Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Teachers in Turkey, No. 6 - “On Teaching & Professional Development” by Didem Yeşil

When I started this series, I promised to introduce you to a wide cross-section of English language educators working here in Turkey. After hearing from five people with a lifetime of experience between them, it’s time to hear from a ‘newer’ voice, provided to us by Didem Yeşil, who is just about to embark upon her second year as an English teacher.

In this post, Didem tells us about why she became a teacher and how her first year in the classroom changed her perspective when answering that question:

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Who knows where the road will take us? Image by Martin Gommel

I first met David at ISTEK 2011 when we had a little chat right after his workshop. Soon after ISTEK, which was the biggest reason why I started to use Twitter actively, he was one of the first teachers who welcomed me on Twitter. Once again thanks to David, I got the opportunity to write my first guest post (actually my first blog post ever) on this great blog. So I owe David a big thank you for his support.

On Teaching and Professional Development

"Why did you become an English teacher?"

That was a very frequent question I was asked especially in job interviews right after I graduated from the university last year. The question was typically followed by an answer that I thought perfectly explained why I decided to become an English teacher. "I chose to be an English teacher because I love teaching and children, so I believe it is a perfect combination".

I thought "What other reasons would you need to be a teacher?" Well, to be honest, after one year of teaching experience, I can say the answer sounds like a total cliché now!

Soon after I really started teaching, I realized what would really keep me going in teaching was LEARNING in the first place, not teaching itself. However, the rest of it- my love of children- still holds true, thankfully :)

The next thing I came to realize is how eagerness to learn and professional development are closely linked to each other, and how the opposite could easily cause teacher burnout. It did not take me long either to see that "professional development" is such a buzzword nowadays and almost everyone has some piece of advice for teachers regarding professional development.

Now the real question is...

What does PD really mean to a beginning teacher like me? How do I relate to this commonly used concept as a teacher having a LOT to learn along the way?

The biggest learning opportunity for me is the kids themselves. They are truly amazing, inspiringly creative and more willing to learn than we might sometimes think. They just need to be given the access to learning and they always remind me of the fact that we have to give them more chance to take charge of their own learning. Like most other people of my generation, I came from an education system in Turkey where teacher-centeredness felt safer for most teachers since they did not like to risk their dominance in the classroom by letting students be in command of their own learning. So, I am aware that it definitely affects the way I teach from time to time (or most of the time), but I am LEARNING! I guess the key is to consciously evaluate all teaching and learning experiences and reflect on them.

Another thing that keeps me inspired is I have the chance to connect to other like-minded educators around the world mainly through Twitter. I am also lucky to be an "English" teacher because of the global nature of English having the power to connect people in a more global way. This way I learn incredibly a lot from others and it feels great to be in touch with all those great people!

For me, sharing is what makes PD and learning more meaningful. Share what you believe is valuable, go and observe other teachers, have someone observe you, ask questions, reflect, go to trainings, learn about technology and how to use it in your class, attend webinars and conferences whether it be online or face-to-face and share... Seek higher education opportunities, get together with open-minded and inspiring teachers and contribute to your team in the work place adding a positive value to it. Try to have at least one thing that you do best and feel happy about.

Learn and share because what you know will have a bigger effect around you and it is the only way to make a difference.

While all these happen, there will definitely be some people who may not be as willing to change as you are because they may not want to leave their comfort zones where they tend to stick to the practices they got used to. I do understand though, because change is much more powerful and compelling when it comes from within, not from outside, but I believe when you express it in the right time with the right attitude, others will eventually come to realize the power of "the better" having a greater potential to help your students learn.

Now going back to my earlier justification of why I became a teacher, all I can say now is that I guess I am a teacher because I feel learning is the integral part of my teaching. When you learn, you will share (ideally), when you share you will grow together, when you grow and make a difference, your students will benefit from this.

Maybe after some more time in teaching, my answer to the question "Why did you become an English teacher?" will be replaced by something different. Don't you also believe in this dynamic nature of teaching?

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I'm Didem Yeşil. I studied English Language Teaching at Bogazici University in Istanbul and I have been working with young learners at a private school in Istanbul for a year now. I am interested in teaching young learners and using technology to make their learning experience more motivating and effective.

I am @didolores on Twitter.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great post Didem. It's hard to belive that it is your first ever post and I strongly urge you to start your own blog (as I strongly urge every teacher I meet who hasn't got a blog already!)

    It's great to see that you are conscious of your own professional development at such an early stage in your career and also that you are already challenging your own beliefs. I think you have a bright career ahead of you. :)

    I agree 100% about sharing what we learn with those around us. Online PLNs are great but our biggest immediate source of learning remains the teachers we work with every day and I think many staffrooms around the world need to see more sharing and discussing of ideas.

    Thanks again for the great post!

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  2. It's great to read another post, this time through the fresher eyes of Didem! I love that you see how learning is an integral answer to that questions - one which I'd be ecstatic if someone I interviewed mentioned during the interview itself. Teaching and learning are intertwined and reversible, of course and how great it is to learn, accept and promote that so early in a career.

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  3. ”The biggest learning opportunity for me is the kids themselves.“

    Well-said. I agree that most PD happens in the classroom, even if we're importing ideas from the outside, from our precious PLN, conferences or external reading. An idea is just an idea until we experiment and learn, and as you said, most of our learning comes from our students.

    I really enjoyed the post, Didem ! Thanks (and thanks Dave too !)

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  4. @Dave, starting a blog seems to be another challenge ahead of me :) I'll work on it. Thanks for encouraging.

    @seburnt and @brad I am trying to be a learner first. Thanks a lot for your comments.

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  5. Hi Didem and Dave,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish
    facebook page
    if you'd like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there whenever you have anything you'd like to share.

    Best,

    Ann

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  6. Hi Ann, I really like the fb page where you have a very good collection of links and other relevant things for teachers.

    Thank you for taking the time and adding the post there.

    Didem

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