On the week that I officially completed my PhD dissertation, Mike from ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections, one of the blogs that I am following, wrote a response to Geoff Jordan’s blog post called The Culture of ELT Blogs. I wanted to respond immediately as this was one of the best blog posts I have read in terms of its relevance to my research agenda. My interest in researching sojourning ELTs has led me to question if they could be considered a subculture of the host cultures and/or a subculture of the ELT profession, although some sojourning ELTs may argue against their job being a profession.
Instead of responding to the original post, I would like respond to Mike’s response, which is a defense of ELT blog culture, to demonstrate my naive beginnings of participating in the ELT blog culture. Although I’d like to see more critical thinking/reflections on English language teaching on blogs, I find myself more on the side of Mike than Geoff. Blogs are for the public, not just for the target audience/community, which in this case are English language teachers. Through my understanding of the majority of blogs I follow, most sojourning ELT bloggers write about the personal experiences of the host culture, not necessarily teaching. There are some bloggers who write about revelations they have had concerning their pedagogy or their students’ learning or language acquisition, which is a type of reflective practice. Other bloggers, usually more private about their personal lives, write about their professional development, such as attending and participating in conferences and sharing how they were able to integrate a newer technology into ELT.
My intention for this blog is to help me and anyone else who is interested learn more about sojourning ELTs with the blogging community most likely being the largest represented group. From my dissertation, I predict that I can group bloggers and/or their blog posts which are about one or more several categories,
- Classroom & Student Culture
- Critical Reflections (such as Mike’s & Geoff’s posts that I review here)
- Cultural Learning
- Early Transition Period (first few months of teaching in a new country)
- Host Institutions
- Language Learning
Going back to Mike’s post, I believe he explained well the culture of the ELT blogging community when describing his relationship with Geoff.
One final point, then. Part of the reason I was comfortable enough to respond to your post here is that we have developed a relationship over time and I trust that you will try to understand what I am writing in the way it is intended. If I didn’t have this trust I would have been unlikely to respond to your post. You mentioned Russ in your post. I have had some very critical discussions with him. I think part of this stemmed from building up trust and rapport and me feeling comfortable to dispute things he said (and vice versa, I hope and believe). My idea here is that both on and offline it takes time build up relationships to where people feel comfortable disagreeing and engaging in critical conversations.
Because I am quite new to this blogging community, I have no rapport with with either Mike or Geoff. This is my indirect way of communicating with them. I can be more direct by responding directly to their posts. I hope to get to the point where I can build relationships with some of the ELT blogging community where both sides can “feel comfortable disagreeing and engaging in critical conversations.”
My question is how many or what proportion of ELTs would be interested in this type of blog? My initial research shows that the more popular blogs are more emotional than cerebral. I would love for more evidence of critical reflection on ELT blogs, but I’m a researcher and not the general public. This brings me to another question that I am more serious about investigating: Is there an ELT blog culture? Or is it a community rather than a culture? How well organized or how fragmented is it? Perhaps researchers in social media can quickly show us a visual of the ELT blogging network (something like this), but I’m more interested in the qualitative aspect of this network or community. What makes it a community or a culture?