*Dr. Laxman Gnawali
“What do I get if I become a NELTA member?” is a common question faced by someone who is persuading a colleague to be part of this teacher association. In fact, it took me two years to take life membership of NELTA, which I did after two-year annual membership and one-year non-member status. I know there is always a kind of scepticism about the benefits one expects from a teacher association that is voluntary in nature. However, if one is involved in some events of the association, they will be convinced that there is more than meets the eye. A teacher association such as NELTA offers a myriad of opportunities for personal and professional development. And this is true for professionals working in the EFL context. In this short article, I discuss how one’s personality develops in several dimensions if one is affiliated to a teacher association and is involved its activities and initiatives.
The first thing that develops one’s personality is the feeling of identity and confidence. To be able to identify oneself with the professional association that has a national and international fame in itself is a feel-gooder. When we feel good about where we are and who we were with, we can work with more confidence, and confidence is a significant aspect of good personality.
The second change that happens in teacher association is the improvement of our communication skills. In fact, communication skill is the most important aspect of the personality. Whenever we have any events, formal or informal, we communicate with the people around us. After all, all that happens within a teacher association is communication: we write, we give sessions, we communicate online, we inquire and inform about what’s happening. Everything is communication. When we constantly communicate at the personal and professional level, our communication skills get better. Better communication skills are surely a sign of a better personality. And for EFL teachers, communication in English will also help improve their English language proficiency.
Thirdly, there is an improvement in the skills of working in teams. Coming to a teacher association is joining a team, and a range of teams. The moment we become part of a teacher association, we are already in a team and we will work in several teams as we go along. In teams, we talk and we listen, we propose, we negotiate, we accept, we reject, we convince and we get convinced. From an individual I-feeling, we develop the sense of collective we-feeling.
The fourth dimension of personality development is the change in the outlook. As a teacher association member, we are bound to deal with a number of individuals with varying status and backgrounds. We talk to colleagues who are sceptic to the teacher association, speakers from other countries, Ministry officials, officials from international missions, publishers, authors, and colleagues from other teacher associations. The more we get to deal and interact with others, the better our outlook will be. The changed outlook is definitely a better personality.
Fifth, leadership skill is a significant part of a good personality. As I said earlier, being in teams helps us to develop skills of working with others. Working with fellow members, listening to others effectively, trying to motivate others, delegating tasks and sometimes dealing with conflicts (Yan, 2016) are some of the roles we perform in the teacher associations. Someone who can do these effectively, they have surely developed leadership skills and leadership skill is a symptom of a good personality. Working in a teacher association, there is a high chance that leadership skills will develop.
Joining a teacher association is beneficial for EFL and other professionals in substantial ways. Once we become members, we have a sense of identity and confidence. With constant involvement in such professional community, we develop skills of communication and leadership. What transforms us is the transition from I-feeling to We-feeling and the change in our outlooks. With all these benefits in view, a prospective member of a teacher association will be making a right decision if they decide to join it. Together, we grow!
Yan, A. (2016) How To Improve Your Leadership Skills. Accessed from http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/12/leadership-skils.asp on 20 Feb 2016.
(Dr.Gnawali is an Associate Professor at School of Education, Kathmandu University. He also served as an Acting President of NELTA.)