Maturity brings benefits. Let's celebrate aging
I feel I was "young" for a very long time. Now I feel - not so young anymore. Is it a vanity thing, or did I just get used to being the enthusiastic and naive young thing in my circle of friends and colleagues? (Disclaimer: this is from my perspective, as delusional as it may be. The blog is a bit of a personal rumination on what I'm noticing in myself of late - an internal shift in self-perception within a professional development context).
For years I felt 2 steps behind my peers who generally seemed far more experienced and knowledgeable. I would invariably hold back on sharing my thoughts for fear of showing my ignorance. I lacked a background in many ELT basics, had no idea about SLA and was 100 miles away from contemplating any evidence-based research relating to my job - how do you even access such a thing...?! I'd find myself double checking before posting any simple Facebook comment that could be picked on by a far more erudite reader, sarcastically pointing out an innocent (ignorant) error, or even spelling mistake. Oh the shame of it! (Wasn't Facebook supposed to be for fun?!)
Fast forward 20 years, I now know that I know stuff. And my confidence is growing with every opportunity I have to express what I think about what I have learned - what I continue to learn - about language learning and teaching; and I know what SLA is now! (Second Language Acquisition - it's really interesting, especially when you read the controversial things! Do you subscribe to Chomsky's input theory of language learning? Or find corpus linguistics has more to offer when grappling with understanding how we learn a language? This Twitter thread caught my attention recently:
Do check the whole thread, especially the last comment - I certainly learnt at least 2 things from reading it: https://twitter.com/FocusCorpus/status/1652585151350579205?s=20)
Since engaging with giving feedback (or as I prefer to think of it feedFORWARD) to our participants on the Distance Cert IBET, the knowledge I've gained over the past 23 years of teaching is coalescing for me. I don't profess to know "everything" (that's not humanly possible) and what I do "know" may be differently "known" by our TDCI participants. This, I feel very keenly, is an essential element to what I have learned: we all bring to the table our own perspectives based on experience and input and no one person can claim to know better than the other. Irrespective of how many years they may have under their belt.
The concession is that, us slightly older folks who've been around the block and back again at least a couple of times (as opposed to the really old folks who've been around since dinosaur times!), have collected a lot of experiential knowledge. Perhaps more importantly, we've grown personally alongside our professional selves. I feel this is what gives some of us an edge when it comes to sharing what we know - we have a sense of how to share. And when not to share.
As I type these wandering thoughts, I can almost hear indignant brain cells whirring: "What about all the older people who still haven't learned how to appropriately share their knowledge, and younger people who are brilliant feedforward-givers?" I appreciate the ageist undercurrents of what I'm suggesting here. Indulge me. I'm exploring some thoughts born of my (recently) lived experiences.
Ultimately, what I'm getting at is, if you feel like I used to as a greenhorn teacher, keep at it. Keep going to training courses and conferences, engaging in social media exchanges (you soon learn to spot the trolls you need to stay clear of), reading books related to your areas of interest - and occasionally dip your toe into the more academic-ky ones. Remember to check in with yourself and acknowledge what and how much you are doing well - perhaps even better than you did this time last year. When with trusted colleagues, explore wild ideas about how to teach a certain type of learner, or lesson, or grammatical point. Then gradually, you'll have the confidence to speak up in other settings, safe in the knowledge that you do know what you're talking about. And if others disagree with what you say, that's OK. As long as they're not factually incorrect (yeah, I know, that's a moving target these days...), who are we to denigrate their point of view?
We may not stay young and energetic forever, but we'll have earned every wrinkle and grey hair when we can stand up confidently - and respectfully - engage with others to share the knowledge and experience we've diligently gathered and acquired.