It is probably an understatement to say that 2020 is a year that we all will remember for some time. It is hard to believe that it is December already and that I am writing my last post of year. As a reflexive practitioner, I always like to look back and reflect on what happened and think about or plan the next year. It is also important to remember your achievements, and this is particularly important in this weird year. So, look at yourself with kindness and savour your big and small accomplishments because you deserve it.
I know this can be a difficult thing to do, so to help you get started, it’s worth watching this TEDx Talk on To Achieve Success, Start Detecting Your Small Wins to understand why this matters and how to do it.
A moment of thanks
As a fellow teacher and blogger, I'd like to thank you all for your incredible hard work, endless strength and commitment to ELT teaching you have shown since the start of the pandemic. I believe we need to acknowledge our efforts and those of the academic and support teams – in transitioning so wonderfully well from face-to-face to (live) online delivery and various forms of hybrid teaching. We are usually a pretty good bunch, but what teachers managed to do in such little time is simply amazing. In all contexts and across all levels, teachers were able to adapt and change the core element of what they do, in many cases completely transforming their teaching practice in a matter of weeks. So, if you haven’t been thanked yet, on behalf of every student, on behalf of the sector, and on behalf of academic managers, director of studies and principals, I salute you.
Should I stay or should I go now?
We've had few ups and a lot of downs as a country, as an industry, and even perhaps personally in 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic – when we still had jobs – and started to learn to use the new tech tools that are now becoming second nature to us, everything soon became doom, zoom and gloom. We may have also witnessed some of our colleagues’ and our own mental health becoming worse and worse because of the lockdown, the restrictions, and so on. We started seeing people we know losing their jobs, friends struggling to stay afloat, colleagues falling ill and all sorts of negative things … and we started feeling less than okay, yet everyday probably pushed ourselves to feel positive. And it is a good thing to do – to certain extent. Trying to keep upbeat is great, but we need to remember that it’s okay not to be okay.
So, everything may feel very dark at the moment and that is because it is. We shouldn’t minimize the situation. We need to acknowledge the pain, the sadness, the fear and the grief caused by Covid-19 on a personal and professional level. Otherwise we run the risk of causing us and others a much deeper trauma.
But whereas it’s been tough, and acknowledging it is vital, we can overcome the pain, the sadness, the fear and the grief. It’s not an easy task and requires commitment as well. One way to feel better is by making choices. You might feel that the ELT industry is falling apart or that you were pushed out of the market. And whereas there is a lot of truth about that, this view implies that you are completely subjected to the environment – there is certainly some of it, of course, and for many our industry seems to have become incredibly precarious – but you need to remember it’s not your fault!
So, you can make choices. Some will be as easy as choosing between an apple or an orange and others will be really tough. If you were unlucky enough to lose your job, you now have the choice of staying on your current career path or moving on – I know it sounds ridiculous and out of touch, but it is not. There are ways to plan your successful exit from the ELT industry – temporarily or permanently – as professionals, we have developed fantastic soft and hard skills that can be used throughout a number of industries (related or otherwise), or even the in same field but with different subject or context, and are transferrable. In other words, if you are feeling rather lost at the moment, remember that by critically analyzing the situation, you can feel better by making a conscious choice to stay or to go.
Whether you decide to stay or leave ELT, we all need some strength to carry on now. Your wellbeing is very important to you and to others surrounded by you. In case you’re running out of ideas of what to do to push away dark and negative feeling and try to feel better during these unprecedented times, use these five suggestions:
- Handle tough times
- Use art, music and journaling.
- Spend time in nature.
- Set some small goals, and get help seeing them through.
- Talk kindly to yourself.
- Count five things you are grateful for each day.
- Do volunteer work.
- Find hobbies.
- Join clubs or committees.
- Practice sports.
- Find a safe online community.
- Be active
- Take a break.
- Go for a walk.
- Walk a dog.
- Practise belly breathing.
- Eat well
- Veggies, fruit and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Cook a meal for yourself.
- Bake for someone.
- Get enough sleep – usually that means seven to eight hours, but you know how many hours your body needs.
- Try and relax by avoiding checking emails or social media in the last hour before going to bed.
- Before bedtime, practise some wind down yoga or evening yoga stretches.
As the saying goes: never let a good crisis go to waste. We can certainly use this moment to reinvent what we do so I ask you what is ELT for you, and what would you like it to be like if you could change it?
Personally, I strongly believe we make our industry better by working together, so I really would like to see it become:
- more equitable
- more socially just
- free of native-speakerism
- more critical
- less hegemonic
- less imperialistic
- more sustainable
- more green
- more inclusive
- more intercultural
- less precarious
- less focused on international exams and measurement
So, my final message is let’s dare to dream, let's reconceptualise the ELT industry together, let's reinvent ourselves yet again, let's take advantage of these new skill sets you have acquired through such hard times, let‘s continue to make ELT a more just and inclusive field, let's work together to discover all the possibilities available and create our own version of the industry. And as we ready ourselves to bid goodbye to 2020 this month, let’s prepare ourselves to give a warm welcome to 2021!
Bassiri, M. (2018). To Achieve Success, Start Detecting Your Small Wins. TEDx Talks, YouTube.
Ocriciano, M. (2020). Hey! How are you? Teacher wellbeing in the New Year. English Teaching professional blog.
Ocriciano, M. (2020). How to tackle anxiety in tough times. English Teaching professional blog.