Here’s a fantastic guest post from Michael Walker, who currently teaches at a university in South Korea. He offers some great tips for teachers who are just starting out. Thanks Michael!
There is an old piece of teaching advice which tells us. “Don’t smile until Christmas.” This is nonsense, a simple smile is contagious, we want our students to learn in a happy, friendly, and approachable environment, smiling helps deliver that type of environment. Creating a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment in the classroom is vital to educational success. If students are not comfortable they will not talk, if they stay silent their English will not improve. A friendly environment will lead to increased student-teacher contact, this is key to student motivation and learning.
- Stop Talking
You can speak English. That is great, I am happy for you, now give your students the opportunity to speak English. It is a universal truth that to learn you must do. Let your students talk. An important skill for teachers to develop is the ability to step back and let the students explore the language. Set up an activity, model it, and then move back. Offer assistance if needed, but don’t worry if the activity is not proceeding the way you wanted, the students might have discovered a better way, trust your students. By talking less you give your students more time on task and more autonomy.
- Active Learning
Learning is not a spectator sport, it involves students being involved and active in the process. Encourage your students to take control of their learning, ask them for lesson suggestions, what do they want to learn? Give your students the opportunity to share their learning experience with others, whether this is inside or outside of the classroom. Make the learning environment a creative and collective experience, where all students can share their ideas and concerns. Remember that each student has the potential to be a teacher to another student.
No teacher is an island. A teacher needs to be an active member of the wider learning community. Creating and sharing ideas are important aspects of a teacher’s job, as is helping each other, offer support to teachers and also seek out constructive feedback on your own teaching. Create learning communities with other educators in your field to share ideas and offer feedback to each other. Join teaching organisations and take part in their conferences. Collaboration amongst teachers is important, but don’t forget the students. Learning is increased when students work as a team, encourage your students to work as a group.
There’s no such thing as a bad lesson. Remember, the lesson does not stop when the students leave the classroom. Once the students have left you can reflect on the lesson. Analyse and evaluate what happened in the lesson, what worked, and what can be improved? Keep a reflection diary, record yourself during lessons, have peers give you feedback, ask your students for feedback, and never stop thinking about how you can improve. Gather the information about your teaching and implement the changes. Learning never stops, it just changes direction.