An Image for the Professional Journey

The images that I am using for the Essentials of Language Teaching website depict folded paper (origami) boats floating on a stream. I am grateful to Leyla Torres of Origami Spirit for permission to use her beautiful photos.

For me, these images represent central aspects of teacher professional development — what it is and how it works.

The water on which the boats are floating symbolizes the ongoing learning journey that defines the professional lives of dedicated teachers. Sometimes the water is calm and the boats drift peacefully. At other times the stream flows more quickly and the boats may tip precariously or even risk capsizing — but it’s those times that bring the greatest progress.

The boats themselves, constructed out of paper, represent each teacher’s construction of the individual professional development process. A basic origami boat is not difficult to make; the internet is full of diagrams and instructions and how-to videos. However, to actually make an origami boat, you must get the paper and do the folding yourself. In the same way, you as a teacher can read the material on this website, and think about it, and talk about it with your colleagues, but it will not become real for you until you try it out in your own classroom. I hope that you will do that, and then use the contact page to let me know how it worked out.




Finding Buried Treasure

How do you find a buried treasure? First you find a map with an X that marks the spot. Then you follow the map, and if you’re lucky, the treasure is there for the finding.

The Essentials of Language Teaching is a website that was developed in the early 2000’s by the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC). The site was created as a professional development tool for new foreign language teachers and teaching assistants in the United States—people with strong language skills but limited teaching experience. As it turned out, teachers of English to speakers of other languages also found the site content useful because of its emphasis on communicative competence and learner-centered instruction.

With time came the end of the NCLRC and its websites, and the content of the Essentials vanished as the site was no longer maintained and active links to it disappeared. A few remnants persisted, though, in copies of individual pages that people had posted in other locations; and one such copy led to a conversation with a colleague who wished that the Essentials could come back online because “the information was so valuable and still is.”

So I dusted off an old map that I had, and followed the marked path that led to the X. And I was lucky—the treasure was there for the finding. Here it is.

Deborah Kennedy
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