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by Ovidiu Leonte, "Mihai Eminescu" High School, Iasi

It is a well-established fact that educators follow a lifelong learning path and, while all professions involve learning from experience, which, in the case of TEFL, includes the feedback obtained from stakeholders like students and parents, there is also the possibility of learning from colleagues, be they more or less experienced. But should teachers of EFL go by the old adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”?
The handiest answer is to do just that, when presented with the chance. Isolation is never good and all practice and teaching habits can benefit from being bounced off other psychological profiles, other life experiences or even points of view. Colleagues may warn us of what lies ahead if we take a certain path, for example when excessively pandering to students for popularity or, conversely, when adopting a demotivatingly strict stance in class in an effort to get more done.
However, what may be even more concerning than the dangers of going it alone is the risk of losing all battles as a teacher without even fighting them. The subservient teacher who simply walks into a new school and asks how things are done around there may unknowingly follow a failed recipe coined by a more experienced colleague which could have become the norm around there by mere accident and which, fatefully, is inferior to what the new teacher might do if left to his/her own devices. The colleagues we ask may simply want to spread their failed practice in an unconscious desire to find validation for their own frustrations or inability to find answers to teaching challenges.
Admittedly, some tips or approaches from colleagues may be success stories rather than half-answers and some experienced colleagues will readily admit that they themselves are struggling with the issues under discussion in the staff room. Even so, those tips may work for their authors because they fit the latter's personality or simply because they add details that they fail to pass on to us. If that is the case, those tips, successful though they may be, are bound to fail when tried in our own classroom.
At the end of the day, keeping one’s eyes and ears open is a sign of flexibility and wise caution, but so is the idea that personal input and creativity may unwittingly be stifled by the subservient compulsion to follow some so-called tried and tested ways of that staff room one has only just entered. When in Rome, be yourself, because Rome too was made by immigrants.