Go wide and then narrow.
I know I’ve been a wee bit quiet for a while. Mark Armstrong was perhaps a little hasty in suggesting I was hyper-prolific. I’ve had so very much on my plate since the beginning of the year. I came back from a holiday in Cambodia to an insane amount of work. Because I work across so many contexts, projects, and organisations, I was spread very thin; to the point of losing my sanity. I suddenly realised how stupid I’d been. I wasted years at university studying economics instead of linguistics because I’d thought I would need a career that would get me job. And here I was doing a rinse and repeat. I was delivering corporate training that I didn’t enjoy. I suddenly found myself teaching things that made no sense to me (some faff called team dynamics and some other crud about leadership). I was being bullied by the organisations I worked with. And yes it all paid really well but money as you well know isn’t everything.
The breadth of activities was useful in giving me insight into the bigger picture and making my approach more multi-disciplinary. However, ELT is where I want to be. It may seem narrow but this is the field I find most fulfilling.
Go shallow and then deep
Regardless of what folks might say about ELT practices not being backed by adequate research, this is, in my opinion, perhaps the only field in the wide spectrum of learning-related disciplines that actually attempts to base its practices on research and tries to (truly) consider the learner experience. If you’re cynical about ELT, you ought to see the crud that passes for learning in corporate contexts. I can barely hide my sneer when I see the words ‘centre of excellence’ on a business card. An overwhelming majority of what’s on offer is thoroughly underwhelming: the latest digital learning (crappy presentations converted into elearning), on-the-go mobile learning (same crappy presentations in a mobile format), and engaging instructor-led training (crappy presentations being talked through by a Charlie who ought to have his lips sown).
Although I have worked across different ELT contexts (General English, Business English, ESP, EAP and teacher training), I feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface. I haven’t done any formal study since my DELTA three years ago. Teacher training and materials writing are areas I want to explore more deeply. Young learners and refugees are contexts I want to work in. I’d also like to get more involved with professional associations and other ELT collectives and churn out some papers and maybe even an ebook or two. In other words, I gotta dig deeper.
I’ve recently been approved to train CELTA courses as an Assistant Tutor, a move that will help me consolidate my portfolio of activities and facilitate the depth that I’m looking for.
Go fast and then slow
This past year has been frantic. I’ve been spread so thin that I’ve hardly had any time for myself, let alone for people I enjoy spending time with. I didn’t go the theatre, barely got any exercise, didn’t go trekking during the monsoon, didn’t participate in eclectic workshops, didn’t read as much, didn’t learn any new languages, didn’t meet new people … and the list goes on. I even spent my birthday writing training materials, albeit at a beautiful beach side hotel in Goa.
When I quit a full time job, I thought I’d have more time, not less, to do the things I love. It turns out that freelancing, especially when you have niche skills in a market full of people with generic offerings, is just a volley of clients and institutions putting pressure on you to over-commit. As a result, you end up in the perpetual fast lane and half the time you don’t know if you’re coming or going.
I just have a couple more contractual obligations to complete and then I’m taking the first exit. I’m really looking forward to 2017-18 which is going to be filled with meaningful projects, and at least half as much time with family, friends and doing things other than work.
Whereabouts are you now? Are you going wide, shallow and fast? What will it take for you to go narrow, deep and slow?
Image attribution: Dive! | Robbie Sproule | Flickr | CC by 2.0