The importance of a professional community for English Language Teachers

Teaching can be a lonely job with limited interaction with other colleagues.

English teachers celebrated International Teachers' Day at the conferenceEnglish teachers celebrated International Teachers' Day at the conference (Source: Ondrej Koščík)

"If we do not hang together, we will all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin

As an English teacher, I often found myself feeling lonely, even though I was living in my native country. When I moved to Bratislava from Nitra over 15 years ago, I missed my community dearly and, being a stranger in the city, I started to think about ways to create a new circle of friends.

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I had always wanted to work with teachers from whom I could learn and with whom I could share, and I had dreamt about working with the authors of the books I was reading; I realized that starting my own school might be the easiest way to achieve these goals. I was determined not just to have fun colleagues, but to work with people alongside whom I could learn and grow.

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The importance of collaboration and mutual support

Teachers know that teaching can be a lonely job with limited interaction with other colleagues, especially when you teach for a language school, travelling around the town with a backpack, spending breaks in cafés and working when all your friends are free. Not a job one necessarily plans for life.

We teachers also tend to believe that the challenges we face in the classroom are unique to us and our students. In my experience we are far too often hostile to feedback, reluctant to learn from each other and we rarely foster cooperation. I guess it is like that because we dash from one class to another not having any chance to stop, talk and to actually build proper working relationships. Building trust takes time we often don´t have.

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Despite the tough reality, I strongly believe that mutual support and collaboration between teachers are crucial for maintaining our wellbeing, sanity and for continuous professional development. A space where we can come together to share experiences and network with each other is very important. We can only improve by working with those who are better than ourselves.

I have few opportunities for hands-on teaching these days but my enthusiasm and deep interest in teaching remains. I am lucky and proud to be able to work with The Bridge teachers, amazing people and true professionals. As a team, we decided to organise a conference to celebrate International Teachers´ Day. We put all our effort into creating an annual event, creating an extended space for teachers from all schools and communities.

The aim of the conference was to learn, to share experience and knowledge, to network with other English language teachers, and to celebrate Teachers' Day. With a variety of workshops to choose from attendees were able to tailor their learning experience to their interests and needs. In addition to attending workshops, everyone who attended made valuable connections that will help us grow as teachers.

Celebrating Teachers Day and supporting each other is crucial

We also took the opportunity to celebrate International Teachers' Day, which is on March 28th. It was our chance to “pat ourselves on the back” and to recognize and appreciate English language teachers everywhere. We had some fun activities to help us celebrate and show our appreciation for all that teachers do.

It is clear that a successful conference is more than a sum of its parts. More than 100 teachers coming together, alone or with friends and colleagues, wanting to be part of the event rather than mere attendees, plays such an important part in generating the buzz, the atmosphere for learning, sharing and enjoyment. Workshops can provide the skeleton; it is the teaching community that provides the real flesh on the bones.

We look forward to repeating the conference again next year and hope that even more teachers will join us to share their experiences and help bring together the teaching community.

We might not have turned the world of education around, but we definitely spent a fruitful, engaging and enjoyable Saturday.

The author of the blog is Klaudia Bednárová. She is founder of The Bridge, an English language centre in Bratislava.

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