Last Thursday I had the chance to take part in a webinar by Higor Cavalcante, which you can watch below. He talked about the importance of language development for teachers and it got me thinking about both language development and professional development as a whole. So today I’m writing about the steps I think teachers can take to become better professionals.
I wholeheartedly agree with Higor when he says English teachers should be able to speak the language at a high level (CEF C1 or C2). Now, for a variety of reasons, you may have become an English teacher before becoming proficient in the language. I do think, however, that achieving it should be a teacher’s primary aim.
You can try studying on your own for an exam such as the Cambridge English: Proficiency or the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English. I have always needed external motivation to got me studying, so I’d highly recommend enrolling in some sort of prep course. If your English is at a lower level at the moment, start with a different exam and gradually build up your English.
Now, tests and courses cost money but you may try to ask the school or institute where you work for a scholarship. If that’s not possible, you can try to attend an advanced level class in your own school or institute. This semester I’m teaching a C1 group made up of regular students and a few teachers. I admire their hard work to get better at their job.
There are plenty of opportunities to improve your English and teaching skills for free as well. Most of the people I know, myself included, spend at least a couple of hours on Facebook every day. An easy way of developing professionally online is to follow pages that are related to English language teaching. Most publishers, like Cambridge or Macmillan, as well as the British Council post articles and ideas daily on Facebook. Among photos of puppies and videos of kittens, I can usually count on finding a good article to read.
There are also many groups organized by English teachers, where people share their experiences and help each other out. As I mentioned in a previous article, I joined the BrELT group on Facebook earlier this year and can definitely say it has had a positive influence on my practices and beliefs.
Another important suggestion is becoming a member of a national or local ELT association, such as Braz-Tesol. Their fees are very reasonable, you receive a newsletter with articles about teaching and get to participate in events like next year’s national convention in Brasília. On top of that, the local chapters usually organize a couple of events every year – if you have read this far, you’ll probably be interested in this Teacher Development one-day seminar happening in September.
Finally, I imagine most people who become English teachers (and maybe I’m a little naive) do it because they love the language. Therefore, you should try to have as much contact with English as possible. For example, I have basically forsowrn reading books in Portuguese (btw, forswear is a word I have recently learned from a book) or watching dubbed films.
I think it’s also important to approach these moments with a learner’s eye. For instance, when watching Higor’s webinar he used a collocation that drew my attention (something begs the question). I immediately wrote it down on a scrap of paper I had lying around near my computer. Likewise, when watching TV series or films your could keep a little notebook or use your mobile to take notes of new or interesting language that comes up. I’ve been doing it for a while and I can honestly say it pays-off in spades.
Thanks for reading.