The TESOL President’s Blog
2017 marks TESOL International Association’s 51st year as an organization that promotes professional expertise in English language teaching worldwide. As we embark on our second half-century, it is fitting that the theme for our 2017 convention will be TESOL 2.0: Engage, Enrich, Empower. The choice of the 2.0 metaphor to frame our annual convention isn’t just a sign of advancing age, however; it is a reflection of a new world for English teachers.
When TESOL started in 1966, nonnative speakers were thought of as “problems” for the U.S. education system, and teachers of English to speakers of other languages were called in to handle the problem. In 2016, language learners around the world are still too often thought of as problems, but unfortunately professional English teachers are not always seen as the answer. Educational systems everywhere are asking whether a combination of technology and a few yearly “ELT” workshops can achieve the same results for less money.
How we view ourselves has changed significantly too over the past 50 years. We no longer associate “nonnative speaker” with students and “native speaker” with teachers. We openly reflect on our diverse identities, and how those identities influence our approaches to teaching and learning. We recognize the importance of setting standards for ourselves and building a body of professional knowledge that combines understandings of language, learning, teaching, and students.
The old adage tells us that the only constant is change. It should not come as a surprise therefore to hear that both we and the world we find ourselves in today are different from 50 years ago. The question, however, is whether we will simply watch the world go by, floating along in the current of the day, or we will actively engage and try to shape that world.
If we are to engage, enrich, and empower a 2.0 world, we need first to understand the changes that are happening both outside and inside the profession. Secondly, we need to take a close look at ourselves. Are we learning professionals? Do we understand how we learn and can work toward effective processes for improving our professional expertise? Finally, can we advocate for our profession? Can we talk about what professional English language teachers know and add? Are we able to talk about the importance of the right policies to support teachers and language learners? In short, are we equipped to make a value argument for professional English language teachers?
Between now and next March when my term as TESOL’s 51st president ends, I hope to use this space to explore these issues in more detail, to help us think about what we need to know in order to make such an argument.