This is an uncomplicated subject that generates lots of complicated advice. Choosing the right books and avoiding nonsense guru babble can feel daunting. Especially, when what you’re looking for is teacher-to-teacher advice for in the classroom. Here you go: five easy ways to improve as an English teacher.
It sounds obvious but no amount of studying and mock classroom scenarios can prepare you for the real thing. You have to take the stage. As an English teacher you are an educator, entertainer and disciplinarian all rolled into one. That juggling act takes practice. And it’s the only way to discover your own bad habits.
When I’m unsure, I over-explain.
I rarely call on the quiet kids.
My attention always drifts to the right side of the room.
Ugh, stop speaking broken English, that’s not helping anyone!
Confidence, command, encyclopedic grammar knowledge and worry free joy all come with patience and practice. So teach. In a classroom!
Here is something that is 100% guaranteed to happen. You’re going to write the perfect lesson plan. It’ll have it all; warm-up, review, reading, writing, listening and it’ll be fun too! Then, halfway through the lesson you’ll be forced to admit that it’s bombing–badly. So, you’ll wing-it. You’ll play off of the students and the rest of the lesson will be great. It’ll be everything you wanted the well-planned lesson to be. This. Happens. To. Everyone. It’s how you respond that matters. Don’t do the black and white thing and decide to wing-it all the time. Evaluate.
What made the well-planned lesson fail? Did you try to cover too much? Did you miss clues that the students weren’t getting it?
What made the spontaneous lesson succeed? Did you organize the students into groups? Did you find a more relatable way of introducing the subject matter?
Don’t start over. Learn to recognize the little changes that make a big difference in the classroom.
Observe other Teachers
Let’s say you’re out hiking with a friend–a really tall friend. You get to a rocky section and your friend climbs over the rocks using a route that you didn’t even think was a route. You stare at the rocks wondering, how did they even see that? Observing other teachers is a lot like that. You’re androitely going through the paces, then all of sudden, What in the… Why didn’t I think of that!? Teaching English is an imaginative job. Take the time to observe your colleagues. Both their mistakes and their unique methods will help you learn.
Learn a New Language
Attempting to learn a new language will help you focus on problem areas for your students. For instance, English teachers often smile at pronoun mix-ups: “Mark has a new bike. She loves his new bike.” The pronoun switch seems like a “silly” mistake because your brain was long ago trained to associate names/gender with their appropriate pronouns. But for your students, those little words don’t have a hardwired association. It’s a language equation they have to think through every time. If you learn a foreign language, you’ll make that same mistake. Along with all the other “silly” mistakes students tend to make.
Continue Your Education
Read up on the subject. Use your free time to get an online master’s degree. Spend the summer supplementing your TEFL education. Here at the TEFL Institute of Ireland, we offer specializations in IELTS prep, TOEIC prep, teaching young learners and teaching Business English. Every English teacher needs to study. That’s just part of the gig
If you have additional advice, let us know in the comments section!