I’m a science addict. Everything, really. You know what’s one of my favorite books? The Illustrated Version of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. His eloquence and simplicity make such a dense topic flow so easily inside our brains that it is a delight to discover the depths of the universe as one of the most brilliant minds unravels it. Charles Darwin is another idol of mine, and I absolutely love the theory of evolution and the scientific method. And if there’s one thing I learned from science and my irreverent high school Biology teacher is that life will find a way. Or, as said by one of Jurassic Park’s characters: “Life will out”
Do you know how life “outs”? By sharing, and, obviously, multiplying. See, a cell’s life expectancy is really very short, and it spends most of its lifetime preparing to multiply. It first duplicates its genetic material, shares it with what’s about to become a new, however identical, cell, and it finally multiplies itself.
I’m discussing Biology here because the analogy seemed to fit this week. I will be sharing my knowledge and that of my peers at two exciting events. The first will take place in Belo Horizonte, MG, and I’ll lecture about the Neuroscience of Bilingualism for National Geographic. My highly-skilled peer Claire Venables will also be there discussing Professional Development. The second will be the Braz-Tesol Conference in Goiânia, from which I borrow the title of this entry: Sharing to Multiply. I will talk about how sharing made me realize my life’s purpose and attending this conference is certainly a type of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
The purpose of this writing piece is exactly that: to share. And in sharing, to discuss CPD. In order to do so, I’d like to introduce the epitome of sharing nowadays: a hashtag. How about #isharetomultiply? The idea is to share something you produced, are proud of, have heard about or anything worth sharing. What I’m sharing with you is my precious Chapter II of my still unborn book about education. At the end of the chapter’s intro, there’s a list of some wonderful online courses you can do for free or for very little money. I cannot forget to mention that this epiphany came to me because of my recently completed British Council Teaching for Success: Learning and Learners course. The intense sharing with FutureLearners and educators was simply phenomenal and the sense of accomplishment throughout this four-week, objective and extremely useful course was wonderful.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”.
The vital role of professional development
One of these days, quite unpretentiously I must say, while browsing through my LinkedIn profile, I came across a quote by a man named Peter Baeklund who’s been working as a Professional Trainer and Coach, owns a leadership company and consults for a number of executives and businesses in Denmark. It goes like this:
“CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?
CEO: What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
Credits to one of my former colleague Hulgo Freitas, whom I follow on LinkedIn and always posts interesting quotes and tips. I naturally had to repost it and try to get this out to as many people as I could. I suppose what drove me to do that was a sense that in many situations it is exactly what happens. Companies, schools, and universities will, especially in my country (at least that’s the feeling), prioritize saving money rather than developing their staff. It is a widespread notion that spending money that is not for paying the salary or benefits is not worth spending (we’ll talk about the exceptions too). Was it always like this? Has anything changed over the years?
To illustrate what has changed, allow me to share one experience I had. I remember when I was an undergrad International Relations student in São Paulo and my university brought in an expert who coached young entrepreneurs for a workshop. He showed us two intriguing charts with the following patterns:
After asking a group of give or take 20 students and getting nothing but silence for an answer, he told us the first chart represented a worker’s life in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (perhaps even the 70’s). A person would get a job and work for the same company for basically the rest of their lives, starting from below in production (let’s use a factory as an example), moving up one degree in the ladder and taking over the mentor position, then supervisor, manager of the department moving up little by little toward, who knows, even presidency. It was a steady line to the top. This was surely my father’s case, who started out as a junior electrical engineer and ended up as chief of his section and international liaison reporting back to Sweden at Asea Brown Bovery (ABB). He worked at the same company for over 40 years. He was the guy they looked for when they couldn’t solve something. He was what we call an “expert”. A few people could do his job. I’m taking a bold guess here and assuming your dad or even granddad followed similar paths (and, depending on the year you were born, maybe you too).
What about the second chart with many ups and downs? Well, that represents my generation. The babies of the baby boomers. Generation Y or Millennials, if you may. Born in the late 70’s or 80’s – some authors will even consider the 90’s – into a world of technology and abundance, at the peak of capitalism and the blossom of hundreds of new fields. According to the “expert” lecturing in my university, these workers have a totally different profile. They work a couple of years (sometimes even less than a year) here and then move to another company there, always seeking satisfaction, personal and professional growth. Now, the funny fact about my generation’s erratic movement to the top is that satisfaction doesn’t always mean more money or a higher position. It’s OK for this worker to start at the bottom in a different company as long as it fulfills a certain need and offers a perspective of learning (and growth). And, since technology and professional development are widely available, a “multipotentialite” (a person with many interests and great adaptability skills, according to career coach Emilie Wapnik) is preferred on many occasions.
What I intend to discuss in this chapter is how the fast-moving world has been demanding professionals with expertise in the area they are working and, simultaneously, workers with skills that can add value to the company – a differential. Being both an “expert” and a “multipotentialite” seems to be a reality anyone in the job market has faced, faces or will face. And to make matters worse, we have to achieve those on our own many times as companies may be reluctant to offer professional development opportunities. That is exactly why my focus here will be on how teachers/educators can keep investing in their own careers without relying solely on their school’s, university’s or any other institution’s initiatives. I will offer tips and discuss ways in which we can improve through online courses, conferences, conventions and symposia, lectures and workshops and, the best part, most of which we can do free of charge. I will share with you my journey in 2016 and what I learned from the professionals I met with and interviewed. At the end of this chapter, you will have precious pointers and a list of courses and other professional development activities you can embark on. Also, since it never hurts to ask, I will teach you how to be more persuasive with your boss and get him/her to help you develop since being static doesn’t really benefit anyone.
END of the intro.
Let’s start with my online course list:
As for the conferences, symposia, and other events, I have only two tips for now. Become a member of your local Tesol committee, and check out this website:
Sorry about the long post, but sharing has these things. How about sharing a little? Use the space below and don’t forget the hashtag: #isharetomultiply
Life is all about sharing. And, in my opinion, we’re not sharing enough.