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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Have I gatecrashed the party?

Maybe it's just me being silly, but I sometimes get the feeling that I have joined an CPE class when I am only a Pre-Int student in the world of blogging and social networking and that I do not belong here. After all, I am but a simple teacher in a private language school in the South of Spain, doing my job on a day to day basis to earn a living. I have been doing the exact same for the past eight years: preparing lessons based on the course book, spending fairly little time on planning, because I had lots of experiences of spending hours preparing lessons only to be greeted with bored faces asking me to do something else. I felt that it wasn't worth the effort.

However, over the last school year something has changed. Something has changed inside me and it all started when I started to read other blogs and use Twitter. Enthusiasm is infectious, just like a laugh or yawn can be and every day I read comments from professionals that are just oozing in enthusiasm towards their teaching. I have had such zeal relatively few times in my career, but recently I have a new-found passion for my job. Perhaps passion is the wrong word: I do not consider teaching the be all and end all of my life, but I can say that I am much happier about going to work than I used to be. I have plenty of new ideas, thanks to my PLN (a term that I feel uneasy about using, and that I will come to shortly) and I think my students are benefitting from this. I have decided to start giving some in-house teacher development sessions to share what I am learning.

Nevertheless, I can't help feeling that I don't fit in with these professionals that I sometimes communicate with on Twitter. I get the feeling that I am pretending to be a professional and that someone soon will catch me out for being a fraud. As for Personal Learning Networks, I believe this supposed to be a two-way affair. I learn so much from the people whose blogs I read and links I open. But do they learn anything from me? They are teacher trainers, course book writers, directors of studies, whereas I am just a teacher. I can't help thinking that I am taking much more than I am giving back.

I felt even more like a fraud when a well-known magazine agreed to publish an article I wrote. Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? I am not well read on methodology. What I write is really just common sense. I feel slightly embarrassed to see myself on people's educator lists on Twitter - I am not an educator, just a teacher! Now I have always been a quite an insecure person and find it difficult to believe in myself, probably the opposite to a lot of  Tweeters and bloggers out there, and so it really does make a difference to me when I get comments on my blog, or people retweet my tweets. I guess I just need a bit of encouragement occasionally!

Does anyone else get these feelings from time to time? Is it normal? How do you deal with it? I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I can appreciate what you mean, but I think you should consider yourself part of a network that is interested in what other teachers have to say, regardless of their standing or experience. Everyone has something to say and there will be people less experienced than you looking at your blog who may find new things in what you write.

    Also, regarding the 'big names' around the 'PLN', I think a lot of them tend to be the least useful online presences, to me. It's the people who are actually teaching who I learn things from, because they write about things immediately relevant to my job.

    So keep going with the blog!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Richard! Of course you are right, and I do agree with you to some extent, although it depends on which "big names" you are referring to! I hope some of what I say is useful for other teachers - that is one of the main aims of my blog. Don't worry, I'm going to keep it up, I enjoy writing and it keeps me on my toes!

  3. Hi,

    Interesting thoughts as you know I'm new to this blogging thing and I too am unsure of how to gauge my blogging success so to speak. I enjoy doing it and I enjoy reading other peoples blogs I'm learning stuff and it's keeping me away from the TV. I know what you mean though are we just hangers on or gatecrashers??? Definitely not part of the blogging elite yet!

  4. Hi Michelle,

    Insightful and heart felt. Enjoyed your reflections.

    Let me share a secret. WE ARE ALL FRAUDS!

    I won't elaborate (though it is tempting) but I mean that in a very positive way. It should speak to all good ELT teachers. I'll say it again, "We are all frauds".

    What counts is what you do in your class and what you feel about yourself. All else, is but chaff in the wind (or is that dust?).

    Great thoughts and a nice breeze.


  5. Michelle,
    I believe that wanting to be part of a PLN, writing a blog, wanting to make the best out of your classes, trying to collaborate with other teachers, etc., etc. makes you an excellent teacher worth listening to already. You would only be a fraud, if you were not interested in your job and just do it because of the money you get. We are all interested in reading your thoughts and keep on learning together.

