So you’ve just finished college and landed your first probationary assignment as an ESL instructor.
You enjoy teaching and your class, but you remain concerned on whether you’ll find yourself teaching again next term or in following years. What separates you from all of the other teachers wanting their own classrooms? The problem has become how to distinguish yourself in order to get a permanent contract. There are a number of ways to accomplish this.
8 Ways for an ESL Instructor to Distinguish Herself
Teach Well, but Don’t Isolate Yourself
Have someone come in and observe. First and foremost, to get noticed a teacher has to simply teach well: explain clearly to students, establish rapport with them, keep careful attendance and grade records, and so forth. It is unfortunate, however, that this is not enough. Not only must you teach well, but others must see you doing it. In most professions, colleagues and supervisors can see you working and are aware of how well you do your job; in teaching, however, so much goes on behind the literally closed door of the classroom. To combat this isolation, be certain to invite administrators and master teachers to your class so that they are aware of your teaching skills.
Do Extra for Your Class
Try field trips and projects. Another way to get noticed is to do extra activities for students that occasionally bring them out of the classroom, such as field trips. This demonstrates that you not only do well in the basics of your job but that you go the “extra mile”; this also gets you seen outside of the classroom and noticed. Teachers who stay in their classrooms all of the time may be “forgotten” a little by their peers and higher-ups—out of sight, out of mind.
Set up Collegial Relationships
Partner with other teachers. This is another way to show others your skills—by sharing them. If you partner with another teacher or teachers in developing curricula, for example, staff will begin to see your abilities and how well you work with others. This is another way of getting your skills outside of the classroom and noticed by others.
Do extra things for the school: raise money, host a fair or camp. Willingness to take on such a project really shows commitment to the school and also showcases your communication, leadership, and organizational skills, all of which make you desirable to hire (especially if you’ve brought money into the organization through the project in the form of donations and grants).
Sit on committees or lead one, or edit the school newsletter. There is usually no shortage of work to be done at a school, and taking on extra professional tasks such as committee work also gives you a chance to network with colleagues, develop your professional knowledge in a specific area, like the choosing of textbooks, and again demonstrates your leadership skills and commitment. At this point, with this degree of involvement with the school, you begin to seem like a member of the permanent staff that tie you closer to the school.
Go to class, return to school, and make sure your skills are sharp. There are always new things to learn as a teacher—new subject matter knowledge, classroom management strategies, advances in technology and their use in the classroom. Teachers should be lifelong learners themselves in order to impart new knowledge to students, and going to school shows this commitment, develops new skills, and develops strategies for teaching them. In short, being a lifelong learner shows a commitment to learning and education as well as making the teacher/lifelong learner more desirable in hiring.
Once you’ve learned extensively about the school site through service like committee work, you are now ready to begin to introduce your own ideas at the school. Start a new project, like a student yearbook or literary journal, if it doesn’t already exist. By looking around and seeing a need to fulfill, the teacher not only improves the school but demonstrates leadership skills and commitment toward improving the school.
Once you have engaged in leadership activities such as serving on committees and developing projects, you are ready to help develop the professionalism of someone else: this is calling “mentoring.” Mentor students or other teachers. Choose to mentor someone who reminds you of yourself, perhaps, at an earlier period in time, perhaps not too long ago—someone with a lot of potential but also a lot of room for growth and questions. When choosing to mentor someone, you show yourself as a true professional who has gained some maturity in the field, if not in years, is willing to give of herself to help others, and again has leadership and communication skills. Mentoring someone is also something of a risk, in that the mentee might someday surpass the mentor—but that is what teachers also expect and even hope to happen with their students.
Remember that it is not necessary or even at all desirable to take on all of these projects at once.
It is more of a gradual movement—of first sharpening your skills in the classroom, then engaging in a few activities in the larger school community, such as serving on committees, and then finally assuming a true leadership role.
Because teachers so often work in isolation, it can be difficult to get noticed apart from “the pack.” However, by taking some extra steps such as developing relationships with the staff and taking initiative on extra projects, administrative and other staff will see your commitment to the school and will develop their own willingness to bring you on fulltime!
What suggestions do you have on getting noticed as a teacher?