A teacher’s work is never done, and that’s especially true for ESL teachers whose class needs change from semester to semester and from year to year.
For as many years as I have taught, I have never had two classes exactly alike or two years exactly alike. And with all the time preparing lessons and materials, who has time for professional development? But investing in yourself as a teacher is important for both your skills as a teacher and your mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s fortunate, then, that you can invest in yourself at the same time as developing lessons and managing your classroom. Here are some ideas for integrating professional development into your classroom habits to help you take care of yourself as well as your students.
5 Simple Things That Will Transform You Into A Better Teacher
Make It MutualSomething as simple as swapping ideas with one of your coworkers will help both of you in your professional development.
One of your greatest resources for professional development is just a classroom away – your fellow teachers. Something as simple as swapping ideas with one of your coworkers will help both of you in your professional development. It will give you new ideas, ideas which you might not ever have come up with on your own. Also, since we all tend to teach to our own learning styles, collaborating with another teacher will help you round out the learning styles you teach to. But don’t stop with just a one on one exchange. If you can, encourage all the teachers at your school to share ideas. Take over a filing cabinet or a bulletin board in the teacher’s lounge to share your best ideas. Better yet, meet together and demonstrate your lessons on each other. You will not only improve your professional abilities, you may just find a friend who can laugh and commiserate with you with your teaching joys and struggles.
Dear Diary, Today I …
I don’t know whether you keep a personal diary or not, but I do know keeping a teaching diary can help you become a better teacher, and it takes almost no time on your part. If you take five minutes a day to record some noteworthy events from your teaching day, perhaps as you are checking your lesson plans for tomorrow, you will begin to see patterns in what you do. Take some time at the end of the day to record what types of activities you did, how your students reacted, and how well they seem to have retained the information you presented in those activities. After about a month of recording, take a look back at what you have written. As you reflect, you may see trends in the types of activities you are doing as well as types of activities you are missing. You will see what your students respond positively to, and what types of activities just don’t resonate with them. It will also benefit you to write down any questions you have about teaching particular material or certain types of students. When you see the same types of questions coming up over and over again, it shows you where you may need to spend some extra time learning about different methods or what type of seminar to pick at the next conference you might be lucky enough to attend.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
One of the best tools I have found for evaluating my teaching is reflecting on what I call the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes I do this for a unit as a whole, and other times I take time after a specific lesson to look back and determine what worked, what didn’t, and what I would change next time I give that lesson. It’s really quite simple. Take a sheet of paper, title it with what you are evaluating, and make three columns on the paper. Label them the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the first column, write everything that worked: a particular activity, an object lesson, a way of arranging the classroom, an excellent guest speaker, a great field trip, anything. In the second column, make a list of everything that didn’t’ work. Was a particular test too difficult? Was an activity too messy? Did your students just not understand a lecture you gave or examples you used? In the third column, write everything that you would change next time. These changes might be related to both the good and the bad parts of your lesson, or they might not have come up in either of the other columns. Once all this information is in black and white, this paper is irreplaceable. I put it in the front of my materials for that teaching unit. That way, the next time I open the folder to teach the material, I have all my reflections right there on page one and a good part of my lesson planning is already done for me.
Collaborate with Busy Teachers
Since you are reading this article, you already know some of the great benefits Busy Teacher has to offer you. Did you realize that by reading articles and participating in worksheet swaps you have a great means of developing yourself? The more you know about teaching students of English, the better a teacher you will become. And the better teacher you become, the better you are able to objectively look at your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. When you can do that, you see the areas in which you can improve, and the next step is seeking out education or help in those particular areas. Just a few minutes a day reading an article or looking through different activities can make a big difference in your abilities and confidence as a teacher. So next time you are searching for a worksheet or an activity for a specific lesson, take a few minutes to read up on the topic as well and learn what other busy teachers have to say about it.
Committing to Yourself
Perhaps the best way to ensure professional development for yourself is to be committed to it. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that if you are not serious about becoming the best teacher you can be, no one else will be serious about it either. Make advancing your skills and knowledge as a teacher a priority in your career, and your determination alone is probably enough to make sure it happens. If you don’t put yourself on your own priority list, no one will suffer but you.