One of the things anyone can do to develop as a teacher is to participate in interesting communities on Facebook or follow people who post articles that are related to teaching. I often check Facebook on my mobile and don’t have enough time to read said articles, but add them to my saved list.
Last weekend I finally had time to check out some of the things I had saved recently and two of those were related to teacher development, which inspired this post. Teresa Carvalho wrote about becoming better at English and Pete from Elt planning wrote about developing as a teacher.
In this article I’m going to look back at 2015 and also look forward to 2016 in terms of my own development.
1. Starting a blog
Starting a blog clearly had the biggest positive effect on my teaching last year. Because I decided to post my lessons on the blog, I began to think about them more carefully. In addition, I now had a reason to look back at those lessons and think of what worked and didn’t work in order to post tips and suggestions on the blog. More theoretical posts also made me look at my own practice and evaluate what I thought I did well enough that I could share with other teachers. On the flip side, I figured areas where I could still get better at and was able to start working on them.
2. Teaching a wider range of levels
For a couple of years I had got used to teaching certain levels of students. In 2015, once I started teaching one-to-one lessons, I went back to teaching a wider range of levels. This reminded me of things I hadn’t thought of in a while. For instance, grading your language is as important at elementary levels as it is with advanced ones. With A1 students you need to focus on using simple words and cognates and having instructions that are short and clear. With C1 students, on the other hand, it’s important to force yourself to use language above their level (Krashen’s famous i+1) in order to keep challenging learners.
3. Becoming a bigger part of Brazil’s ELT community
Part of this was starting the blog, of course, but also becoming more active in teaching communities and chats. If you are based in Brazil, I highly recommend joining the BrELT community on facebook and checking their blog. They organize monthly chats and frequent webinars, both of which are a great opportunity to meet other teachers who are eager to learn and have interesting experiences to share. If you teach elsewhere, look for regional communities and associations that can inform you of local events and the like.
4. Becoming a Celta tutor
I’ve recently read a magazine article about an adolescent who scored the most points in Brazil’s national exam for high schools. In the article he explains how he started teaching at a school for underprivileged children as a way of becoming better at Maths. Likewise, working with teachers and exposing them to key concepts in ELT has made me a better teacher. I constantly caught myself during lessons thinking that I was doing things I’d told teachers not to do, which lead to some change in the way I teach. You can read about my TiT (Tutor in Training) adventures here and here.
5. Teaching Toefl exam classes
Since I became a teacher, my focus had always been on Cambridge’s main suite exams. That’s probably because that was the focus of the schools where I used to work. I taught prep classes and then became an oral examiner myself, always working with PET, FCE, CAE and CPE. Last year, for the first time, I started getting requests from people who wanted to take the Toefl. Having never taken the test myself, I had to study the exam in order to better prepare students for it. It was a very rich experience for me and, hopefully, for my students too.
Things to do in 2016
1. Read more theory
Although I read a fair amount of theory while doing the Delta, 2015 made me realise there are many important texts I haven’t read yet. I’m an avid reader in my personal life, but I need to find time for textbooks as well.
2. Presenting at a conference
Braz-Tesol’s 15th international conference is taking place this July. I have presented twice before (Rio de Janeiro in 2012 and João Pessoa in 2014) and both times were great opportunities to meet likeminded professionals from all over the country. I’ve submitted two workshops this time around and can’t wait to hear if they have been accepted or not. Hopefully I’ll get to see you there.
3. Delivering more input sessions at Celta
Each Celta course has approximately 40 input sessions, which are sort of workshops. I have taught about 12 different ones, mostly on topics that I enjoy such as vocabulary, pronunciation and error correction. One of my goals for this year is to expand my range by working with receptive and productive skills and other core Celta sessions such as literacy.
Thanks for reading