Six things for developing teachers

dev_teacher_medium_coverAnother guest list! This time I am joined by colleague and co-author Duncan Foord, director of the teacher training centre Oxford TEFL and author of a new book with Delta Publishing, The Developing Teacher. Duncan has been interested in teacher development for some years now, and his book is packed with practical, doable activities and ideas for teachers interested in their own development. I asked him, cheekily, to give me six of them for free!

1 Work from your own script Before committing to developmental activities think about what you really want to do and achieve. Don’t be tempted into reading this, attending that or joining the other without good reason. That good reason could be peer recommendations and your own intuitions about what will work for you. There are lots of ways to become a better teacher.

2 Get some feedback from your students These are the people who know your teaching best and are best placed to help you improve it. It is also relatively easy to do. There are many ways you can elicit feedback. It can be formal or informal, written or verbal, from individuals or from the group. When students give you feedback they are infact also giving each other information on how they like to learn and their language needs, so everyone benefits. The feedback you get may help you “write your script” (see above)

3 Be observed and get some feedback from a respected colleague or boss If they are good at this, they will help you to build on the insights from your students helping you to see yourself better, challenge you and reinforce your self esteem. An alternative is to get someone to video you teaching. Undergoing the observation experience on a regular basis is a key to teacher growth, I’m convinced, yet it is a very underused practice in teacher development. Again, the feedback will probably help point you to other developmental activity.

4 Do a Diploma As well as developing career opportunities, doing a Diploma course such as the Trinity Licentiate Diploma or DELTA will have an enormous impact on your teaching. Basically you sign up for 200 plus hours of development! This includes reading, reassessing your teaching, developing your skills, finding new ideas from tutors and colleagues and, most importantly, opening up what you do in the classroom to the scrutiny of senior professionals. The fact that it is an assessed course will help sharpen your motivation. Some pain, but lots of gain.

5 Work on your time management Deciding what you want to do is one thing, making the time to do it is another. It’s easier to make a shopping list than go shopping! While some developmental activity can be relatively time efficient, in that you just add a developmental twist to your regular teaching as it were, other choices can involve a time commitment. Imagine you want to read a book (or even a journal) or attend a conference or participate in an on line teachers group, these things require time. Planning time is crucial, but respecting your plan even more so.

6 Enjoy yourself None of the above makes any sense if it doesn’t give you satisfaction or enjoyment. Students tend to prefer happy, balanced teachers as do their families (the teachers’ families that is!). Pay attention to signs of stress and deal with stress as a matter of utmost urgency. Curb your enthusiasm for professional development if other areas of your life suffer unduly.

Duncan Foord is a teacher, teacher trainer and director of  the teacher training centre Oxford TEFL. He is the author of The Developing Teacher (DELTA, 2009) and co-author of The Language Teacher’s Survival Handbook with Lindsay Clandfield (It’s Magazines 2008). He and Lindsay have a regular column in the magazine It’s for Teachers on Surviving Teaching. Duncan lives in Barcelona.

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Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 11:36 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Linsay, I really think you’ve overlooked the most useful and available resource here – other teachers. I honestly reckon that I’ve learned more over the years from observing my colleagues than I ever gained from reading a book, attending a conference, doing a course, etc.

    In fact, if I were the DOS or owner of a language school, I’d include peer observation as an essential monthy activity for every teachers’ CPD – which has unchivalrously and unfortunately been misinterpreted as ‘continuously pointless distractions” by some of my less professional colleagues (but not I, of course!)

    • Hi Sandy,
      You are completely right about this, and I think that Duncan (the author of this last list) does have several ideas relating to it in his book. I myself learned lots from seeing my peers teach, either thinking “why can’t I do it like that” or “I seriously hope I don’t do it like that!”

  2. Ah, right – so it was attributing the blame to the wrong person, eh? My apologies.

    Actually, what I should have added was that what you see one teacher doing well, you might see another do badly. Or rather, even though they are doing the same thing, in more or less the same way, the results can be tangibly different.

    This taught me my individualised ‘horses for courses’ approach – finding the ‘soul’ or the ‘critical mass’ of a group, and then acting accordingly. It really involves getting to know your students, as best you can, and finding the activities and teaching style that suits them best.

    And who said I was a “one size fits all” teacher? It was that rogue Alex Case, I think!

  3. I totally agree with observation. I spent a sizeable chunk of my time early in my career watching other teachers (as a trainer (!) for a chain school in Japan). Good or bad, watching student reactions and giving teachers feedback was incredibly formative (for me, if not for any of the poor teachers I observed). When I got my next job in a university in the UK, the first thing I did was go and watch another teacher. It`s like cooking. A list of ingredients is fine, but if you know what the finished product should taste like, look like and smell like you can probably work it out from there!

    One other thing; recognise that sometimes it doesn`t work, and some days are better than others. The DELTA is great, but I`m not sure I teach a DELTA standard winner in every single class…..

  4. I would add: Volunteer. Volunteer for a local or regional teachers organization. Volunteer on the staff of a English teaching publication, such as IATEFL’s Voices or JALT’s The Language Teacher. Giving back to the organizations which help maintain excellence in the profession is an excellent way to grow personally.


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