easy to do in the same old way, but so much more rewarding if you tweak things a little.

A lot of people have talked about reflection as a key part of teacher and/or personal development and I have to agree with them. How you go about that reflection process is absolutely up to you but the ability to experiment and judge the effect of changes made is a critical part of teaching. So for an issue which I began worrying about at the beginning of the year, I am now happy to say how pleased I am with it. There are some excellent practical ideas, some very pertinent classroom observations and some well-written opinion pieces. As ever, I am sure you will find something to take back in to your classrooms or back to your next Zoom session. I hope you are enjoying your classes and keeping your students happy and engaged wherever you are. Stay safe.

 

Robert McLarty