5 Ways to Develop and Keep Your Own #MyTEFLstory Alive

by Kylie Malinowska

With the 20th Anniversary of the IH Journal and the launch this year of #MyTEFLstory it seemed right for this issue’s Five in a Flash to be about Teacher Development for YL Teachers. Whilst this issue’s column is more of a fleshy five and not exactly a flashto read, I hope the longer than usual length will inspire you to give your learners something special: and even better you.

1.      Spend some time with kids you are not teaching

It may sound obvious, but spending time with kids outside of the classroom is a great way to gain a greater understanding of kids, their stage in development, and how their fascinating minds work. Niece or nephew? Offspring of your friends and colleagues? Play with them, take notice of what they can and can’t do. Watch a movie with them, or better still read to them and take notice of the things they talk and ask about. Personally, despite the number of courses completed, books read, classes taught etc., I never truly understood the mind of a three-year-old until I had one of my own, and find my niece the very best resource for ideas and topics for teen classes.

2.      Learn from an expert

Most teachers enter ELT following a course such as the CELTA, which is great, but it doesn’t really set us up for teaching Young Learners. In order to not only keep your sanity, but ensure your learners are actually learning as opposed to going through the motions and merely keeping the learners entertained engaged, it’s really important to understand the methodology and principles behind the activities and the developmental characteristics of our learners. Training has been a huge part of my own YL TEFL story. I always loved and felt comfortable teaching YLs, but it was the IH CYL(T) that really enhanced my skills, knowledge and confidence, and inspired me to take the journey to where I am today: a trainer, mentor, and training materials writer. Some suggested courses are:

International House Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers (IH CYLT).  An enjoyable and comprehensive great all-rounder which gives you theory, practice, and the skills to connect the two.

International House Certificate in Teaching Very Young Learners (IH VYL).  A specialist course for those teaching in pre-primary. Trust me when I say learning more about a VYL beyond their linguistic skills is a game changer.

Taming the Wolf  A combination of live and asynchronous tasks and discussions for YL teachers who want to understand more about dealing with students with BESD (Behavioural, Emotional and Social disorders). Watch a video here

A MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) is easy to access and a great way to study a specialist area in your own time. Future Learn’s,  Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learningis particularly popular with YL teachers, as are other topics such as early childhood development and psychology. You shouldn’t rule out broader subjects, they can be of great use not only for those involved in CLIL and STEM, but also those wanting to take more of a cross-curriclar approach in their TEYL classrooms

IHWO’s Teen Self-Study A series of self-access ‘workshops’ to help those teaching teenagers. Ask your IH DOS for details.

Webinars and LOWs (Live Online Workshops). A great way to pick and choose the areas you want to develop, and do it in your PJs! IHWO, IATEFL, OUP and BC are just a few of the organisations offering them. And of course many recordings are available on YouTube if you can’t make it live.

YouTube. Check out the IHWO account as well as the pages of your favourite YL publishers. You can find everything from Stephen Krashen giving his well-known seminar ‘The Power of Reading’ to Carol Read giving her very practical tips on using flashcards.

Conferences. Not for everyone, but I love them!  Aside from the obvious, sessions and new ideas, you can meet great people, discuss ideas and discover new career opportunities. If you are not in a position to attend international conferences, contact the English Teaching Association in your country/town and ask them about anything happening locally. Publishers might also be holding local events.

TOC -tastic. Too exhausted after teaching all week to get dressed and face the world? Check out the IH TOC, IHWO’s online Conference.  This year the IH TOC had a huge number of YL sessions to choose from.

Postgraduate qualifications. If you think a Delta or an MA in Tesol is just for those who teach adults, think again. Since becoming modular, it is now possible to choose YL for both Module 2 and 3 of the Delta. For me, Delta was instrumental in my own TEFL story as it helped me to see the teacher I wanted to be. There are also now many Masters-level courses out there specifically for TEYL, or at least offering options to specialize in YL. Whilst it is a little hard-core to take this kind of course on when you have three jobs, twin toddlers, hair to wash, mother to call… etc., you CAN do it! You don’t need to be Chomsky, you just need to stay focused and get on with it. Courses like these vary greatly in content, but all look great on your CV, can potentially open new career doors, and give you purpose in your reading and self-analysis and reflection of your teaching.

3.      Expand your skill set

Keep your TEFL story alive by expanding your skill set and trying something new. Step out of your comfort zone.