  6. We all feel like a fraud at times, but hey, *every* experience as a teacher is unique,so *of course* your can bring lots to your PLN, just by sharing your own experience. And if it can be of any comfort, I think the biggest fraud in the ELT cyberspace is *me*! I am French and don't even teach English !


  7. I loved this post! I think we could all do with some encouragement from time to time, so you're certainly not alone! I only have positive things to say about the PLN on Twitter though. I've felt embarrassed at times when posting questions, but always been astounded at the helpful support that soon comes along! As for some of the 'bigger' names in EFL, well I've personally found them just as helpful/approachable as anyone else in the PLN. There are times when there are conversations going on that I just don't feel I could join I don't. But all in all I think that Twitter is an amazing way to interact with people that you probably otherwise wouldn't be chatting to. I usually leave twitter having discovered something new, or having had a good laugh,or meeting someone new or even better...all 3!

    I think you've got a great blog! Keep up the good work Michelle! It's good having people like you in the PLN!


  8. Thank you so much Leahn, David, sabridv, ALiCE_M and Jez for these encouraging comments! I had a suspicion while I was writing that I couldn't be alone on this, that there must be lots of bloggers and tweeters out there with similar feelings from time to time. It is nice to know that this is true, as sometimes I don't comment or answer questions because I haven't got anything profound or interesting enough to say! I'll definitely try to participate more on other people's blogs as I have discovered how important it can be to the writer. Thanks again for your nice comments!

  9. Hi Michelle,

    I wrote a reply as soon as I read this, as recommended by Jez last Sunday, but it got lost.

    I was talking about this with a good ELT friend and ELT name (think grammar), and we both agreed someone (for me my German tutor at university) was going to finger our collars one day and say " Oi! What are you doing up there? Don't be so ridiculous!"

    He really doesn't need to worry, and I tried to reassure him, as he tried to reassure me.

    Sticking your neck out in print or at a conference is nerve-wracking, but I rationalize by saying it's only our respect for the audience/reader which makes us feel that way.

    Now, I wish I could say it got easier. But it doesn't. Every time I write or speak in public, I'm nervous about the response.

    Actually, most people in the business are veyr nice and supportive, and those who aren't soon fall by the wayside.

    I can only say good luck with your blog, and I'll keep reading it. And if you've got something to say, then I and many others would like to hear it.

    Simon Greenall

  10. Hello Simon,

    Thank you very much for your comments. As I mentioned, I had a suspicion other people must have similar insecurities, although I have been surprised to hear that a number of ELT professionals (including yourself) with a wealth of experience of writing and public speaking still have these feelings from time to time. This is both comforting and perturbing!

  11. I'd say that most of us bloggers are that way, insecure in the face of the many excellent reflective practitioners and experienced writers. I have stage fright when I comment on most blogs, and often feel out of my depth. Still, aren't we lucky to have found people to share learning with and to reflect on and integrate best practice? Blogging is a great eye-opener, and it opens hearts, too: I've experienced great support and kindness in this circle of professionals.
    All the best for your blog!

  12. The frauds, Michelle, are those who face their day with dread, day in day out; those who keep looking at the clock to see how long more before their class ends; those who still swear by their 'tried and tested' ways, not accepting that today's kids, today's society, today's demands aren't like what they used to be two generations ago when they first started.
    Everyone knows something someone else doesn't; everyone can learn something from someone else. Just as the kids can learn from us, so can we learn from them. Just as the novice can learn from the master blogger, so can the master learn from the novice.
    The time you stop learning is the time you say goodbye to life.
    Carry on writing, Michelle! You're a natural!

  13. Hi Michelle

    I came across your lovely blog via Leahn's blog and thought I would just say hello.

    I love your quote "What I write is just common sense" - well, that is exactly what we as teachers want to read about! Good, practical insights that helps us in our daily teaching life.

    We can all help each other in this modern day and age in our own unique ways. I wish your blog every success.



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