Smooth seas have never made skilled sailors

Faten RomdhaniSmooth seas have never made skilled sailors

Faten Romdhani


The title for my article comes from an African proverb that I believe reveals a lot about between teacher challenges and growth.

The challenges educators face in the developing world are vital in making professionals in the education field stronger, in the sense that challenges sharpen their adaptation skills. However, this requires that teachers are passionate enough about this profession to meet the challenges. Otherwise, they will simply quit and hate the day they chose to teach.

Nevertheless, even passionate teachers might endure setbacks, and might at times feel stuck somewhere and have difficulty finding the courage to work harder. They feel like they are “ploughing the sea”. The teachers’ endless physical, emotional efforts are met with a variety of results. Some teachers feel reborn each time they face a challenge. Others simply feel unable to carry on. This is indeed due to the intricacies of their emotional, attitudinal, and physical strength. Everyone is different. Professional teachers deliberately act strong both emotionally and physically, even though they might cry behind the scenes. They learn to be stronger after each professional failure and each disappointment.

Exceptional teachers are unsung heroes

 Asma is the name of an exceptional, passionate Tunisian teacher. She has defied all kinds of difficulties to be the teacher she is. I encountered her during one of my regular classroom visits and I will never forget the stamina, creativity, and empathy she displayed during my visit. I was amazed at the professional she is in an under-resourced boarding school in a remote area of the country. She made the classroom brighter; she pushed the students to be more confident and she added much warmth to the surroundings. Her empathy towards her students made her the “queen of hearts”. She is a teacher, who, despite all odds, carries her passion and verve ablaze. She is the reason students collaborate with each other and teach each other. What also surprised me is that she has regularly scheduled free sessions open to all students, the ones she taught and even the ones she did not teach. What made her do this? Her passion for her profession is unequaled. Any free time was devoted to those teens, to sharpen their team skills and propel their motivation.

We need more teachers like Asma

 Are the teachers who are like Asma becoming extinct?

No, not really. There are many unsung heroes like Asma, who do not get noticed or thanked. Counterintuitively, this rare species of teacher does not expect official gratitude, though they deserve it. They teach from the heart and go through many hardships, but never complain or make excuses. Education needs noble heroes like Asma.

COVID-19 has made it clear that our education system needs constant updating

 Thanks to COVID-19, we are more aware that the global digital divide is getting wider and wider. We are in dire need of renewing the tools so as to achieve some of our primary education goals. Socioeconomic factors are one of the major obstacles that slow down the process of renovation and revamping technology. Yet, with the untapped potential of the majority of professionals in the education sector, there are endless possibilities of learning that need to be taken. Professionals in Tunisia have valuable assets that would take the country to an upper level of development, but only if they are given the right opportunities.

Still, we need to work harder and stop making excuses. Miracles do not happen when people complain more than they work. Challenges exist, yet surmounting them is the first step towards  more constructive choices. Once the challenges inside one’s head are silenced, the challenges outside are not the real enemies.

We cling to HOPE despite all odds

 There is still hope that we are in the process of defying all odds. Teachers like Asma, many highly motivated teacher trainers I have learned much from,  other professionals I am co-working with, and many dedicated professionals in the field do make a difference and are blazing trails. Their mindset, their professionalism, their creativity represent the real light that paves the way towards a brighter tomorrow.

 “Ninety percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver


Social media? Bane of my existence? Ray of sunshine?

Faten RomdhaniSocial media? Bane of my existence? Ray of sunshine?

Faten Romdhani


To be on the same wavelength, the following definition of social media presents the social media I intend to discuss.

“Social media are Internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.” (Carr and Hayes, 2015, p50)

Social media were never developed for pedagogical uses. However, they have great potential for improving education. This has been put to the test during the many lockdowns we have been forced to comply with. Teachers, amongst many other professionals, were working from home, whether to plan online sessions with teachers or attend seminars. Connecting, collaborating, brainstorming were possible and proved real. Hence, the many tasks we devised face-to-face were smoothly changed into online activities. Whether we appreciated the experience or not, this is another matter, what we did though, was cope in a more or less perfect way with the changing needs of our professional tasks. The pandemic has proven that our educational landscape needs constant and ongoing adjustment to the developing needs of our current “digital” or “semi-digital” era. At critical times, we feel the digital is only a pseudo one.

