I intended to write this earlier today after my walk. It ended up being an emotional walk for reasons I shall explain. At first, I didn't quite realise what was happening. And then it all became clear.
I advocate for and create inclusive, representative materials and one I've been working on is about grief. You may have seen my poll on LinkedIn as to whether grief should feature in ELT materials - at the time of writing, 44 people have voted with 80% saying yes and 7% saying no. The resource is on its last feedback round and I hope to publish it soon.
However, I realise that the reasons for creating this particular resource, amongst all others, is to usualise being open about grief. I didn't really think about my own grief while making the resource. The main text is completely written by me - and reading it back tells some of my grief story. I thought it would feature somewhere in the resource, but not quite so heavily. Am I selling out by being this personal, albeit in an impersonal manner? No, I don't think so. It's helping me comes to terms with my father's death (five years ago now) and to remember the good times.
On my walks, my mind wanders, which is great for thinking up ideas for new resources, but it's also a time of quiet reflection. I don't listen to anything except nature and my own thoughts. And my mind turned to my Dad. I thought how sad that he didn't get to see me turn 40, and how sad it was that he never held my first book in his hands. This was what got to me during my walk. I don't believe in heaven but I feel I am, along with my sister, his legacy. I'm continuing his and Mum's work on family history.
It must be coincidence, but the anniversary of his funeral is this coming Sunday, so I suppose it's all coming together at the same time. And, when I'm in IATEFL Belfast, it will be, or it should have been, his 80th birthday. I think it will be the first time in five years that I haven't been with my Mum and sister for his birthday. I made the choice to go to IATEFL this year, despite the ache I'll feel on that day. So if you see me on the Wednesday there and I'm not particularly engaged or engaging, this is the reason.
Tackling grief as a subject for ELT materials is tough, but I'm not going to stop representing real and true life merely because it's hard. We need to equip our learners with the tools for any situation they may face.
But when writing materials, don't forget to look after yourself, too.