Why I joined the Cooperativa de Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona

SLB member Ben Nazer shares his thoughts on why he decided to join.

Joining Cooperativa de Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona

Most members of Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona (SLB) are freelance language professionals, based unsurprisingly in Barcelona. I work in Madrid as a salaried teacher, and don’t do freelance work. So why did I get involved?

I think who we are as practitioners should involve common shared values of equity, of empathy, and of working together; cooperation and collaboration. SLB has a very positive approach to how this industry could improve, and is not afraid to criticise the precarious nature of a lot of what we do.

Not only a Cooperative but a Personal Learning Network

Professional development is important for me, and I joined partly to broaden my Personal Learning Network (PLN). After completing an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL I was buzzing with ideas, mostly positive but some negative, about teaching and the wider industry. I wanted to discuss these ideas with like-minded people and engage with others in a similar position.

A PLN is personal in that you find people sharing work of specific interest to you, but also in the way that it involves personalities you feel comfortable working with. My first contact with SLB was meeting Myles Klynhout at a conference in Barcelona. We discussed how a cooperative can support workers as a more egalitarian business model (something I am very interested in), but also help teachers promote themselves as well-trained language service providers, which describes Myles rather well. I later went to an information session led by Neil McMillan, and attended a talk on “Negotiating Empowerment” by Geoff Jordan. I quickly realised that these were the kind of people I wanted in my network to help stretch my understanding of how to ‘be’ in this industry.

What else does SLB have to offer members who are not freelance?

SLB helped me discover new sources of information, work out who to follow on social media, and find the kinds of blogs I am interested in. I have been given a crash course in online learning platforms, and invited to training sessions about task-based and process approaches to learning. I am interested in democratising teaching, and support the idea of a materials bank of resources that students and teachers can access to give them more choices in how to tackle learning. I think we need a wider range of content that goes beyond sometimes stifled course-book topics and approaches. SLB are actively engaged in such a project, and I have had the opportunity to write materials for them and got invaluable feedback on my work.

I think who we are as practitioners should involve common shared values of equity, of empathy, and of working together; cooperation and collaboration. SLB has a very positive approach to how this industry could improve, and is not afraid to criticise the precarious nature of a lot of what we do. And I get a real sense that they have ‘got my back.’ I believe in sharing my ideas about teaching, and when I presented at a recent conference, SLB tweeted their support.

In May, I am giving a demonstration lesson at InnovateELT 2017. I will be using an approach to task-based reading that I developed while thinking about how to contribute to SLB’s materials bank. The approach is in part inspired by a MOOC I thoroughly enjoyed, which was recommended by a fellow socio. I am suggesting ways of teaching that complement lessons in a way I feel I can firmly stand behind. I am glad to be invited back to Barcelona, and I know that SLB members will encourage and help me, both online and in person, to give a good presentation. It is this level of support, from highly professional practitioners, that I sought, and found, in SLB.

To find out more about getting involved, please see benefits and rights of cooperative members.

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