Professional Development through English Teachers’ Club

Shashi Kayastha

Teacher development is a continuous process which includes teacher’s regular engagement, constant support and constructive feedback from peers and tutors, innovative platform, self initiated steps and committed dream. In the scenario of growing need for establishing professional communities of learning, English teachers’ club is one of the effective initiatives to collaboratively develop teachers. It is a platform for English teachers where they associate and network with other members of the same profession through collaborative engagement in capacity building activities. In this blog entry, I briefly introduce English teachers’ club, followed by its significance and finally highlight on the importance of joining such associations.

English Teachers’ Club

Mutual problem solving and collaborative learning draw teachers into a community seeking for their development. Padwad and Dixit (2008) advocate the need of professional learning communities in the context of shifting teacher education from product-oriented mode to social constructivist, process-oriented mode of working. It motivates the teachers to strive for the continuous and ever innovative processes of “change and mend” sequence where they learn to collaborate, commit, construct and contribute in local level to the global scenario, and activities that involve professionals in open and dynamic discussion enhances professionalism.

Teachers association is an essential platform for the teachers that associates and network with English teachers in a community for continuous growth through different professional practices. In recent decades, such association or networking has been established as one of the effective means of professional development for the teachers across the world. Teachers’ club is one of such associations and it is a small professional community. The club might be formal and informal, but both of them primarily serve the purpose of a professional association. Compared to other like-minded communities, it is more focused on building on capacities of teachers for their professional growth.

English teachers’ club (ETC) is a network of like-minded English teachers who are seeking to enhance their capacity and collaboratively develop effective teaching methods for their career development. Further, it helps to establish better working relationships among colleagues and creates a forum for exploring new teaching ideas or addressing perceived (or unperceived) problems and concerns.

Significance

Unlike various governmental and non-governmental efforts to develop English teachers, English teachers’ club can be a creative way of identifying local issues and needs of English teachers and accordingly build strategies in sorting out them through collaborative approach. It emancipates teachers from territory of accumulating fixed knowledge of one-size-fits-all approach since it builds a kind of channel to exchange the ideas, innovate the  ways to surpass the issue related to the teaching, search out the genuine and contextual knowledge that is applicable in local context and situation. The teachers, who are engaged ‘teachers’ club’, get access of varieties of sources of knowledge within the community they connect and they can also put their efforts to build on contextual theories based on best practices. Besides, they enjoy sharing and caring of each individual of their community for collective improvement.

Legutke & Ditfurth (2009) elucidate that knowledge does not just develop by accumulating information but is shared, negotiated and constructed through experience in the communities of practice in which individual participates. The teachers’ club provides them a platform and opportunities for them to share their experiences and discuss among themselves.  Similarly, Hord (1997) points out regarding the benefits of any professional learning community that it helps to reduce loneliness of teachers, motivate them to be committed to the mission and goals and the teachers starts taking joint responsibility for the success of the student and ultimately gets the work satisfaction leading to higher morale etc.

Benefits of joining English Teachers’ Club

Socialization

The basic need of 21st century is to learn to live together with the acceptance of sociocultural, religious difference. The culture of socialization starts with the sense of oneness in difference and attitude of compassion, respect, and understanding. Teachers club is the society of teachers that socializes one for the convenient and the successful life in the planet of teaching. It brings out the teachers from the confined territory of the cultural and social constrains to the land of acculturation. Thus, associative team activities are the crucial one to administer the overall development of an individual’s sociocultural aspect. It is mainly significant to the language teacher since language teaching and learning is an interactive process. Richards and Burns (2009) emphasize the teachers’ collaboration as they say “teacher learning is not something that teacher need achieve on their own –it is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interaction with others”. They add that “teachers can come to better understand their own belief and knowledge as well as reshape these understanding through listening to the voices of others”. That means socialization incorporates the habit of listening to others, respecting the contrary views, collaboratively deciding, assisting, advising, participating etc. In the other words “engaging with other means accepting the difference” (Singh, 2002). Teachers in ETC joins for fulfilling this requirement .They co-work, co-think, co-coach, co-operate, collaborate with the common sets of goal and action. The co-operative nature in positive competitive environment expands the possibility of creation.

Language development

Teaching is an art; the art requires pedagogical knowledge, creativity and proficiency of content so that teacher can well manage the class, deliver the content, make the learning possible in any situations.  The basic prerequisite of language teacher is that they should be well versed in language skills. English teacher’s language skill basically refers to teachers’ proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. As it has already been underpinned in the theory of education that language skills can be developed through the active participation in interaction, peer teaching and correcting process, ETC arranges the suitable and convenient environment for the teachers to involve in different collaborative learning projects such as collaborative action research, team teaching peer observation. Teacher can plan and implement the need based activities for skill enhancement. Teachers can engage in their need analysis where the basic needs of the teachers regarding language skill are identified, and they collaboratively prepare feasible and effective action plan, and put them into practice. In the process teachers assesses one another’s improvement, they provide feedback. It also orients the teachers with a variety of language teaching skills and strategy.

