Getting your certification doesn’t mean that you know how to teach, just like having years of experience doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Even though this sounds negative, you can view it in a positive light by knowing there are many fun ways to develop professionally.
Whether you are a newbie, a seasoned teacher, or somewhere in between, there are always ways to get better. Fourteen ways, in fact.
1. Take a course.
This is perhaps the most obvious and traditional way to improve. Beyond your initial CELTA or TEFL course, there are numerous and more specialized courses for every aspect of teaching. These can be taken either online or face-to-face. Young Learners, Business English, Teaching Writing, Classroom Management, and Project Based Learning are just to name a few of the possible courses that are available. Some are free, while others you need to pay, and therefore can get a certificate of completion to add to your resume. To take things a step further, you can always enroll in a Masters or DELTA course.
2. Videotape yourself.
After getting permission from the right people, set up a tripod in the back of your classroom. Recording yourself while you are teaching and having a critical look at it later is an excellent DIY type of observation and feedback. You’ll easily see areas where you can improve, as well as things you did well. Do this a couple of times in the same class so the students (and you!) feel comfortable enough to act normally.
3. Keep a journal.
A teaching journal can be used in many ways to help develop yourself professionally. It’s up to you how you want to organize your entries and how much detail you want to note. The basics should be what went well and what didn’t, plus why.
4. Join Twitter, Facebook, or other social media/networking groups.
Social media is a wonderful thing because it can connect you with teachers all over the world. By conversing with them and joining in on teacher groups, you can share and learn from each other.
Even the most advanced students continue to study English. Unless you’re a true grammar wiz, solidifying and improving your knowledge base of English grammar will benefit you and your students.
6. Get techy.
Technology in the classroom is something that is still left out of many classrooms. Even if you are using the basics, try upping your game a bit. Students will get much more out of learning because they will be more engaged. Using technology also helps save valuable class time because you don’t have to take time to write everything on the board.
7. Watch some TED Talks.
Need some inspiration? Aside from being motivating, there are some really useful TED-Ed talks for teachers. YouTube is another great resource where you can find new games to try and how to implement new practices.
8. Lead a professional development (PD) session…
…or share it with your fellow teachers. Ask your admin if you can share about a topic or lesson idea with your coworkers. Hopefully, they will be willing to share their ideas as well.
9. Attend conferences and webinars.
There are lots of free conferences and webinars. You’ll be surprised at just how many once you start looking around! Most range from a few hours to up to a week. A day or weekend conference is the perfect refresher and way to learn (and then try) some new activities or methodologies. Make a trip out of it if it’s a few hours away!
10. Ask to be observed.
Most teachers dread being observed. It can be stressful and have big impact on your standing within your school. However, if you are really looking to improve you can ask to be observed by the academic director or another colleague. It may be intimidating, but you will get feedback, which is exactly what you want.
11. Give a survey.
Depending on the level of the groups you are teaching, make a simple survey with some questions for your students to answer about your current teaching methods and what they would like to see more of. Put yourself in their shoes when creating the survey so that you have appropriate questions.
12. Write an article for a teaching journal or other publication.
They say that the best way to learn is to teach someone else (or share your experience). One way to do this is by picking a topic or issue within ESL teaching and write an article about it. There are many good publications that will readily welcome your contribution.
You’ll be surprised at just how many books related to teaching English there are. Reading is a wonderful source of knowledge. You can get new ideas, inspiration, and learn more about the English language itself. If you Google “recommended CELTA (or DELTA) reading list” you’ll be off to a good start. Some useful books aren’t only in the form of dense text, but also ideas for activities in the classroom.
14. Be forgiving and make specific goals.
If you are reading this article, then you are already on the right track to becoming a great teacher because you are being proactive. The key is to make specific and achievable goals that you can reach within a period of time. For example, “read one book a month”, or “journal after every class for one week” are good goals. Also, be forgiving to yourself. No one is perfect or can ever be perfect—it’s all about the journey. Mistakes are a good thing because you learn from them!
About the Author
Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.