I’ve had a really busy year. I’ve taught in four different countries since January. They’ve included a quick winter camp in Spain (which was great fun), a short stint back in England, an amazing summer in Vietnam and now Christmas in Bangkok! You can’t beat the life of an EFL teacher!
I’ve certainly learnt a lot this year. Here are a few things I’ve done that have improved me in some way as a teacher. I hope they give you some ideas for professional development. Some of these were motivated by this great post from ELT Experiences, I recommend looking at it for more inspiration!
1) Delivering a training session
Back in April I gave my first INSET session to colleagues. I focused on integrating phonology into lessons. It was a bit loose and a slightly ambitious session, but I think most people took something away from it. Standing up in front of other teachers was a difficult thing for me to do – I much prefer writing stuff down and sharing it here instead! Still, I’m getting more confident on that front!
2) Working for organisations that promote teacher development
My school in England gave me a lot of freedom to experiment with different methods and approaches. They offered a supportive environment in which to do a distance DipTESOL which I’m very grateful for, but I’m still quite an inexperienced teacher and could do with a few more years abroad to develop further.
I’ve always thought of the British Council as the best organisation to work for in ELT. I really benefit from the amount of professional development opportunities they offer. I’m taking a CELTA Young Learners extension course here in January, which they offer for free! I’d love to work for International House or Bell in the future too, as I’ve heard they offer lots in the way of professional development, but I’m quite happy where I am at the moment!
For new teachers, I recommend asking potential employers what they offer in the way of continuous professional development at the interview stage. Don’t think of the CELTA as the end of your training – it’s only the beginning.
3) Starting a blog
There is no doubt that having a blog has aided my professional development. It’s not so much the blog itself, it’s the fact that it’s given me access to a great online community of teachers. It hasn’t been the collaborative experience that I’d hoped for, but I do enjoy it in other ways.
This surprises me. I never thought I’d get into Twitter. I wouldn’t say I’ve either fully embraced it or truly understand it. However, by following a few interesting people I’ve found the occasional link that’s directly influenced my practice, so it must be useful.
5) Having more cover slots
I never used to work many cover slots, now I have 3 hours of them. I don’t mind this too much, especially when people phone in sick at short notice. I know this sounds weird, but the thing is I spend far too long planning. When I get told 20 minutes before a lesson ‘you’re covering this class’, it means I have to think fast. It’s a skill I haven’t really developed so far in my teaching career, so it’s helped me a lot! NOTE: just in case my employer reads this, I’m not asking for more cover slots 😉
This is a strange one. People often ask me where I see my career in EFL going. I normally say ‘I think I’d like to be a CELTA trainer’. I like the idea of tutoring people who are totally new to teaching, or people who have just qualified and need some support. In my job in England I managed to gain some experience of mentoring without it being a formal part of my job. The management were pretty busy, so it was the collective job of the teaching staff to support lesser experienced teachers. I love sharing ideas, resources and working through issues that have arisen. I get a lot from seeing colleagues and friends succeed, so mentoring is great for me.
After finishing my DipTESOL I was a bit bored. I remembered my tutor saying ‘your written work on the course was a good standard. You should aim to get it published’. So I did. I edited the assignments down to a couple of thousand words, changed the style a little so they weren’t so academic, and approached English Teaching Professional to see if they were interested in them. They took a couple of them, which was great. This got me thinking of other ideas to write about. I’ve sent off something else that’s been accepted for print, and I’ve also started writing for EFL Magazine. People have asked where I find the time to do this. Simple. I’ve cut down on TV and Facebook.
My use of interactive whiteboards has been intermittent, not every school and summer school I’ve worked at has had them. Here in BC Bangkok they are in every classroom and a bit of a focal point, so I’m having to learn a bit more about them. With have two resident experts in interactive flipchart creation here, one of whom I’ve nicknamed ‘flipchart Matt’, who always offers tips and handy explanations of different tools to use on the board.
I’ve got better with using IWBs but I’m still a beginner, and also a bit old-school – I prefer normal whiteboards. Still, another teacher commented on my nice interactive flipchart last month and asked me to show them how to do a few things, which was a compliment.
The software we use is ActivInspire. You can actually download this for free. This means I have it on my laptop at home so I can practise a few things in my spare time.
9) Teaching IELTS
You might have seen my review of an IELTS training course I took through the Cambridge English Teacher site. I’m glad I finally have experience of teaching IELTS, and they’ll be more to come next year hopefully! I was observed on an IELTS lesson this year and got some positive feedback, which was probably the highlight of my teaching year.
10) Teaching a Primary-aged class
I’ve taught a lot teenagers, but rarely taught kids younger than about 12. I taught a bunch of 10 year olds this term and quite enjoyed it. I’m getting more confident when it comes to teaching primary groups, and I’m sure I’ll improve my techniques over the next year.
11) Learning a language
Studying Thai has helped me a lot in the classroom here in Bangkok. I know that a lot of students think it’s nice that I’m making the effort to learn their language. It’s been a good way to build rapport. Also, studying a language again has reminded me of a few ways to improve my own practice, which I wrote about in this article for EFL magazine. Not only that, I can now understand a few things when my teen classes are talking a bit in Thai, so I know what activities they think are boring!
12) Reading more EFL theory books
I had to do a lot of reading for the DipTESOL, which I only finished last November. I can’t say I read EFL books that often and I don’t find much time to read for pleasure these days either! However, there’s a whole ‘DELTA resources shelf’ at work, which is full of interesting books on pedagogy. When I get a spare half an hour I find myself drifting over to it. I think we need to do more to bridge the gap between pedagogy and practice – this is something I’ve thought about recently and want to help teachers at my school do over the next year.
13) Feeling valued
Feeling valued by students, peers and employers is really important to me. It may be self-gratifying, but being told that you’re doing a good job is so important sometimes! This year I’ve felt more valued than ever, and my efforts have been recognised at the right times too. I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who suffers from a lack of confidence at times. All year I’ve had people around me who have been encouraging, have listened and have been constructive. This has helped me develop, and I’ve recognised some of the traits that I think make a good manager. You never know, I might need those traits myself one day.
14) Making ELT my career
After finishing a diploma in 2014, I felt I made a commitment to this industry. When I started out in ELT I thought I’d find a few jobs to help me see the world and give me some time to think about what I really wanted to do. I often met people who were critical of the TEFL industry, and that rubbed off on me a bit.
These days, I think in a totally different way. This week, I taught a student from Mozambique. That’s the 58th different nationality I’ve encountered in my classrooms around the world. That’s incredible. I love writing about my job, talking about it, doing it (except when it clashes with the Premier League kick-off times) and helping others do it. For the first time in 10 years, I’ve given 100% to something other than an academic qualification or playing in a football match. Oh, and a relationship (I’d better cover my back!). That’s a great feeling!
15) What’s next?
Development never stops. I’ve got a lot of things to work on this coming year:
- I’ve got a CELTA Young Learner extension course to complete
- I have some grand designs for helping colleagues with professional development here in Bangkok
- I’ve got 3 ideas for magazine articles that need to be realised in the new year
- I’ve set the target of reaching pre-intermediate level in Thai by the summer
I bet you’ve all done a lot to develop this year too. I encourage you to reflect on it as I bet you’ve achieved more than you think! Let me know what’s been the best thing you’ve done for YOUR development – I’d love some more inspiration for the coming year!
Anyway, for now it’s time for a holiday!