Issues for consideration

Taking into consideration the many positive aspects of social media does not exclude the urgent needs we need to tackle with students, teachers and all users of internet. Bolstering both students’ media literacy skills and  critical thinking skills are two of the urgent key themes that need to be dealt with in depth. Other issues such as privacy concerns, identity theft, plagiarism, and more, remain real burdens.

One question to reflect upon is the following: Do you feel adrift in the gripping nature of social media or are you steering toward a more purposeful and principled navigation? This is tough, particularly when you have one social media account with which you connect with colleagues, friends and family at the same time.

Why do you use social media?

While preparing this blog post, I posed a question poll where I asked professionals, mainly teachers to choose one option amongst three alternatives:

The question was: Why do you use social media?

1. Expansion of one’s network

2. Communication

3. Building one’s brand and sharing content

The answers to this poll on LinkedIn are revealing. As a matter of fact, the respondents to this ad hoc poll are mainly interested in expanding their network and growing their professional circle. Digging deeper, communicating with like-minded professionals involves expanding one’s network, and getting inspired by their work.

How do you use social media?

Metaphorically speaking, I compare the experience of social media to that of travelling by the most rapid train. Some passengers are focusing on reading books, articles, magazines, etc. Others listen to their favourite music or watch their favourite movies. Some other users go on a wild goose chase and build castles in the air. And you can be the one of the passengers who is busy with all of these activities.

During this fascinating trip, some professionals are keen on discovering the outer world while other educators are immersed with inward-driven questions.

Social media can enrich your virtual experience

So whether you are an outward-driven or an inward-driven professional or even both, social media could but enrich your virtual experience.

Furthermore, the professional spectrum couldn’t be so appealing and enticing without the presence of active, creative communities. Within these edutopian communities, you meet active and inspiring educators who lift you up. Such dynamic connections and communities make the virtual experience a joyful and interesting one because they push you to think deeper, challenge you and make you creativity-inclined educators.

After all, there are no surefire ways to guarantee effective use of social media. Nevertheless, follow your passion and you will certainly find unexplored lands of creativity to visit. These lands are destined for brave, dedicated educators only.

The Impossible Has Never Been Tunisian

Faten RomdhaniThe Impossible Has Never Been Tunisian

Faten Romdhani


Working conditions for teachers vary from one place to another. Like all developing countries, Tunisia aspires to provide better working conditions for its teachers. By this, I mean all variables that affect the quality of the work of the teacher, such as workload, schedule, working environment, classrooms, continuous professional development opportunities…

Yet, the question that pops up in my mind is this: Which is more important – the teacher, the quality of teaching, or the conditions the teacher is working in?

The answer would depend on the angle from which we are looking at the issue. For a better future for all (teachers, students, and the overall state of education), teacher quality, as well as working conditions are of equal importance. However, from a more personal perspective, teacher quality should be allotted much more importance and be the overriding concern of all stakeholders. Regular CPD opportunities such as exchange programs need to be available to every language teacher. Indeed, the major positive twist that could occur in the career of every professional could be possible through taking part in such programs and free courses for teachers (whether online or face-to-face) that could offer total immersion in English. At the same time, working conditions should also be given their due value, because teachers need to work at ease. Once they have alleviated schedules, connected classrooms, opportunities to upgrade their tech skills and to pursue learning, they will beat out all conundrums.

It’s all about leadership 

It should be pointed out that good working conditions are not directly related to whether the school is located in an urban or rural area. You can find very well-refurbished classrooms, perfect working conditions coupled with collaborative staff in a rural school in a remote place, as well as in the centre of a big city.

Among many factors, this can be true mainly due to the exceptional leadership skills the school principal has and the ease with which he/she manages the load of administrative work. Provided that he/she creates a stress-free environment for the teachers, the students, and the whole staff, he/she then smoothes the way towards a notable success.

It’s all about professionalism 

Teachers’ professional assets, such as knowledge, flexibility, and creativity, are by far much more impactful and substantially more important than the most basic infrastructure and primal equipment. A professional teacher is a teacher who defies the impossible and turns every difficulty into a possibility. This might seem like a utopian vision, however, it is something I do believe in. I think that teachers’ hidden (or unhidden) powers to propel positive change are beyond any measure. What a teacher needs is a growth mindset, a passionate character for teaching, a forward-looking and forward-thinking team to work with. I have witnessed many times how teachers come up trumps with far-reaching goals, just because they did not give in when they had every reason to give up.

