In anxious times, focus on doing your best.
Irena Barker says teachers should put their worries behind
When I started the job of editing the fantastic new-look EL Gazette three weeks ago, it was with a degree of anxiety. Any new editor hopes to move a magazine forward to even greater things without compromising its existing values and the things it already does well. Could I do the job as well as I wanted to? Could I improve reader engagement and win a new audience without alienating our loyal existing readers? A few nights of sleep were lost in pondering these questions.
But these are anxious times, we are all experiencing deeply uneasy feelings. Only last week, my parents called me at work to check if I had not been caught up in the Westminster terror attack. From our Clerkenwell offices, less than two miles away, it seemed like a strangely distant news event.
But days later, the Saudi Arabian embassy confirmed that the man who carried out the attack, Khalid Masood, had taught English in the Kingdom for a year from November 2005 and for another year from April 2008 (see page 6). Bad news for those working to improve the image of the EFL teacher. And bad news for any teachers in Saudi with no extremist intentions who just want to get on with their jobs without being surrounded in a cloud of suspicion. With the world as it is, anxiety – over terrorism, job insecurity, the possibility of nuclear war – is the new normal.
But perhaps there is a way for us to get through these times. On page 12/13, we look at new research into foreign language classroom anxiety, which finds teachers are not to blame for their students’ anxious feelings in class. Pupils can have anxiety over language learning whatever their attitude towards their teacher.
Instead, the research says, teachers should work on making lessons more enjoyable and this in itself could reduce anxiety.
Perhaps as we face terrorism on our doorstep, the unsettling circus of Donald Trump, the dubious shadow of Putin and the horrors in the Middle East, we should try to do the same. By focusing on how we can lead enjoyable, fulfilling and purposeful lives, this energy-sapping anxiety could be reduced.
This latest edition of EL Gazette offers loads of inspiration for going about this in your professional life: our previews of this month’s IATEFL conference, for example, stress how vital it is for English teachers to be aware of their students’ learning differences and special needs, however short a time they might spend with them (page 20). And English teacher Linda Ruas explains the importance of discussing potentially controversial global issues in the classroom (page 24). Our editor-at-large Melanie Butler delves into the often side-stepped issue of diversity in ELT on page 28. And finally, hats off to the Mexicans on page 14, who, rather than worrying about Trump’s immigration policies, have started to train up deportees from the United States as English teachers.
The deportees, many of whom are native English speakers, will be used to address a massive shortfall of English teachers in the country.
So, anxiety may be the order of the day, but we don’t need to let it take over. The researchers are right, it is better to light a fire than worry about being cold.