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As part of my blog series, I have been inviting voices from a variety of contexts to share their work and thinking on professional development. In this post, I share authorship with Ukrainian TESOL educators Svitlana Smolina, Nataliya Prokopchuk, Tetiana Konovalenko, Olha Bilyk, and Nadiia Grytsyk.
How do TESOL educators continue to learn and grow professionally when they are living in extraordinarily traumatic times, such as war, displacement, natural disaster, and conflict? Incredibly, TESOL colleagues from all corners of the world continue to teach English and lead professional development (PD) while they also:
- experience physical loss of their homes;
- adjust to closures of their university and school buildings;
- cope with a constant state of stress, change, fear, and oppression;
- struggle to obtain basic resources of electricity, materials, and internet;
- face economic and food insecurity;
- navigate political corruption; and
- encounter travel restrictions.
In times of crisis, English may be particularly relevant as educators in regions experiencing trauma, isolation, and loss of income and stability look outwards to the global community as they seek support and advocacy. One of the most challenging, yet inspiring topics this blog series has tackled is the one we explore here — that of conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and participating in PD in times of crisis.
Several organizations specialize in supporting English language and other teachers at these traumatic times, such as the Center for Professional Learning at Childhood Education International, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, Education Cannot Wait of the United Nations. Here, we present a number of strategies that have been implemented by Ukrainian TESOL faculty and PD leaders, who are currently living in these extreme conditions of crisis. These are their suggestions:
10 Considerations for Professional Development in Times of Crisis
- Travel. Prioritize personal safety and avoid traveling to high-risk areas. Try to participate in online training or webinars instead. Travel to safe areas, if possible, to take part in exchange programs or conferences that will change your perspective and offer opportunities for in-person networking.
- Online Platforms. Find and join online platforms, such as educational websites, forums, and social media groups, to access teaching materials, lesson plans, and educational resources. Keep in touch with your colleagues. International teaching communities are open, creative, caring, and ready to share, and new technologies offer cooperative spaces to conduct webinars and conferences, present free courses, and share ideas and resources. Do not be shy to try, to apply, to subscribe, and then to cascade and share your practices.
- Lack of Electricity. When there’s no electricity to use the internet, communicate within your local networks. It could be in-person or over the phone to share experiences and to support each other. In cases of power outages, it is good to have some paper books or printed out articles you can read or work with.
- Flexibility. Be flexible in your teaching methods, as projects and tasks that once worked have to be modified. Create individual work plans with your students or PD participants. Keep a running list of ideas and projects for potential use at a future time.
- Social-Emotional Learning. Listen to teachers, and find topics and materials that keep them positive, motivated, and willing to return to your sessions and talk about their interests, needs, and problems. Help teachers talk about how they are feeling before getting into content topics. Share information about trauma-informed teaching to support students and staff.
- Physical Well-Being. Try to go for walks regularly. Many great ideas can develop when you are outside and moving. You might try dancing, yoga, or other ways to stretch and strengthen your body.
- Emotional Well-Being. Try self-care practices to manage stress and anxiety as only then can you create an emotionally stable and well-organized community with your learners. Listen to yourself and your needs. Remember, there is no water to drink in an empty jar. Fill your jar with positive emotions, hobbies you enjoy, and time spent with those who are dear to you.
- Join Organizations That Support Education. Join other organizations implementing nonformal education or holding cultural events. These provide opportunities to gather together and hold trainings and workshops and to implement projects.
- Advocate for Education. Especially in times of crisis, PD is a form of advocacy that asserts the primacy of education for all.
If you are lucky, as I am, to live and work in safety, security, and with relatively abundant resources, consider how you can support colleagues in other less fortunate contexts. This can take a variety of forms, such as exploring TESOL’s advocacy resources, seeing how your local affiliate can form an alliance with a global partner, joining the TESOL Affiliate Network Professional Council, and much more.
One of the especially amazing qualities of TESOLers is our commitment to persist in professional learning no matter what the circumstances, and to support our global community of practice. PD is, ultimately, a human endeavor and can continue, and even flourish, during times of crisis, to support the intellectual and emotional well-being of us all.