Special interest column: Developing Teachers

By Sandy Millin, IH Newcastle

Starting your first teaching job can feel a little bit like being thrown in at the deep end. You have had a few weeks of training, with a few hours of classroom practice. Within your first two or three days of teaching, you’ve already doubled the amount of hours you’ve spent in front of students. But it still feels like there is so much to learn. Where do you start? Here are 10 suggestions to kick-start your professional development as a new teacher.

1. Observations

Whether it is you observing other teachers, other teachers observing you, or you observing yourself, observations can be very educational. Chris Ozog wrote about observations from the observer’s perspective in the Spring 2012 IH Journal, and I will look in more detail at how you can make the most of observations in the next issue. Some of my favourite classroom activities were picked up from teachers who I observed during my first year of teaching.

2. Reading

There are hundreds of books designed to help English language teachers with every aspect of their teaching. Whatever it is you want to work on, there is a book for you. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • 700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour and Maria Popova (2005), part of the Macmillan Books for Teachers series
  • How to teach English with technology by Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly (2007), part of the Pearson Longman ‘How to…’ series
  • Homework by Lesley Painter (2003), part of the Oxford ‘Resource Books for Teachers’ series
  • Learner English edited by Michael Swan and Bernard Smith (2001), part of the ‘Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers’ series

Hopefully there is a shelf of methodology books at your school. If not, ask around in the staffroom – many teachers have at least one or two books that you might be able to borrow. If you want to get reading right now, have a look at the Delta Publishing downloads page (http://www.deltapublishing.co.uk/downloads). Every month, they publish one chapter of one of their methodology books for you to download free. All you have to do is sign up.

3. Blogs

As well as published material, there is a wealth of teaching material available online, including lots of activities which you can take straight into the classroom. I have collected a list of blogs to start you off: http://bit.ly/newteacherbloglist Most of them have links to other blogs in something called a ‘blogroll’, normally found on the right-hand side of the page. Take a look and see what you can find. And if you’re inspired, why not start your own blog? It’s a great way to reflect on your teaching.

4. Twitter

Not just a place to find out what Stephen Fry or Lady Gaga have been doing today! There is a huge community of educators from all over the world and all kinds of contexts on Twitter, sharing ideas, answering questions and collaborating on international projects. Joining the Twitter ELT community has given me many opportunities, including writing this column! If you want to find out more, here is a beginner’s guide to getting the most out of Twitter: http://bit.ly/twitterforCPD (case-sensitive).

5. Facebook

Not a Twitter fan? Already on Facebook? Then you’re only a few clicks away from more great professional development. If you’re teaching Young Learners, the International House YL Teachers page (as also mentioned by Kylie in the YL column) is full of great resources. One of the most active Facebook pages for EFL teachers is the ‘Teaching English –British Council’ page, with lots of new links posted every day. Many teaching associations have their own Facebook pages (try IATEFL or TESOL France), and there are also some country specific pages (for example ‘#czelt’ for the Czech Republic). So get liking and get learning!

6. Teaching associations

Whether at a local, national, or international level, teaching associations are often full of professional development opportunities. Many of them run events for their members which you could benefit from. You could also get involved as a volunteer, giving you the chance to see how associations work from the inside and perhaps even influence how the association is run. It looks great on your CV too.

7. Seminars and webinars

Seminars give you a short, intensive boost of professional development, normally on a single topic, such as ‘How to teach FCE Speaking skills’. They might be run by your school, teaching associations or publishers visiting your area to promote their latest books. If you can’t find any seminars near where you are working, there is a wealth of them available on the Internet, called ‘webinars’. Simply search for ‘EFL webinars’ to get started.

8. Conferences

If a seminar or a webinar is not enough, why not visit a conference? I always get a buzz from going to conferences and I return to my classroom reinvigorated, with lots of great new activities.  You might be able to find one-day conferences in your local area, and you can also have a look at national and international teaching association websites: they often have annual conferences running over two or three days.

9. IH courses

No matter how much work you do to develop yourself, sometimes what you really need is a piece of paper to prove you’ve done it. This is where IH courses come in. You can train in teaching Young Learners, Business English and Online Tutoring, among other things. If the course you want to do isn’t available at your school, take a look at the IH Online Teacher Training: http://ihworld.com/online-training.

10. Reflection

Don’t forget that whatever development you do should always be backed up by reflection on how you are teaching and what you are learning. To find out more about how to go about this, take a look at the ‘Developing Teacher’ column in the Spring 2012 issue of the IH Journal.

So there you go: 10 ideas to get you started. Good luck!

Author’s Bio: Sandy Millin is currently teaching at IH Newcastle, and has formerly worked at IH Brno, as well as in Paraguay and Borneo. She is interested in making professional development available to everyone, and to that end is an active member of the online ELT community, with three blogs and a Twitter account for teaching: http://twitter.com/sandymillin