I’ve become a bit of a fan of stoic philosophy recently, and I’ve found it very useful in helping me to reflect on who am I and how to live and teach. I won’t go into it here, but I might come back to it later (note to self: potential blog post “The Stoical English Teacher”).
One book I read is the Daily Stoic, bite sized nuggets of advice and thought from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and others. The authors of the book have a daily email, which I try to start my day with, and I read one recently that resonated with me professionally rather than personally.
In it, they describe the stoic concept of sympatheia, which they describe as “that, whether we know it or not, we’re all on some kind of team, all part of some collective that is much bigger than us.” I was reminded of this when reading Tyson Seburn’s 200th post – A decade comparative narrative, his reflection on the last decade, and I noticed how frequently he mentioned the people that he met and the role that they had had in his own story.
When I think about teaching, I think of it largely as a collegiate activity. Most of us work in schools where we go back to our staffrooms and share our experiences with our colleagues. Perhaps your staffroom isn’t very supportive, in which case you are likely to feel alone or isolated, but generally speaking, we are not in the most competitive of professions in the sense that most of us are not fighting over students or jobs in a way that can be more common for those who work in some other sectors. And even the few of us who work freelance are, it seems to me, much more collegiate than competitive, and often team up to work together and support each other, something Sergio Pantoja reflected on recently.
So who are your people? What’s your scene? My cohort consists of the generation that arrived at IATEFL in the early 2010s, people like Sandy Millin, Laura Patsko, Mike Harrison, the aformentioned Tyson Seburn, Cecilia Lemos and many more. And then I’ve had the opportunity to build another here in Brazil where I have lived in the last few years, with T Veigga, Ilá Coimbra, Claire Venables and others. Collectively, through their own profession development, they have shaped my own development as a teacher.
More than that, they are also influencing the environment in which we all operate and will continue to have an influence over the future. In my cohort, Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson have brought awareness of English as a Lingua Franca pronunciation to a much wider audience, Claire Venables has contributed enormously to the teaching of young learners in Brazil, Sandy Millin has done so much in so many areas thanks to her blog which has provided teachers globally with an incredible resource, Tyson Seburn (and Ilá and I, I’d like to think!) has changed how we view diversity in ELT materials, and I could go on to describe many more people who are actively shaping the ELT world and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.
And as they say in the Daily Stoic email, I’m “grateful to have shared the stage with these folks” and taking their advice, I’m not waiting until my retirement to look back wistfully on what they have given me. Wherever you met your people, think of them and how they have helped you become the teacher you are, and thank them, and reflect on your own role in shaping the world around you.