The photo on the front cover of this issue is one I have been thinking of using for some time. Although it may not be obvious at first glance, the photo is made up of a whirling vortex of books. This seems to symbolise some of the concerns about information overload and the pressures of work and study expressed by quite a few of our contributors.

For Diana Bauducco, many of the stresses and strains of both teaching and learning – inevitably exacerbated by the Covid crisis – can be explained by Cognitive Load Theory. This proposes that our brains can become overwhelmed if faced by too much input all at once. In our main feature, Diana offers some solutions to lighten the load for our students in difficult times.

Thomas Ziegelwagner came across some online advice on lightening the load for students: by not bothering to teach them correct pronunciation. He investigates the issue from several angles and concludes that accurate pronunciation is needed for a variety of reasons, but we should, perhaps, be a little more relaxed in the way we teach it, so that it becomes less burdensome.

For James Heal, the current turbulent situation can be likened to a stormy sea which we and our students are attempting to navigate. James believes that resilient teachers can, and do, rise up to meet such challenges in a creative way, and that we are being presented with an opportunity for professional development from which we will reap many rewards when, once again, we find ourselves sailing in calmer waters.

Jonny Maitland recommends reducing stress in the young learner classroom by abandoning the use of behaviour charts as a means of imposing classroom discipline. Although such charts are often recommended on training courses, evidence from parents and experienced teachers suggests that they may have a negative effect on motivation, can be a source of distress for learners and may all too easily be used to praise or censure performance rather than behaviour.

Charlie Ellis, meanwhile, takes a light-hearted look at four afflictions to which English language teachers appear to be highly susceptible. None of these maladies is life-threatening, but they do reflect the all-consuming nature of our profession, and ‘Doctor Ellis’ prescribes greater attention to our work–life balance in order that the symptoms should not become too severe.

When all else fails (and when travel restrictions permit), you could always take a much-deserved and long-overdue holiday. For some ideas on the more unusual forms this future holiday might take, have a look at the Scrapbook. In the meantime, enjoy this issue of ETp, be sure not to get sucked into the vortex, or – if you do – try to come out the other side refreshed and invigorated.

Helena Gomm