Teach a YL class you’re not used to, e.g. CLIL, Exam prep, VYL.

Run a swap shop in your school.

Apply for a management or training position. IHWO courses like the IH DOS, IH Teacher Training, IH COLT (online training) or IH London’s YL Centre Management course can help you get there, as can: offering to mentor new teachers, giving a workshop/INSETT at your school, or presenting at a conference.

Do some classroom based research. You don’t need to follow a set procedure, just identify a problem or puzzle you’d like to explore and go for it. It can be fun! Just remember, as always, to follow safeguarding procedures.

Write! More and more TEFLers are writing these days. And why not? New ideas, activities and materials are like opium to TEFL teachers. A blog can be a great way for shy writers to get started and get some feedback on their ideas. I’m currently co-writing a Teacher Development book for DELTA publishing, something I always wanted to do. How did this come about? A journal article I wrote was noticed by the right person.

Create materials. Creating materials is a great way to get you thinking about your learners and teaching practice. You can share them with colleagues, or online on a blog or website. And for those wanting to take it to the next level, there are training courses such as Katherine Bilsborough’s ELT Materials writing course and a range of books available such as  ‘How to write primary materials’

4.      Read it, read it, read it.

Kylie Frog picOk, I admit, this section heading is corny, but this free image is great. Isn’t it? I found it on mycutegraphics.com, a site full of free graphics for teachers.

Call me old fashioned, but I love reading. Especially if the book has nice soft pages.

Theory and methodology books. My favourites include Lynne Cameron’s ‘Teaching Languages to Young Learners’, and Lightbown and Spada’s ‘How Languages are Learned’. My copies of both these books are dog eared, full of highlighter, underlining and mini post-its.

Resource Books Carol Read’s 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom is amazing.

WWW There are a gazillion (yes, really, a gazillion) things to read online that will help you develop as a TEYL professional. Website like Edutopia have short, easy to digest articles and can be a good, easy option to keep your teaching brain active and rolling. Don’t know where to start? Typing into Google, ‘Early Childhood Development’, ‘Teaching Young Language Learners’, ‘The Teenage Brain’,… then click away. Hyperlink to hyperlink and take yourself on a TEYL reading journey.

The YL Digest is a monthly summary of interesting articles and research, etc.

5.      Network

As already mentioned, one of your best resources for advice, development and career opportunities is other YL educators. Not all of us have a kidney healthy enough to sell to get to IATEFL, but these days you don’t even need to get out of bed to build your own PLN (Personal Learning Network: a group of likeminded folk that connect with each other with the intent of learning from one another). All you need do is log on to your favourite social media. For me, Facebook is an easy way to get everything I want in the one place. People, articles, ideas, chat groups. By typing things like ‘Teaching YL’ in the search box I can then ‘like’, ‘follow’ and ‘join’ various groups and pages and publications to fill my newsfeed with all things teaching, ELT and YL.  I suggest using a platform that you are already familiar with and use as you will then be more likely to use it.

Phew.  You got to the end. One last thing though, when deciding how and what to develop, don’t forget to talk to your greatest resource, your learners!

Wishing you all the best with your own TEFL story.

#MyTEFLstory started many moons ago when I was teaching Japanese kids whose parents worked for Nissan in Sunderland, UK. I loved it so much that I did CELTA at IH Newcastle, where I stayed and worked before moving to IH Prague in 2006. My first year there I did the IH CYL(T). I knew after the first day on the course I wanted to continue learning more about teaching YL and become a trainer myself, so I enrolled on the DELTA.  In 2009, thanks to DELTA, I started working in YL management and training, and in 2011 started working for IHWO as the YL Advisor. Never one to shy away from a challenge, in 2012 I gave birth to twins whilst working towards my MA in TESOL. I have to say I learnt more about young children and myself as a teacher, learner and supportive adult in the last 3 years than I had in the last 20. I now find myself teaching, training, mentoring, attending and speaking at international conferences, writing training materials, and… I’m even a budding author with a book on the way, co-authored with the amazing Dr Sandie Mourau (please buy a copy so that my husband finally forgives me for all these late nights!). TEFL has been good to me, and I still love teaching and learning about YLs.

Author’s Bio: Kylie Malinowska is a teacher, trainer, presenter, writer, sleep- deprived mum of twins and coffee addict. She is the Young Learner Advisor and IH CYLT Coordinator for International House World Organisation and currently based in Prague where she also teaches and trains part-time for International House Prague and Akcent College.