Some teachers have clear direction when it comes to development. Others, like me, have always been a little bit lost. I found that once I finished my initial teacher training there wasn’t much support or guidance when it came to improving my skills, subject knowledge or knowledge of the industry. There was the odd teacher training session or peer observation, plus the occasional chat with a colleague, but for the most part I just had to get on with things. So, I did.
Taking control of your own development is the best thing you can do. Moreover, it’s easier than you think – it just takes a bit of interest and a bit of drive. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started. They’re mostly aimed at teachers fresh off a CELTA looking for inspiration, but some will be useful whatever your experience.
Documenting your progress
It’s said that for development to be successful it needs to be documented. Try these things to help:
- Keep a teaching journal
Record your thoughts and reflections on lessons – things that went well, things that didn’t, things to improve on, useful things you’ve read, self-evaluation tasks you’ve tried, etc. It will be a good thing to look back on, and might help you gather your thoughts.
- Start a blog
A ‘web log’ – it can be like a journal/diary anyway. The difference is that other people can see it. You can get feedback from others, useful tips and ideas. I started this one on wordpress.com. It only took me 10 minutes to set up and it’s free. I’ve motivated my colleague to do the same so you can see one that’s just starting out here. Please comment and keep him reflecting 🙂
- Add teacher development aims to your plans
This is a practical tip for lesson evaluation. At the end of a lesson, write down two things that went well, and two you could have improved on. Our CELTA YLX tutor called these ‘Glows and Grows’. Try and work on the points to improve in the next lesson. Writing these down somewhere is a great way to evaluate your progress. If you’re me, it’s also a great way to notice how many times you’ve had to focus on GIVING BETTER INSTRUCTIONS! AAARGH! (note: had a formal obs yesterday – guess what came up?!).
A framework of reference
- British Council Continuing Professional Development Framework
It’s useful to have a bit of guidance when it comes to professional development. Download this free document from the British Council. It’s a CPD framework highlighting various stages of development and key professional practices. It might help you recognise the areas you need to focus on.
Books to help you…
Get a copy of this book – it’s a perfect ‘CELTA to DELTA’ resource. It’s full of self-evaluation tasks and ideas for trying out new things in class. Some of my ideas in this post are already mentioned by Duncan Foord, but he’s got plenty more to offer. While you’re on Amazon, you might as well pick up the whole DELTA publishing range as I think they’re the best series around.
This was on my reading list for the DipTESOL. It’s full of ideas for focused observation on other teachers. It good to have direction in your peer observations and look at specific things you (or the teacher you’re observing) want to improve on.
Looking for a good resource for improving your subject knowledge? This has plenty of short practical tasks to help you. Actually, this has been sitting on my shelf since finishing my diploma in 2014. Flicking through it again, I forgot how good it actually is!
- Teach, Reflect, Develop: A month of reflective teaching activities (Phil Wade)
Phil Wade wrote a guest blog on here earlier this month, which led me to come across one of his e-books. Here’s the blurb:
This ebook contains 20 5-minute reflective ideas to help you process your last lesson or lessons. There are 20 so that you can do 1 every teaching day for a month. The 4 units focus on You (the teacher), Them (the students), the Lesson and finally the Content.
You can download the book FOR FREE!!! It’s a quick and easy book to get you in ‘reflection mode’ if you’re preparing to take a diploma course, or just to help you out post-CELTA.
- British Council research and publications
No, I’m not just promoting them because I work there! The Research and Publications section on the BC site is a really useful resource for all teachers. If you’re interested in historical developments in ELT, the ‘Milestone Publications’ section is really interesting. For practical activities, ‘Creativity in the Language Classroom’ is a worthy download.
Useful online tools for development
I won’t list an abundance of websites or blogs, you’ll find them yourself. Here are some more general tips for online development.
- Get on Twitter
ELT guru Lizzie Pinard can tell you why this is worthwhile – just click here. I’ve warmed to Twitter a bit recently. Searching for the hashtag #ELTchat will give you an abundance of ideas, resources and articles related to teaching. They also hold a live chat once a week, and contributing to this is a great way to voice your views and learn from others. Follow me if you want, @eltplanning
- Facebook groups and pages
There are plenty of good Facebook groups and pages for finding ideas and engaging in conversation about ELT. A good page to try is British Council Teaching English (which is liked by nearly 4 million FB users) and Innovative Teachers of English. That’s a public group administered by FluencyMC (Jason Levine) which shares some really useful posts.
- Social bookmarking
There are some useful social bookmarking sites which help you record online resources you come across. I’ve just signed up for Pinterest as people tell me it’s really useful, while Sandy Millin has been plugging the idea of Diigo so I’ve just got an account for that too. Once I get these built up a bit they will be my very own reference library. I wish I’d used these when I first started teaching, there must be so many good online articles and resources I’ve forgotten about.
