Getting Unstuck

Walking the talk: Getting Unstuck

When I was first asked to do a plenary for the ELTAF Conference in Frankfurt on the topic of stretching out of one’s comfort zone, my first thoughts were in the direction of discovering new approaches to learning and stretching into styles that we use less often. However, in beginning to think about the topic, I soon realized that there were many areas each of us has branched into during our careers as educators.

eltpics @Senicko

eltpics @Senicko

The first step for me was to pinpoint areas that were logical first steps. These included taking on new subjects, using new methods or technology, making use of CPD (continuing professional development), collaborating with fellow-teachers, setting up a PLN (personal learning network) or even moving into a new area of ELT such as writing, editing or translating. I gathered information from teachers around the world by crowd-sourcing these questions on Facebook and began to put ideas together. Once thing that struck me was the myriad of ways people were branching out – for me this drove home the point again that it doesn’t matter which direction we take, we can still reach our destinations.

it doesn't really matter how you get there, does it?

It doesn’t really matter how you get there, does it? eltpics@VictoriaB52

An exercise which was very helpful for me was to sit down a make a timeline for myself. I think that when we feel stuck and that what we do is just routine, it can be helpful to actually see how we ourselves have developed over the years. I was actually surprised to see how many new areas I had moved into since beginning to work in ELT in 1981 and, perhaps, even more surprising, how many of these only happened in the last few years.

eltpics Sandy Millan

eltpics Sandy Millan

As I strongly feel it is important to ‘practice what we preach’, I also took on a new challenge at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Convention ‘Back to Basics’. While at the IATEFL Slovenia Conference in March 2015, I was asked if I would do a Pecha Kucha in Thessaloniki. Having already committed to a plenary and two workshops my immediate reaction was ‘No way, no time, never done this.’ But on reflection, I thought ‘Why not?’ and began to collect ideas. It turned out to be enormously fun and gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I had conquered my fears of the format, namely coming up with twenty slides and being able to talk for 20 seconds about each one.

Pecha Kucha poster for TESOL Macedonia Thrace Convention 'Back to Basics'

Pecha Kucha poster for TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece Convention ‘Back to Basics’ designed by Margarita Kosior

This is a blog challenge to all those who have seen this plenary in Frankfurt, Slovenia or in Greece. I would be interested in hearing what new ideas you have tried out and if any of the suggestions, tips, etc. have inspired you to stretch outside of your comfort zones. I hope to keep trying out new things as well and plan to share them with colleagues, friends and educators around the globe. Let’s stretch together!



4 thoughts on “Getting Unstuck

  1. Hi Marjorie,
    I began a reflections journal (Evernote journal) in order to reflect upon my professional life. I found it enormously helpful when I felt stuck almost 2 years ago. I still use it but much less so.

    I can certainly identify with the Petcha Kutcha fear. I did one three summers ago, under duress from Leo, and also thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Great post for getting us to interact and engage.


    • Thanks for this Dimitris. And as you can imagine, a PLN was one of the ideas I offered as a way to get unstuck. I had the wonderful collage put together by Roseli Serra in Brazil to show as an example. I cannot imagine life today without my PLN. They mean more to me than I can express. Very glad that you are part of it!

  2. It is the PLN that helps me get unstuck. Sharing the problem(s) and exchanging ideas helps me to think outside the box. This often happens with ideas too. A good idea becomes brilliant when two or three colleagues “build” on it. Some other times, it is as if I am looking on the grass for a needle and my peers show me a bird’s eyeview on many issues and they often help me see my teaching reality in perspective. Finally, writing an article or a blogpost on a topic I feel I am not good at, often helps me see things more clearly, identify causes and seek viable solutions.

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