This post first appeared in the Cultura Inglesa Teachers’ Portal blog post section. It refers to three other texts written by colleagues. However, I felt that the reflection was something that might be relevant to other teachers as well. So, I decided to share it on my own blog.
A couple of weeks ago Guilherme Pacheco began talking about fostering learner autonomy and he drew a parallel with how horses are shown the way to water and then learn how to get there by themselves. He made the point that we as teachers should strive to achieve the same objectives with our learners, this is one of the main elements of the communicative approach. Then Paulo Machado wrote about Samurai warriors and teacher development as a path for continuous development, but which necessarily implies an understanding that change will be brought about in the way we look at things, and we need not fear this change. It’s the only way we can move forward. In our third post, Monica Freire discussed the importance of celebrating our achievements and allowing ourselves the time to recognize what new abilities and skills we have conquered, not only because it is good and important for us as teachers to look back and see how much we have grown professionally, but also to act as role models for those entering the profession.
And I want to continue with this topic of development, change and adventure. I want to come back to horses, but from a different angle. I want to talk about non-traditional paths, about non-linear options, about choices which may seem strange to others, but make sense to you at that given moment. I want to talk about that gut feeling that drives you to do something, to make a choice, but which you can’t explain to your best friend. You just know you have to do it.
Sometimes in our teaching career we have clear options shown to us in terms of how we can develop professionally. More often than not the options are related to certificates, diplomas and courses which provide you with a statement of the level you have achieved. This is an important and fundamental part of our teaching life. It will help us in our career paths, it will help us earn better salaries.
But there are moments in our teaching career when, for example, we confront a particularly challenging teaching situation and we ask ourselves: “Have I got it all wrong?” But it won’t be a certificate or a piece of paper which will allow you to reach the understanding you need to see the situation from a new perspective. You, in fact, need to immerse yourself in a new environment and context. More often than not, you won’t seek a traditional path, you will need to find the gateway to a new adventure. You will need to be quite open minded, open to new experiences, however strange and daunting they may seem at first. As long as the fear of the new does not paralyze you, throw yourself into this new adventure. The adventure may be as simple as learning to do something new which you had always wanted to, but had never found the time to do. It may be travelling by yourself for the first time. It might be deciding to go on a spiritual retreat. It might be deciding to join an association and meeting new people outside your regular circle of friends. It might be learning to tend to plants. It might be finding space in your life for a pet. It might be finding space in your life for a new partner, friend, companion. The only certainty we have is that if we do nothing, then we won’t be able to help ourselves overcome the challenges we come across both professionally and, of course, personally.
And where do the horses come in? Well, horses are the embodiment of a free and strong spirit, animals who are confident and carry you through any rough terrain, yet are also caring and good companions. And if you watch the link to the video of The Horse Boy, you will see how a non-traditional option, a seemingly crazy idea, and an understanding that if at times we don’t seek the well-known path, but rather something completely different, it may set you onto a good option, which will help you deal with your challenges from a different perspective and will give rise to new and exciting possibilities. And the change will help you professionally and personally as well.
(31/03/2015 – for the Cultura Inglesa Teachers’ Portal)