Don’t forget Pindex – this is an up and coming pinboard specifically for education. It’s well worth a look.
- WordPress reader
Even if you don’t have a blog, register for a WordPress account to get the Reader. You can follow interesting blogs on ELT, and their latest posts will appear in your Reader feed. It’s a very useful tool. For ideas on blogs to follow, there are a few listed in the side bar on this blog.
Massive Online Open Courses. Things that you find on sites like FutureLearn. I’ve done a couple of these and I’ve mentioned these in previous posts. I’ve heard there are a few good courses for developing your teaching skills – here’s a link to one course run by the British Council. Best of all, these courses a free so you can’t really go wrong.
- Online sites for CPD
I recommend Cambridge English Teacher. It’s pretty cheap to sign up for and it offers quite a few online courses to develop your skills. There are also discussions and guest consultants who can answer your questions on various topics.
- Short reads
We don’t all have time to sign up for online courses, write blogs, etc. Sometimes we just want some quick tips and ideas to help us think about what we’re doing in class and why. Martin Sketchley has responded to this by creating a new blog of quick tips. It will be good for a daily dose of ELT.
- Online webinars/conferences
There are plenty of these available, and some big online conferences coming up. The Teaching for Success conference is in October, and will feature plenty of well-known TEFLers. Sites like OUP often host free webinars. Talks from the IATEFL conference can be viewed online too.
An honorary mention for The TEFL Show podcasts. These guys discuss latest happenings in the world of ELT, and post short podcasts quite frequently. CPD on your commute… I don’t follow podcasts much though, so if you have other ELT related podcast suggestions please comment J
- PDF Geni
Nik Peachey put me onto this (in this post from 8 years ago!)
Go to the PDF Geni site, and type in a search topic. Hey presto, downloadable articles. A useful resource for those who are thinking of taking a diploma course and are keen to read around various topics.
- Reading journals and magazines
I guess this connects with the above. A lot of ELT magazines are online now too. I’m a big fan of ETp – they’ve got some example articles on their site. Note: for a while you could get a free digital subscription to ETp by signing up to Cambridge English Teacher, which is very cost effective. This offer might still exist…
The day to day…
A few more practical tips ideas.
- Small steps
Improving your practice takes time. Don’t try and run before you can walk, and don’t be afraid to identify weaknesses. Action research and reflection can really help – this links to documenting your progress.
- Explore the staffroom
Open cupboards you’ve never opened. Find out what’s under that pile of coloured paper. Ask a teacher what game they’re going to play with those giant dice. Find the dustiest ELT cookbook on the shelf and flick through it. Fleetingly mention that you want to try a particular method, and wait for another teacher to say ‘I think we’ve got something related to that in the staffroom somewhere’.
You’ll be surprised. This approach is what led me to try out Grammar by Thornbury, the Book of Pronunciation, Teaching with Bear(!) and Cuisenaire Rods.
- Research higher roles
It’s a good idea to explore your options in the industry. This may give you some direction and a clear objective. It will also help you see just how many choices there are – things aren’t all about becoming a manager…
- Step out of your comfort zone
‘I’m not sure that’s me’. Why not? Have you given it a go? I was pleasantly surprised when I took my CELTA YL extension course – teaching kids wasn’t as scary as I expected. I had to step out of my comfort zone to find that out though.
- Value your colleagues
You can learn loads from other teachers. If you build a good working relationship with a teacher then hold onto it, even if you move schools. These things are really valuable and you never know what they might lead to. I’ve just co-written an article with a former colleague…
Peer observation (i.e. watching other teachers, having them watch you) is one of the most useful ways to get tips and feedback on your practice. Rapport and professional respect for your colleagues is a really important part of this process.
Long term goals…
These aren’t necessarily instant idea for development, they might take a bit of time or be something to think about in the future…
- Writing for ELT magazines
You can read a bit about that here
- Talking at a conference
I’ll be doing this for the first time in October. Scary. If you’re anything like me then yeah, this is a big commitment.
- Reflection / research groups
This is a great list of ideas for in-house training and development sessions from Sandy Millin. It might seem like a big undertaking to get groups like this up and running, but it’s certainly worth exploring.
- Joining IATEFL
The biggest benefit you can get from this would be attending the conference. If you can’t get to the conference then the benefits of joining IATEFL may be limited (although please comment if you think it’s more worthwhile).
And above all…
- STAY POSITIVE 🙂
So, what other ways can teachers take control of their own development? There was 30, can we make it 50?
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