Friday, 18 September 2015

So long, farewell, Aufwiedersehn, Goodbye....?

Me again.
I find that I have been struggling to write for quite some time now: There is this strange inertia that pulls me away from the keyboard , or the page and pen: An odd reluctance to express myself.
This is not a good thing in someone whose career is based on communication.
Then again, as hinted at in  the last post, I have had some impediments going on work-wise.
Fortunately, these have, as it were, resolved themselves, mainly by dint of me and my erstwhile employer going our separate ways.
While this opens up all sorts of Adventures, Excitement and Really Wild Things for me as I gaze across the infinite possibilities of the future, I cannot help but feel that it is a shame as well.
Reading College once boasted an EFL/ESOL staff of thirty teachers and a student cohort, in its halcyon days, of about a thousand students.
As of June this year, it had five full-time equivalents and fewer than two hundred learners.
This in a town that is, by geographical and population size, the most linguistically diverse spot on the planet.
What happened? We should have been beating off learners with sticks!
Well, I'm not going to point any fingers of blame at all, except at the cuts that have absolutely harrowed all of Further Education. I cannot help but feel it is utterly misguiided, culturally divisive, and devastatiing for the prospects of anyone who finds themself out of work and without access to the necessary skills.
I have witnessed the ongoing deprofessionalisation of this industry, with oiur skills and qualifications increasingly being seen as an expensive irrelevance. In a way, it reminds me of the Bad Old Days in EFL, when anyone with a backpack and a passing grasp of English could get a job anywhere.
I have watched my colleagues and friends struggle with increasingly harder and harder workloads for less and less reward. I have watched as good teachers have just fizzled out and left - and here I am, one of them now.
I'm not blaming any one person or institution for what has happened - rather, it is a pervasive climate of, effectively, failure and incomprehension.
Anyway, as they say in interminable meetings, 'It is what it is, and moving on...'
It is what it is. I am moving on.
I feel as if a very large stone has been lifted from my back, and for the first time in a long time I can stand up and see towards the horizon.
At the moment, I think I'll be taking a break from all things ELT, but I'll be keeping this blog on simmer for the time being.
Do I miss the college? Well, I miss the students of course - especially this year's batch, who have been universally lovely. I will miss my colleagues within and without my department - Sue, Mary, Rachel, Angie, Ruth, Gillie, Chrissie, Nicky, Sylwia, Tracy, Tina, Julie, Sarah, Daniella, Martin, Richard, Nada, Lenka, John, Lorna, Katia, Josh......too many to count.
And, strange as it may seem, I will miss the view looking north from D floor - your eyes lift over the roofs, past the canal and the train line, and suddenly you seem to be in a great forest stretching towards the horizon. It was always uplifting on the tougher days.
I will not miss the paperwork, or the targets, or the meetings, or the CPD sessions that largely involved flipchart pads and/or paper table covers and marker pens. I will not miss the pointless politics that seem to be endemic in all public institutions.
On the other hand, I can't deny that this has been an enormous part of my  life, and moving away from it, good and bad, is a little difficult at times.
As for EFL - I've been doing it for most of my adult life. I love teaching, but it's time for some more challenges, I think.
I remember standing on a hill at the commencement of my career, just before going  to Turkey for the first time, and saying to myself 'There are lands out there'.
It seems I'm in the same place again.
Onward to the horizon.


Marisa Constantinides said...

I feel your frustration and I made some choices that have brought me where I am today - not rich, but happy and free of this type of frustration

May the winds blow your sails to more exciting destinations, dear Paul.


paul said...

Thanks Marisa! As I said, I'll be keeping this blog going for a bit longer and I suspect I'll be dropping into #ELTchat every now and then, but a while away from the classroom (or school afmin, rather) may well be all for the good :-)


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