Why join a teachers association?

A while ago, I wrote a post about what had brought me back to twitter. As we’re on this subject matter, another post I wrote was on the effect of PLNs on my professional growth. I’ve also written something about my fond memories of Braz-TESOL conventions and how much I treasured them. That’s all fine, and I do believe all those things, namely twitter, PLNs, and conventions do add a lot to my professional life. But how so? And, even more important than that, why bother?

How does being the member of a community help?

Even though this is not the most important question, the answers to this question are just too many to be written in a single blog post. Pretty much all posts you can find on this blog were the result of some sort of interaction I had with other teachers, students, or just people who weren’t even in the field of education. When you join a community and become an active member of it, you’re allowing yourself the chance to reflect on lots of things you believe in. However, you must always keep an open mind as this activity is bound to show you ways of thinking you couldn’t probably fathom before.

Photo by Ian Sane

A lot comes from online communities, building your PLN, sharing and contributing with like-minded people as well as people who disagree with you, but know how to do so reasonably and also in attempt to get something out of the discussion. When we’re online, we also have the chance to interact with people from different countries a lot more easier than you can do face-to-face. However, I always feel there’s something missing in the online component of interaction.

Despite all the benefits that arose from Web 2.0, it’s still hard to beat the atmosphere from a face-to-face convention. Having had the chance to attend the last Braz-TESOL national convention with more than 1200 teachers from all over Brazil and all over the world, I can certainly assure you that the things you experience in such a convention are a lot more intense than what you usually get online. It’s like one thing complements the other.

Finally, joining a teachers association, online or face-to-face, is helpful because it puts you together with people who, just like you, believe that teaching means acknowledging you must constantly be learning. Teachers who are members of a teachers association are willing to share information, experiences, and anecdotes that might help other teachers. Members of these associations aren’t selfish and believe that the ones who benefit the most of such exchange of information are they themselves. Oh, really? But why is that?

Why should I join a teachers association?

I believe that sharing what I know with others and listening to what they’ve got to say, and trying out new things in class is done with the sole purpose of helping learners. I usually tell my students that teachers should care a lot less about their teaching and a lot more about their students’ learning. This means teachers should learn how to truly listen to their students. In language teaching, I very much agree with the idea of working with language that’s produced by learners themselves as this is more often than not a lot more personal and meaningful to learners than a pre-fabricated chunk of language used to show a point. If you’ve paid a visit to this blog before, you probably know what I mean by this.

That’s fine, but what’s this got to do with joining a teachers association? In a nutshell, the better the teachers are, the better students will be. If you believe you’re a fantastic teacher but you don’t share what you do in class, you’re likely to have to start from scratch every semester or year. I honestly can’t think of an educational setting in which students only have one teacher. This means that the better our peers are, the easier our job will be every new semester or year. Instead of having to teach students from scratch, you can just continue what had been done in previous semesters. Now, if that happens, and if you believe you’re such “a fantastic teacher, like, the best teacher in the world ever”, how much do you think you can accomplish if you haven’t got to worry about teaching your students the basics, or things they should have learned long before they were your students?

If we accept that teachers who join teachers associations as teachers who are always willing to seek what’s best for their learners, then it’s likely that students who have been the students of teachers who participate in such associations are better prepared than students whose teachers do not take part in such associations. And the better prepared our students are, the easier our job is. Would you agree with that?

Where to go now? Well, if you’re reading this and you’re an English teacher in Brazil, you could start by clicking here (or on the image below).

Professional development? Why don't you join Braz-TESOL?

11 thoughts on “Why join a teachers association?

    1. Hi Mariel,

      Thanks for your kind words! I guess there are may teachers out there who haven’t heard of such associations – at least here in Brazil. The more we can spread the word, the better! 🙂



  1. This is a great post, thanks. It’s impressive to hear about TESOL Brazil at 1200 delegates. This was unthinkable anywhere twenty years ago.

    Small is beautiful too. IATEFL is involved in scholarships for individuals who may be in a position to set up small Teachers’ Associations in sub-Sahara Africa, through its Wider Membership Individual Scheme.

    FAAPI in Argentina is great too. It’s interesting what you say about face to face meetings, as everything we do with our technology suggests it’s no longer essential.

    Simon Greenall (IATEFL president 1997 – 99)

    1. Hi Simon,

      Thank you very much for your comments! My first Braz-TESOL event was in 2000, and it was when I first saw lots of people from many different schools committed to help one another become better professionals. I agree with you, 1200 people is really impressive, but now we’ve got to try to spread the word about the benefits of joining these associations.

      I have never had the chance to attend the IATEFL conference in person, but this year I could follow it through twitter and all the videos. I was also really fortunate to have had the chance to chat with Herbert Puchta about the conference and other things as he also came to the Braz-TESOL this year. What a wonderful talk it was! 🙂

      I was also pleased to hear what IATEFL has been doing. Thanks for sharing that here! Any chance of an IATEFL Brazil? 🙂

      Last but not least, I do believe there’s huge potential for online conventions, but there’s nothing that’s already available that replaces face-to-face meetings. Perhaps for smaller sessions, or even a guest speaker from another country in a large conference, but there are a lot more opportunities for networking and engagement is a face-to-face convention. Oh, and people are a lot more focussed, I guess.

      Really happy to have had your visit and your comment on the blog! 🙂


  2. It was great to follow IATEFL Harrogate online, and to read all the excited posts of people who had met on Twitter and were seeing each other’s faces for the first time!
    It’s invaluable to have an international PLN, but it’s also invaluable to get the chance to meet once a year and keep going an uninterrupted conversation!

    NB: We’ve also linked to this post from Rosario, Argentina at http://www.facebook.com/pages/APrIR/127774673899632

    1. I couldn’t agree more! Meeting at least once a year and holding a conversation without being bothered by other twitter messages, emails, or running errands in the house is what makes such a difference when it comes to our meetings!

      Thanks for linking to it a t your Facebook page! Really appreciate it! 🙂

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