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May 2020

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During my long career in ELT I have attended numerous seminars, conferences, workshops in Greece and abroad and I still do. As I reflect on all those events, I am so grateful to the amazing teacher leaders I have encountered; their impact on my own practice was immeasurable. I returned to my classroom reinvigorated and ready to shine my own light.

When I think of ‘light’ as a metaphor for learning - from the proverbial ‘light bulb’ moment to ‘lighting a fire,’ these images work for me. As an educator, I’m all about creating light, spreading it, and feeling its warmth.

But there can be more to it than just bringing your light to your classroom and sharing it with your students. We all have talents to share; we all can inspire others in many ways. We all can become teacher leaders. Actually it’s our responsibility to become teacher leaders. How? By developing ourselves, by learning new skills, by expanding and deepening our knowledge, by being aware of the basic principles of language learning, by eradicating misconceptions about language learning. 

Teacher development is like sharing light; taking light from the teacher trainers, the experts, and spreading it to our students. An old Italian proverb says, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” We educators know that sharing our wisdom, our learning and our knowledge is the greatest gift we have to give. When it is needed, we must be ready to share.

Responsible teachers should have reputable expertise and experience in their own field. But the time required to gain such a combination of expertise and experience is really very substantial. Teachers should recognize that their skill set would be meaningfully enhanced and balanced by training.

When we take a course, we trust that the teacher is committed. Struggling with how to teach responsibly in various contexts is a really complicated and actually quite delicate issue. It's also why teachers are constantly encouraged to engage in and deepen their own practice through attending seminars and workshops regularly. There is an evident difference between a teacher modeling on going learning for their students and a person simply going through the motions of teaching.

The former take it a step further from the classroom: they also do staff trainings, mentoring, coaching, conference presentations, blogging, etc. That light that such teachers share grows exponentially. Some lead by supporting their colleagues on a day-to-day basis. Others take their show on the road, spreading their light leading professional development seminars or giving keynote speeches. Some blog or participate in chats on Twitter. Some take a path that leads them out of the classroom and into administration, but, as long as their hearts are still in the classroom, they lead as teachers.

Now let me take this a step further. Where there is light, there is darkness. And let’s face it; there have been some dark moments in our schools recently. There are dark issues faced by our students and our colleagues. To fight the darkness, we need to rally behind the light. We teachers can do so much to help our students as they face the future, as they become the problem-solvers of tomorrow. As Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

Don’t we have a responsibility to lead? To lead our students, and perhaps also our colleagues and communities? Let’s find our way to bring the light. Let’s get out there and shine. We are needed now more than ever to strengthen our profession and guide our students through troubling times.

Remember: “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” Maya Angelou

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