KUCHING: Primary school English teachers in Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan are taking part in a social media campaign to promote the upcoming English Language Teacher Development Project (ELTDP) Symposium 2015.
The teachers, who are part of the British Council’s ELTDP under the Education Ministry’s Penutur Jati Bahasa Inggeris programme, have been snapping selfies and uploading them to social media sites with the hashtag #itis.
This is in line with the symposium’s theme “Keeping It Going: Sustaining Professional Growth”. The teachers explain what “it” means to them in posters accompanying their selfies.
Nani Francis, an English teacher at SJKC Pinangsoo in Kudat, Sabah, wrote that “it” was about growing and learning, while SK Nanga Silam, Sibu, teacher John Romar explained that “it” is an endless journey.
English teacher Cynthia James from Sabah, who will give a presentation at the symposium, said “it” for her meant inspiring and being inspired.
“It makes me feel that everything I’m doing is worthwhile.
“When we inspire people and we get inspired by others, you know that you’re going somewhere.
“You are not stuck going around in circles but actually achieving something,” she said.
Before attending the first symposium in 2013, James had been teaching in Kunak for seven or eight years but felt that she was not going anywhere despite working hard.
“I still loved my job but I would say I was a very tired teacher in 2013.
“When I was first posted to that school in 2005, it had had no English teacher for about 10 years and the children hated English.
“So my first few years were spent trying to get the students to love English and learning.
“I did not just focus on academic exams and tests because I do not believe that it would inspire the students to learn English, so my focus was more on getting them to be involved in extra-curricular activities in English.
“I tried to enter my school in as many competitions as possible and we were able to win several competitions at district and zone levels.
“I know that my students felt proud and good about their achievements in those areas but apparently it was not perceived as something very important.
“I knew I was making a difference there but when nobody comes to you and gives you any recognition, you begin to doubt yourself.”
She added that attending the symposium two years ago and giving a presentation about her work in collaborating with the parents helped to bring recognition to what she was doing.
“After the symposium, a lot of people, particularly at my school, knew what I was doing and they started to support me,” she said.
Looking forward to the upcoming symposium, James felt that it would be even better than the first one as there would be more teachers sharing their experiences.
“For me personally, it will be my second time presenting so I will have more confidence now,” she said.
She believed that participating in the symposium could be a life-changing experience as it was an opportunity to be inspired and to network with other teachers.
“This is important because you cannot work alone.
“You can be someone amazing and wonderful but if you are alone there is no one to inspire you. Inspiration comes from other people,” she added.
Keynote speaker Dr Angi Malderez, an honorary senior fellow from the University of Leeds in Britain, will explore the importance of teacher development and why and how “keeping it going” can benefit both pupils and teachers.
What “it” is may mean something different to everyone but the #itis campaign is making teachers think about their own professional development.
The symposium, to be held here from March 4 to 6, will involve 300 primary school English teachers, head teachers, British Council mentors, district language officers and state and national education officials.