How to know if your ELT professional development has purpose?

Are you just a teacher?
Take a look at these three definitions extracted from online dictionaries:

-a person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession; instructor.
-someone whose job is to teach in a school or college
-a person who teaches, especially in a school.

Would you summarize what you do in the classroom with any of these definitions? It does include all the basics: you teach or instruct others, it’s your profession, and you do all this in an institute, school, or university. But it somehow feels like these definitions don’t do it justice. It’s about so much more.

Now we start to get personal. Every teacher sets their own priorities and goals in their professional life which have a direct correlation with their outcomes in the classroom. In turn, these determine how much value we add to the definitions above.

What makes the difference?

Like everything in life, it comes down to having a purpose. The purpose is the drive behind why you do something. It encompasses why you choose to get up in the morning, to go to work, and for the sake of this blog post, to be an English teacher. When your purpose is clear, you can accomplish pretty much anything you put your mind. Moreover, you can do so with a smile on your face.

Finding purpose can seem like an overwhelming task, but in reality, we should be finding purpose in the small things. Click To Tweet

Take a minute. Think what small things bring you satisfaction in the classroom and why these are valuable and meaningful to you. Analyze peak experiences in your career, moments where you’ve felt like a being a teacher was your super power.

Don’t worry about solving the big ELT questions, or how it will transform teaching in years to come. As teachers, you can find a purpose that can be lifechanging to your students and this is what it’s all about. When students leave our classrooms, they should be better than when they walked in.

Still trying to find your purpose? Try answering these questions and see if you can get a step closer before we get into why this is critical to your professional development.

-Do you know what you’re talking about and how to do it well?
-Who needs you to teach them? Who’s life would you change?
-What do they need? How do they need it?
-How will they change as a result of what you taught them?

Put all that together and you’re one step closer to finding your purpose as a teacher.

Why should you have a purpose?

At the core of your purpose, there should be something valuable and meaningful to your teaching career. Most people assume a purpose is solely logical, to accomplish or reach a goal. When in fact, it has an emotional factor, allowing us to make choices of how we invest our time and what we give importance to.

We give priority to goals every day. We should aim to ensure they are not only important and urgent but also significant. Our purpose will have a long-lasting effect on your teaching as long as we acknowledge the essential elements of it.

What’s this got to do with Professional Development?

Professional development is the key to achieve your teaching goals and of course fulfill your purpose. Think of your professional development like your GPS app, and your purpose like your destination. When you input the address to your GPS, it will provide you with alternative routes and an estimated time of arrival. The same dynamic applies to your PD.

Continuing with the metaphor, if you get in a car without an exact address, you’ll likely drive around quite a bit before reaching your destination (if you make it all). As for your GPS, it won’t be able to give you any indications due to lack of information. All in all, you’ll have to ask for indications and hope people can point you in the right direction with the information you have.

The same thing occurs when it comes to your PD. As teachers, we need a valuable, meaningful and significant purpose in our careers. Once this is in place, we can aspire to find “routes” on our continuous professional development path that will support our purpose. This gives direction to every PD activity that we take part in.

Does your PD have a purpose?

Having a purpose will put into perspective how you should approach your English language teaching professional development. Click To Tweet

You’ll be willing to give priority to professional learning activities if you realize they are valuable, meaningful and they make you feel good. A significant purpose will help you see the outcomes in your students’ progress and their engagement in class.

If you’re on the fence about whether you have a purpose in your PD or not, then try answering these questions:

-Are your PD activities aimed at helping you improve specific competencies?
-Do you take part in PD activities organized by your institution?
-Do you actively look for local or online PD opportunities?
-Do you participate in professional learning networks?
-Do you take time to read about English language teaching?
-Do you consciously plan PD activities in your calendar ahead of time?

Want help figuring out your purpose? Download this worksheet and listen to our downloadable podcast.


We’ve made a worksheet especially for you! With our worksheet “Make time for your CPD” you can get started on your PD goals today.

Based on your purpose, analyze what you’ve been doing so far in your CPD to see what works and what doesn’t, as well as what you want to start doing.

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