Don’t tell me this kind of a “superhero” teacher does not exist! They exist, and they are making a huge difference not only in remote and underprivileged areas in my country, Tunisia, but also in crowded suburbs of many big towns.

Teachers are superheroes 

To be born to be a teacher is to be a superhero. Teachers do work, more work than the official schedules administered to them. They sacrifice their family gatherings, evenings, and holidays for the sake of planning, grading, and piling up resources. What is more, they do feel their work is undervalued by the vast majority of society. Teachers are envied for having long summer holidays, though these holidays are only a small part of the unnerving load of year-long work. And any human being needs some well-earned rest after toiling and draining all energy. Nevertheless, I know some teachers who do carry on planning and reading professionally during the summer break lest they feel stale.

The impossible has never been Tunisian 

Despite all constraints, teachers find it gratifying that they defy all challenges and succeed in making a difference in the schooling of their students. The day their students graduate is the day they feel that the seeds they have been planting are now in full bloom, they feel utterly proud to see the fruit of all their work. Not only this, but even those who do fail come back to their teachers to seek comfort and consolation. Teachers are change makers, visionaries, and their journey towards professionalism gains momentum, particularly if they are accompanied by far-sighted mentors. Such mentors are the ones who can help teachers attain much of their undiscovered potential.

 iTDiers, You Make Me Aim Higher

Faten Romdhani

iTDiers, You Make Me Aim Higher
by Faten Romdhani.


I do not know where to start or what to say to voice out the unvoiced and give a shout out to the amazing founders of iTDi, because whatever I say or I write, I cannot fully express in the exact words the gratitude that you deserve.

My CPD journey started to gain momentum as soon as I became familiar with learning technologies and got connected with the iTDi community. Back to 2013… I still remember the thrilling moment that was a turning point in my professional growth. As a matter of fact, I was nominated as an Ed Inspiree among other professionals from around the world and I made the acquaintance of the Ed Guru of iTDi Chuck Sandy. What a memorable day! Being present in a webinar by Shelly Terrell and being asked to express my feelings along with Chuck, who was also nominated as an Ed Inspiree 2013. I still remember those “virtual moments” as very influential ones. What really amazed me is the humble characters of both Chuck and Shelly. Their openness is unique and both of these Ed Gurus enthused me with much passion to my professional experience. To be true, those days had a lasting impact on my unstoppable quest for a professional identity. Furthermore, the fact that I felt I was surrounded with inspiring high-caliber professionals made me recognise the strong impetus I had for continuing professional development. To crown it all, being a member in iTDi fostered my strong belief that physical boundaries between professionals in ELT exist only in maps.

iTDi community, or family, with all its members from all corners of the world, adds a culturally rich aspect to its audience. Thus, iTDi, despite all the differences amongst its members, manages as a strong community to empower teachers to be the best versions of themselves, no matter where they are teaching, even in low-resourced areas or classrooms.

Receiving regular e-mails from the community directors, especially Barb, the most compassionate and diligent ELT professional I know, bolstered my community sense and reminded me of the special bond I have tied with this community of creative teachers and writers. It also harnessed my will to start penning down my reflections for iTDi and, as usual, this community of wondrous professionals reignited the spark of writing. I did not only try my pen but also satisfied my thirst for innovative ideas by reading the many inspiring writers of iTDi.

To add to this, I may assert that belonging to iTDi gave me wings to fly on my own and boosted my self-confidence. Networking, collaborating online are part and parcel of today’s CPD. Teachers who enrol in this rewarding experience gain years of professional maturity just by connecting with like-minded professionals. Thus, the impact of such experiences could be visible and take shape in the teachers’ classroom practices. Such networking, if seeded with well-devised goals, will do wonders not only to teachers on a small-scale, but also leverage the whole classroom culture and upgrade the whole educational sphere.

Heartily, I thank you all and wish you more success to come, more inspiring and creative ideas to bring richness to your classes. Let me now end on a high note with these lines that might tell you more about my feelings:

I’m thankful to all of you for the immense help you show

Thanks, are not enough, yet, to make you see how

 Deep you are intertwined in my CPD

I’m proud I belong to you, my bigger family. Peace.

