I have said it many times: Teaching is hard. It's not for everyone. And there's a lot of responsibility that comes with guiding students not only through a lesson, but also to their goals.
However, if you have decided to take this path, either teaching for only several years or for a lifetime, and you are ready to take the next steps needed to succeed, let me share some advice which I always give to less-experienced teachers. (Note: I often find myself giving the same advice to teachers with more experience too!)
So you want to get a job teaching English, or even change your present teaching position? The job market continues to expand as more and more people realize how much they need English skills. Unfortunately, not only are there good schools which care about the aspirations and goals of their customers, but there are also bad schools which care only about revenue. Let's talk about how to get hired at the former.
As educators, we know that learning takes place every day and everywhere. But with the need for information and expertise in all sorts of related and unrelated fields these days, we just can't learn quickly or deeply enough to satisfy personal or professional demands. Consider the following approaches most people take:
Workshops and training programs: These may be great, but they end after several hours or days. How do we continue to seek guidance or confirm our understanding once the workshop or program has ended? In addition, so many in the ELT profession live in areas without a large enough community of teachers to allow regular workshops and training.
Teachers establish a "teaching style" in their early days in the classroom, acquiring a repertoire of strategies and activities that are regularly drawn upon in later months and years. However, this routine can also later hinder a teacher's professional development. Responses become automatic, and the range of methods, ideas, and activities fails to grow. The teacher turns on the autopilot, and does the same again and again. Perhaps this is a means to cope with outside pressures, perhaps this is a means to cope with increased class load and work duties.
Self-assessment allows you to identify your overall strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. In addition, assessment allows you to identify the success of activities, assignments, and even courses as a whole. In short, you can continue to develop as a teacher if you regularly think about the goings on in your lessons.
Distant lands have lured a lot of people to the ESL EFL industry, whether they take up the job for a few years or make it their career. After all, a life abroad sounds - and is! - exciting. But the choice to teach English overseas can affect your future plans, both professional and personal ones, particularly if you intend only to take some time off from your current career. Beyond the allure of adventures overseas, what should you consider?
Classroom observation and feedback have often served as a valuable tool to improve teaching skills. It's a means to share ideas. It's allows an opportunity to raise questions and concerns. Of course, this is only possible if done properly.
Consider the following benefits:
1: Teachers benefit from one another's experience. This doesn't have to mean one person is a better teacher than another. Each instead comes to the classroom with different strengths and weaknesses. Observation allows another's perspective to enter the discussion, in part because it's much easier to spot the positives and negatives when not conducting the lesson.
More and more people want to study English these days. In fact, more and more people need English. Talk with many second-language learners, and they point to school, career development, and self-improvement as only a handful of reasons for language study. They also talk about frustration, having studied for months or years with little progress. Their goals, both short and long term, remain beyond reach.
I begin with the above because, as a teacher, I'm similarly frustrated. Students come to me on a daily basis with years of formal study, yet also with an inability to communicate. Perhaps past teachers didn't have the experience. Perhaps past teachers didn't have the right training. Perhaps past teachers didn't have the sense of responsibility or motivation to move students from point A to point B.
In a previous article, I wrote about how the language industry has been changing for the better. Specifically, because students have become more demanding in the progress they make, we need to provide not only better lessons, but better service too. You can read the article here:
As I explained in the article, students tend to more quickly migrate these days to another school or teacher when progress and/or personalized lessons are lacking. And as someone who runs private and corporate training courses, unless there is a service I cannot provide, I definitely don't want students and businesses switching to the competition.
Helping students reach their goals and providing value: These are two key areas I regularly consider in order to provide a successful lesson and course. Let me quickly define the two ideas:
Goals: Wherever the students want to go, I want to help them get there. The goals might be short-term and manageable, or they might be long-term and require several steps. Each lesson I provide should move students toward these targets in some way.
Value: I want students to realize the value of their lessons, as this means they are less likely to switch to another school or teacher. A fun lesson where students feel some progress helps, but additional services and opportunities for interaction also provide value.
As someone who has been setting up schools, running departments, managing Heads Up English, and providing high-quality lessons, here are some tools which I use on a daily basis. (Note that this isn't a complete list just yet, and I will definitely add more resources in the future. I recommend bookmarking this page for your convenience.)