By Elma Velić Bešić

Being a teacher carries a lot of weight and responsibilities, as well as joy and laughter, long hours and many unsolvable problems, great and bad days, but mostly a lot of paperwork.

I read somewhere that if you want to work in administration with lots of paperwork, then you should be a teacher. This totally applies to the Bosnian system of being a teacher, where paperwork is the main issue and obligation, which is controlled and evaluated. But where is the teaching then?

When I graduated, my friend gave me this great card, saying: Congrats, you are a teacher now. Good luck in studying and going to school for the rest of your life. I though he made a mistake writing ‘studying’ where he should write ‘teaching’, but after all these years, I realised that he was right. What it teaching without studying? And is that possible at all?

After a few months, I realised that I have to write dozens of lesson plans, monthly schedules, evaluation reports and other much needed reports that are obligatory in every school. Then, I asked myself what I actually I need to do, to teach and to improve my teaching, because I also noticed that I have mixed ability classes, kids with special needs, stubborn and lazy teenagers, kids who want something interesting. Overwhelmed with a lot of paperwork, I didn’t have time or ideas about how to develop professionally as a teacher. I didn’t know that I could do that in several different ways.
And how? Especially in Bosnia, where there aren’t many opportunities? Well, a few years ago there weren’t any.
TETA, the Tuzla English Teachers Association, appeared in 2013. TETA presented what the association did in Bihać, during their first big tour through the cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They mentioned how we, the English teachers, can educate ourselves and develop our teaching styles, how we can travel and when and how to ask for grants, but the thing that caught my mind was visiting conferences.

They announced the conference in June that year, and I applied an hour later. That was the beginning of my journey with TETA.
Since 2013 I have visited and presented at six international conferences and organized six mini conferences for teachers in my area, together with Mirela Midzic from AC Bihać, on behalf of TETA. Maybe that doesn’t sound as like anything big or amazing, but when I think about my beginnings as a teacher and the lack of CPD, this is a huge deal for teachers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in my local area.

Members of the TETA committee after announcing the conference in Slovenia

Members of the TETA committee (l-r Azra, Ramajana, Lejla, Elvia, Elma) during a mini conference in Bihać last spring

TETA succeeded in connecting the English teachers from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, gathering teachers who are imaginative, hardworking, dedicated and great at what they do, and most of all this provides a lot of opportunities for those who want to educate themselves, to research and share their knowledge. And this is not particularly a story about TETA as an association. This is my story, about me being a teacher in the past, with little opportunity to develop myself professionally and me being a better teacher, with opportunities and education which only other teachers can provide. This is a story about one little step of a few teachers towards the greatness of teaching and those who are willing to follow.

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