New Year, Same You? 5 Ways to be the Best Teacher you can be in 2018

The new year is nearly here and with it comes the expectation to make resolutions to change something in your life; to become the best possible version of you. Or at least to make a list of the characteristics that the best possible version of you would have. Whether you will spend less time on Facebook, go swimming more often, and clean the juicer straight after using it, only you will know — but deciding to be the best possible teacher you can be will bring you joy, benefits to your students and to your career. 

Here are a handful of activities and habits that you can put into practice straight away to make you an even better professional.

1. Take a Course

While there may not be such a wide variety of courses for English teachers to take, there are some out there which are held in high regard and that will furnish you with ideas and inspiration that you can take with you for years to come. Some of the most well-known are run by Cambridge Assessment. TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) is exactly what is says — a knowledge test that will bolster your CV. The DELTA is considered the main stepping stone after the CELTA. It is at master’s level, and for teachers who have been teaching for a few years. It is theoretical and practical and there is increasingly more flexibility in how you can take the modules. For something more specialised there is the Business Certificates (BEC) also from Cambridge which is divided into Preliminary, Vantage, and Higher.


Aside from these formal certifications there are online courses that you can do to support your development as an English-language teacher. For instance, Coursea and Future Learn offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are designed as tasters to promote certain universities and their courses but nonetheless can have great content. With these you will not gain a qualification that you can necessarily put on your CV but you may well learn something useful and enjoy participating within the community of learners that attend the online courses.

2. Read Articles and Blogs

English teachers are often avid readers, and many of then are writers too. Sometimes at the end of a long day teaching a teacher would like to escape into the other-worldliness of a great novel. But putting aside some time to read around topics which interest you in teaching and learning can be equally engaging and can bring benefits to your teaching too. There are lots of academic articles and current research papers which can offer insights into what is happening now in the field of ELT and could help you to overcome issues you might be having with your own teaching.

Google Scholar is a good place to start for searching for articles on topics that interest you and institutions like The Linguistic Society of America offer insights and links to articles and here is a great website which offers lots of links to free articles on linguistics and teaching. If the day has been too chaotic for you to possibly read a full-length academic article then why not browse some of the many ELT blogs in cyberspace that have the right balance of light reading and deep insights? Check out this list of ELT Blogs to follow in 2018. And if you have something to say — why not create your own blog?

3. Join the Community

Being a part of something bigger and communicating with others about what you do can be reassuring and can offer much needed support. There are tons of different groups on social media where you can interact, share, and gain information. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ all offer something slightly different so take a look, join some groups and get involved! Additionally there are forums where you can chat about specific questions such as at TEFL.net and ESL Base.

Quora is a relatively new phenomenon which is somewhere between a forum and social media. It is a place to ask and answer questions, gain knowledge, and comment. There are not so many English teachers on there, but you can change that!

4. Self Appraise and Create a Training Plan

Reflection is a necessary step in effective learning, according to Kolb’s Learning Cycle. As teachers we might be too busy teaching to be learning because we might not have enough opportunity to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well in any given day. Setting aside some time for this and creating a learning path for yourself can give more confidence to your teaching, enable you to see what you have done in the past, and to make plans about how you want to develop in the future.

Self-appraisal is the start of this process. It can done as a simple list of Strengths and Weaknesses featuring what you know you are good at, and what you could do better. From there you can form personal objectives based on the areas you want to improve. You can plan how you will meet the objectives: will it be through peer observations? Reading contemporary research on the subject, or even carrying out your own small-scale research? Taking an extra qualification or attending a seminar? Any of the items in this post could serve as instruments for improvement, the important thing is to articulate what you want to do and follow through as best you can. If you would like a template for a teacher training plan you can contact me and I will send one to you.

5. Attend Conferences

From the plethora of conferences in the TEFL world we can see the dedication and vibrancy in the industry. There are conferences, large and small, across almost every continent, every month. Conferences serve multiple functions. The first of those is educational. When you attend you can prioritise the topics and speakers that mean the most to you. The speakers may be giants of the field or complete newbies giving their first presentation. The second benefit of attending conferences is meeting like-minded people. A lot is made in today’s world of social capital and networking but if that isn’t your thing then simply meeting people and having fun with TEFL professionals is a good enough reason to be there! And that brings us to the third point which is that conferences are exciting and fun. The vibrancy is tangible and it’s revitalising to mix with people who work in your field and with it comes a sense of community and mutual support.

These are some ways you can grow as a teacher but good habits, like dogs, are not just for Christmas; they are long-term investments in yourself that will pay dividends for a long time to come. But why wait till 2018!? There is time to do these things now!

If you have any other suggestions, then leave them in the comments below. Otherwise, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

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Posted by rfieldenwatkinson@gmail.com