I hereby exemplify some strategies we use to enhance the language skills:

Strategy 1

We mostly organize a reading theater in our mini club where the entire group is divided into three: reader group who perform reading different literary and non literary genres, audience group as the active listener who jots down some notes as per the understanding and share, analyst group who analyze the whole process of the reading and audience group. We take the assignment to read and write refection which is peer checked in the following week.

Strategy 2

Collecting different national and international talk show, lecture, interview videos and audios and assembling for the listening practice where we the watch and listen the videos and share, comment and rethink about the topic in the group. It proved to be interesting and useful for the gradual improvement listening as well as the enhancing creativity and criticality, which but for being in group would be once in a blue moon.

Building Confidence

No matter what qualification and degree I have, until I have the deep faith deep inside me that I can do, no where I perform the best. The sentence seems very negative but it is the reality. Student starts gossiping on your unusual movement and babbling talk, counts how often you scratch on your hair, caricatures your perplexed look. All the content you give goes in vain and the teaching becomes the daunting task “leaving us with such physical symptoms as sweating and shaking”(Fifield, 2006). Hence it is necessary to build up the confidence along with improving the skill so that one can better perform what he /she knows. As already discussed collaborative approach in the teachers club is helpful in getting language skills as well as professional skills. Ganwali (2011) explains, “The members of an association will have greater confidence in their activities if we learn what our colleagues elsewhere are doing in the context” (p.189). In my experience, constant working with the people of the same profession of with different qualification, practices and potentiality equip you with daring and exploratory attitude towards teaching.

Accountability

Accountability is a policy of holding schools and teachers responsible for students’ academic progress. Accountability is taking responsibility for your words and actions.

ETC assists to grow a socialized teacher with the content, confidence that is sure to be aware of duty to self, duty to other. One pre service teacher viewed “Working with other teachers collaboratively created a synergy that helped me to look at teaching in ways I hadn’t considered…I now examine student motivation, teaching strategies, and accountability differently.”(Cited in Bates, 2010, p.63), that’s how the teachers’ whole perspective can be changed by the co-working environment of teacher club. Loughran (2005) explains that a communal practice where others are esteemed provides better prospects to reframe situation and that helps to modify one’s thinking about practice.

Empowerment

Establishing teachers’ community or networking through ETC is one of the fundamental objectives. The club is a medium through which the teachers get empowered and have access to higher level due to peer support and sense of group spirit. Hence, awareness in empowerment triggers several opportunities for professional growth.  In other words, it brings teachers networking, and networking is the strength to combat and create. ETC collects English teachers under a single roof as the united force to combat with the individual to the global issues of teachers that horn out leadership quality governed with knowledge and conscience in teacher, consequently leading him/her to get better career opportunities and especial identity. It has the power to place the teachers in professional competency to policy making level. Since the teachers remain informed and oriented of the worlds system and affairs in teachers networking, and gain maximum exposure to the different ideas in the area of their profession.

To sum up, the concept of the teacher club is not entirely new since we are familiar with different book clubs, teacher study circle, collaborative study groups, teacher associations, networks and so on.  English teacher clubs might be a possible forum to improve teaching as well as other professional skills. In a nutshell, it is entirely beneficial to the teachers to grow professionally.

References

Bates, A. J.(2010).Book Clubs as professional development opportunities for pre service teacher candidates and practicing teachers:An Exploratory Study6,56–73.  New York: The New Educator.

Fifield, A.(2006). (Retrieved from http://www.teflcorp.com/articles/79-tefl-how-teachers-can-increase-confidence-in-class/248-building-teachers-confidence-in-the-classroom.htm .)

Gnawali, L. (2011). Promoting ELE in Nepal NELTA way. In L. Farrell, U.N. Singh &

R.A. Giri. (2011). English language education in south Asia: From policy to pedagogy. India: CambridgeUniversity press.

Hord, S.M.(1997). Professional learning communities: Communities of Continuous Inquiry and Improvement.Austin: SEDL.

Loughran, J (2005) Teacher professional development in changing conditions.In D. Beijaard, P. C.Meijer, G.M. Dershimer & H.Tillemaet Springer(Eds.). Netherlands: Springer.

Padwad, A.& Dixit, K.K. (2008).Impact of professional learning community participation on teachers’ thinking about Classroom Problems. Retrived from http://teslej.org/ej47/a10.html.

Richards,J.C.,& Burns,A.(Eds.).(2009).The Cambridge guide to second language teacher Education. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

Singh, A. (2002). Setting the site. In C. Doyle, W. Kennedy, A. Rose, &K. Ludloweds, Teacher training: A reflective perspective. New Delhi: Kaniska publication.

Shashi

Shashi Kayastha
M. Phil. ELE
Kathmandu University

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