We are Hopemongers

Faten Romdhaniby Faten Romdhani

The whole educational scene has been altered by the digital age and it has affected the teaching and learning processes, to a very large extent in some “developed” areas and to a very small scale in some “developing” areas of the globe. The challenges facing English language teachers nowadays in the developing world are becoming more visible, especially when we can see a wave of tablets invading classrooms as official, school supplied learning devices…classrooms in which ours seem like the only exception. The setting where I and my coworkers teach is not following the same trends as those in “developed” areas. Have our classrooms been furbished to suit the hopes of the “screenagers” or “Gen Y”? The answer is absolutely NO. The space, the classrooms, the whole setting of the learning experience is pretty much the same as the setting in the early years of the 20th century.

We crave, as teachers and as learners, for a “creative”, “innovative”, “dream-like” space, with the necessary equipment (easy access to data, posters, comfy and colourful seats). Though there are moments when we feel like we’re swimming against the tide,we are not giving up on our rosy dreams. If the space does not match the predilections of the screen-agers, then attending school will feel like a burden to many of our learners. So in my school, the teachers bring their own laptops to class so as to help meet the needs of the screen-agers and adopt a teaching style which leads to higher levels of engagement.

And then there is the challenge of how to make use of the mobile devices the learners themselves bring to school. There is staggering pressure to allow the use of these devices in class. At my school we know that mobile learning does indeed need to be part of the teachers’ action plans. If it’s not included, learning is hindered by the students’ desire to use these devices which they rely on outside of class. In my school, and in my classes, we use these mobile devices in ice-breaking, warm-ups, and shorter classroom activities. Unfortunately, once in the students’ hands, learners tend to use these mobile devices to check social media and other activities which hinder learning. We need to gain more expertise in dealing with these issues. We need to understand if and how our students’ multitasking skills can be used drawn upon to facilitate as opposed to undermine classroom learning.

All this said, the success of teaching does not depend upon wholly on an inspiring, high tech space. We are blessed with students of talent. But fostering their creativity and creating opportunities for students to share it with the class and the wider world takes a bit of courage on the part of the teacher. It is not easy to help learners discover their talents, empower them to be better learners, love the learning journey and ignite the spark in them. That is why, in spite of lack of technology and other difficulties, teachers in my country must be “hope mongers.” We must learn to grow the seeds of hope that rest in every student, even in hindering and frustrating situations. Throughout the years of my teaching, 16 years so far, many of the students who said they couldn’t write a few lines of poetry later proved themselves wrong and relished the experience of writing their own poem. From experiences like these, I’ve learned that the success of the teaching process, which is always relative, depends on the teacher-student partnership, a partnership which is only modified, but rarely fundamentally changed by the level of comfort or technology in the classroom. This relationship can be discovered through answering two questions: How well do the teachers and learners trust each other? Are the learners and teachers ready to partner in the learning-teaching process?

Trust should be mutual. If I trust you, I can understand you in your most difficult states, and I will have faith that you are doing your best to help me explore new lands. If I trust you, I know that no matter how tough it may feel, we will make progress on our intriguing journey of learning, a journey for both the teacher and the learners. With trust, both students and teachers can admit that failure is an inevitable stepping stone in the process of teaching/ learning. With trust, we can admit that the ability to fail and learn from failure is what distinguishes “warriors” from “mere passive recipients”, “dreamers” from “doers”, “builders” from “watchers.” But to make this happen, trust must also exist between teachers as well as between students and teacher. I strongly believe this trust allows teachers to collaborate more, and most importantly, to break free from the shackles of “outmoded” coursebooks. Collaboration and creativity is how we can engage our students and inspire them to aim higher.

“From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.” Challenges are here to make us grow stronger and more determined. Challenges are invitation to dream bigger dreams. The majority of the students in my school are creative, caring and supportive. And what allows me to see and foster this beauty in my students even in our challenging environment, is the collaborative spirit I have with my fellow teachers. Everyone is willing to lend a hand when need be. We are a group of teachers, who despite all the challenges, do not fail to listen to each other’s worries, do not fail to suggest ideas. We continually trust in one another, trust that we can and will build stronger relationships and uplift each other’s morale when facing hardships. Despite all the challenges, the lack of equipment, ‘hope for a better tomorrow,’ is a motto for everyone in our school. And this is why most of the students and teachers do not fail to prove to be highly creative and innovative, if they are given the chance.