My Journey in Professional Development
by Aziz Soubai.
What do you think happened in the summer of 2014? That summer is of huge significance for me. Why? I’m very sure the lives of so many teachers and educators around the world have changed a lot since that summer.
One of those teachers was me, a novice English teacher from Morocco. I was thrilled beyond description and this was the start of my professional journey as a language teacher and educator.The joy lasted for 10 weeks, but those weeks passed by like 10 minutes for me!
So, what happened exactly is that I was surfing the Internet one day and found the announcement of an online course called the iTDi Summer School MOOC for English Teachers. Something in this title made me so curious to know what this whole course was about. I decided to register and what followed that choice led to a tremendous achievement for me. Back then I didn’t have much experience in online learning and more particularly with WizIQ. It was summer time, a time when most people go to the beach, take a swim, wear sunglasses, and enjoy the freshness of water and the beauty of sunsets. I still remember the two voices in my head. One was saying, “What? Are you out of your mind? Do you want to imprison yourself in front of the computer for this whole time?!” The other voice, however, which was essentially supported by passion and curiosity, was a little stronger: “You have to see what’s going on in here. This looks like a huge learning opportunity – and it is free!”
The next day the voice of passion emerged victorious. However, that was not the end of the story and I had to face many challenges. The sessions were utterly amazing and were mainly about topics related to teachers’ interests and classroom practice. There were sessions about teaching using games, videos, stories, web tools, and more. It was true enjoyment for me and I could attend most of the live sessions. I resorted to the recorded ones only to prepare for the quizzes (that were part of the MOOC program) or when there were connection issues. The thing that really bothered me, though, was the deadlines and the multiple-choice questions which needed a lot of concentration and effort. I know that it was not meant to be a self-paced course. Consequently, I sometimes had to stay up a whole night to make sure I could submit the quiz in due time. I learnt to be more active and get rid of procrastination, which is a pretty devastating habit. All this made me reticent and I realized that I got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet. And then I really made a huge one!
That summer online course with iTDi created a kind of insatiable thirst for knowledge inside me. I have become a great online learner and this in turn affected how I now prepare my lesson plans and deal with my students. The tips, ideas, and strategies I gained and am still gaining from iTDi courses are countless. For example, I now rely more on technology, especially English language applications that teach spelling, pronunciation and vocabulary. I also train my students to use learning management systems like Edmodo to do homework or participate in global projects with other schools. Additionally, I use students’ portfolios for teaching, assessment and reflection.
I feel I have become a global citizen, and a more reflective teacher and thinker. I now firmly believe that “anything I can do, we can do better”, an important message and one of iTDi’s principles as described by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto. In fact, this is very true for language teachers. We face more or less the same learning and teaching challenges and we share the same concerns. Here I’m specifically talking about language areas like grammar, especially for EFL learners, which was mentioned in one the talks of Betty Azar, Keith Floss and Michael Swan.
I realize now that my journey in professional development never ends. Every single day I learn something new. I learn from students who are constantly changing themselves. I learn from interacting with my colleagues. I learn from iTDi bloggers. I learn from bad experiences and, most of all, from my own mistakes and blunders.
“I’m praying for the rain and I gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.”