ALL Council member David Shanks reflects on the benefits of becoming a member of ALL and engaging in local and regional events.
I first became aware of ALL whilst completing my PGCE at the Institute of Education in 2009-10. I duly took advantage of a next-to-nothing student teacher membership fee and began receiving regular email newsletters full to the brim with resources, MFL teaching ideas, links to CPD and interesting projects. Looking back, my main regret is that I did not take more advantage of these opportunities sooner.
Teacher training courses are, for many, a jam-packed and challenging year. I had taught abroad for 3 years before my PGCE and still found the year a real struggle at times. The time and space to investigate novel ideas or attend additional workshops often felt non-existent. Those nice activities that require a little extra preparation or that Saturday talk can easily drop to the bottom of, and slip then off, the busy teacher’s to-do list. However, the multitude of benefits that extend from membership and involvement with a supportive, friendly and active professional body like ALL, quickly grow to outweigh any perceived time costs significantly. The opportunity to interact with like-minded, mutually supportive professionals is, for me, without doubt the greatest strength of being an active member of ALL.
The social nature of working with students can also make it easy to forget that teaching itself is often a regimented and rather compartmentalised job. Teachers work predominantly in their own classroom and day-to-day can have limited scope for conversations about teaching languages (never mind if you are the only MFL teacher in your school!). Again, this is where ALL comes into its own: a powerful, unifying force that reduces professional isolation and gives us strength in numbers to fight the languages fight.
Since starting a new role leading on MFL across a number of schools in 2015 I have had the chance to be more outward looking in my practice and, as such, have become more actively involved in attending, promoting and presenting at ALL events. The annual ALL London January and June events, the ICT and Languages Event (ILILC) and the ALL Language World national event are now my staple CPD highlights of the year and indispensable to my professional development and classroom practice. I am delighted to be a member of the ALL National Council since September 2017 and to have the chance to work with and learn from such an inspiring team of volunteers and amazing language teachers. I look forward to seeing you at an ALL event soon!
David Shanks is Lead MFL Consultant and Teacher of French for the Harris Federation, a group of 40+ primary and secondary schools across London. He is a member of the ALL London Branch committee and the ALL Council Membership task and finish group. He tweets and blogs about MFL under as @HFLanguages.
Find out how which ALL branch, network or hub is near you here.
Read the experiences of members of local branches and what a regional branch can offer you in the January edition of Languages Today.