Happy New Year wherever and whenever you are reading this. 2023 was a pretty bad year in so many ways so let us hope that this one is better. A year ago when we chose the topics for the magazine I think we all knew that wellbeing was an important one, and so it has turned out to be – I don’t think I have ever had so many suggestions for articles. We look at the topic from the point of view of the learner, the teacher and the manager; and I am sure you will find a lot of things which ring true.

I think the best advice I was ever given to avoid burning out or getting into a rut was ‘Take a hike!’. As you know, this expression can mean a number of different things depending on your context so I chose the most literal one. There is no doubt that getting outside walking in the countryside, the bush, the outback or whatever you want to call it, is absolutely brilliant for your body and your mind. Poets and novelists have always got great inspiration from being outdoors, and I find that a walk, or sometimes a more serious hike, allows ideas and feelings to pour through me and solutions to problems and ideas for new projects to come to mind. Another meaning might encourage you to think about a change, either a complete one or an adjustment. Taking on a new kind of class or adding a new responsibility, writing resources or running some professional development sessions are all ways of refreshing yourself professionally in an attempt to avoid finding work dull, or even worse!

Reading so many articles on the topic did make me wonder whether wellbeing was a newish word – I am not sure we talked about it much when I was first starting out on a teaching career. Checking with the Oxford Dictionary, however, I found that it has been around since at least 1561 when it is first mentioned in a translation from an Italian word. So, three years before Shakespeare was born we were already aware of the importance of physical, moral and mental positivity. I mention the great writer because this year we are celebrating four hundred years since his First Folio was published, essentially the complete works which came out seven years after his death. There were 750 copies printed and over 200 still remain, many accessible to the public. Do try and see one if you can.

I have recently been in touch with two people embarking on a teaching career, one having graduated the year before last from university and one taking it up much later in life after some lifestyle changes. They both did CELTA courses, one doing the four-week intensive and the other doing a two-month hybrid version with online teaching and seminars. One has written his thoughts about the course for this issue and his excitement about conveying meaning through the language to learners of the language makes for interesting reading. The other person’s view of the course was also quite typical, the feeling of wanting to know how to teach but being encouraged by the tutors to use her own approach and personality within a certain framework. Many of the ‘mistakes’ trainees make on those courses are not mistakes at all but are highlighted so we start to think about those key teaching values: illustrate rather than explain; elicit rather than tell; encouraging the learners to self-correct; and help each other. The very same things I learnt on my own initial training course forty years ago.

Talking of that period of my life, one of my colleagues from my first ever school, Adrian Underhill, has agreed to contribute to this issue. He has looked at the articles on wellbeing and written a short summary of key points arising from them, the takeaways if you will. So, from the teachers starting out now to those who have been doing it a while, and still with the same verve, we have a good spread of experience. A word we don’t often teach but which I particularly like is ‘thrive’. Wherever you are teaching this year, I really hope you thrive. Returning to the Oxford definition of wellbeing I also wish you happiness, health and prosperity.

Robert McLarty

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