At our Inter-ELTA Members’ Day in November 2021, Slobodan
I would like to provide some food for thought and raise questions relevant to us as teachers. The focus here is on something I call Teacher Refresh Rate (TRR). The idea is borrowed from technology. In technology, refresh rate is the number of times a display device displays a new image per second. The display, whether monitor or smartphone you’re reading this on, has a refresh rate between 50 and 120Hz, (most likely around 60Hz), meaning the image of this text is created around 60 times per second.
I look at teacher refresh rate this way: how often a teacher will do something new or refresh something existing and something that he/she already does. This can range from using new kinds of materials through learning new job-related skills all the way to getting new qualifications. TRR is about finding new approaches to our teaching, refreshing our methodology, rediscovering and reminding ourselves of all the joys of teaching.
Furthermore, it’s not only about what we learned in the last 2 years – by that, I mean using (new) technologies to teach, but about expanding how we do it. For example, learning how to use Zoom was good and fine, but we can definitely expand on using the most basic features. Technology evolves all the time, and we should try to keep up as much as we can.
Also, TRR is about revisiting what we did before with a fresh perspective and more experienced eyes. Making small shifts in our approach can make a big difference for us as well as our students. It’s about making the best from our experience – continuing to do good things well and taking the things which are just OK to a new, higher level.
It’s about sharing within our professional community because everything we share within the community comes back to us transformed and enriched somehow. So do share; it’s mutually beneficial.
The end of the year is an excellent period for reflection and preparations for a new year and a new start; now’s the moment to start deciding what to do next year in terms of working on ourselves.
Back in 2019, I decided to take my professional development into my hands. I decided that I’d like to get my TRR up to 2/year and keep it on that level. That year was a great professional leap in the right direction for me – I started doing language coaching courses. Still, I didn’t become a real language coach, nor do I call myself that today, but the experience gave me a fresh perspective of myself, how I work and the importance of asking great questions. Of course, 2020 is a story on its own. Although I was already working online for 5 years at the time, in 2020, I rediscovered so many possibilities and online tools, which I still use today; as the second thing, I taught myself how to use WordPress to build my own website. Then, in 2021, I became an active member of IATEFL BESIG; I started my CERT IBET course, which was very enriching, professionally; and began to volunteer for 2 professional organizations, which opened new horizons and enabled me to develop more skills. By doing so, I reached TRR 3/year. In all honesty, I believe having and keeping TRR at the level 2/year is more than enough to keep us all up-to-date and ready for any challenges in the market.
All these are seeds from which I will reap benefits in the short and long term; the thing crucial for me was that I started purposefully going from step to step without losing my way and the direction I’d like my career to develop in.
Let me expand on this idea a bit more: it is about new things and finding new perspectives and ways of looking at something you already know and do, e.g., how we use some simple online services, such as Google. Did you know that there are more than 250 Google services? The 4 or 5 we use most often are just the very tip of the iceberg. Personally, I use Gmail and Google Drive daily and couldn’t get anything done without those. I am not saying we all need to use many Google services, but we can expand and refresh the range of things we do online with the ones we use; instead of doing or finishing everything on my computer and emailing things out to people, I will put it on Google Drive and only share the link or give access. It makes my life easier daily.
The relevance of this idea of the Teacher Refresh Rate is perhaps in the value it brings in the long run. Unfortunately, in some professions, there’s a clear expiration date, e.g., for professional athletes, but in our industry, we could say it’s quite the opposite – the more experienced we are, the better we work and the more value we can bring to our clients, i.e., our learners.
Each professional development step has value on its own, but also it equally adds value in the long term and career level because it keeps us relevant and up-to-date with each passing year.
Let’s consider the two opposite sides of the scale of keeping yourself up-to-date professionally. On one side of the scale is the independent freelancer who needs to be at the forefront of new trends in the market to stay desirable. On the other side of the scale is the university professor with tenure who has little to no external stimulus to do something new every semester. However, as we’ve experienced, the world is moving forward at an unrelenting stride, so everyone interested in keeping up with the industry should make sure they are coming along by trying to introduce at least one thing per year.
With so many possibilities for growth out there, the thing we need to decide is which to select and invest time in. Never before was so much available at any moment from anywhere.
The takeaway of the day: refresh what you know, continue to learn and grow; revisit, rediscover and reuse, but stay the same – only that refuse.