Reflections of an active teacher of EFL

The reasons, the means, the times, the venues and more

Almost as soon as I entered the teaching profession, back in 1981, I realized that that my teaching qualifications simply were not enough to face the vocation I opted for. Fine, I had studied my literature, British and American, modern   and   classic, I had studied Linguistics and Phonetics and Translation and thought I had all the prerequisites to become a successful EFL educator. And when I entered the classroom as a teacher, I believed I could teach. I observed my lesson plan, taught the materials in the textbook, explained the grammar rules, and so on and so forth, what we all do at work.

By George Raptopoulos, Teacher and Teacher Trainer


Soon, though, it was obvious to me that all this just was not adequate. I started asking myself questions. “Why   can’t little John or Joanna understand why the Present Simple is formed as it is, why can’t they produce oral and written language freely despite all the rules they have, all the drills they perform?” Clearly, something was amiss.

Naturally, as an offspring of two teachers, I asked my parents. And here’s what I got: “George, do you remember the books we used to read when you were little? They were editions of new developments in teaching, new methodologies, new approaches. And then we attended seminars, lectures, conferences, and every year we became better teachers. Follow suit”. And I did.

The very next day, I found out what there was available to attend. And there was plenty, even then. There was TESOL GREECE and later TESOL MACEDONIA-THRACE (Northern Greece) and I became a member of the former and a founding member of the latter. There was ELT NEWS, and I subscribed. There were book exhibitions and seminars and conferences and books and periodicals and I am proud to say that, for the last 38 years, I have attended (and still do) as many as I can. I have met wonderful world class educators, been stunned and inspired by them, given reasons to continue, to forget and forgo teacher fatigue, to become better and better at what I do and love doing. How can an EFL teacher or just anyone be at the presence of names such as David Crystal, Sugata Mitra, Jeremy Harmer, Ken Wilson, our own Luke Prodromou, to name but a few, and not feel the fire in them, the passion, a blaze that comes to live within you as well and becomes a driving force towards more and more professional development?

So I continued. I kept studying and learning and developing and evolving. I took a CELTA course and a DELTA course and at present I am happy to attend an ELF (English as a lingua franca) course under the supervision and guidance of Dr Nikos Sifakis.  And I also attend seminars and webinars.

  You may ask: “Why should any EFL teacher keep developing?”  I am certain it is self-evident. To evolve both as a teacher and a person, to keep up to date with new theories, new approaches, new materials, and at the same time remember and refresh the basics. To be inspired, to feel young and ambitious, to learn and teach more effectively. And, yes, to be more employable in a competitive field, nothing wrong with that.

 Another question that might crop up in some minds is: “Is it expensive?”  Well, it doesn’t have to be. Going to book exhibitions is absolutely free of charge. Publishers also provide their own seminars with teacher trainers, no cost. So do exam boards; Cambridge ESOL, HAU, the British Council, for instance. And professional associations have subscription fees that are more than affordable, given all that they provide. Teacher training providers are not expensive, nor are CELTA and DELTA courses, considering what they offer. And who would not invest in themselves and in their future?

  But things are really simple. A very useful experience was at a school where I stayed for 10 happy years. Each teacher who attended a teacher training session had to (and it was not an obligation, it was sheer pleasure) present it to the rest of the teaching staff during the next meeting and then observe those colleagues –and be observed by them – if they chose to implement  the ideas, techniques or approaches in their classes. And it was miraculous how we became presenters, trainers, developers of others. Sharing is caring.

So to wrap it all up, develop, evolve both personally and professionally. Teach, learn, observe, attend, be observed, be trained, present, become examiners (so much to be gained). Books are plentiful and so are seminars, webinars, conferences, book exhibitions. Ask, share, offer and accept knowledge, love and support. I am a very happy person and teacher, and a successful one, but that is for others to attest.

And you can be, too.

A few closing words, the title of my all-time favourite book, somewhat altered.