Exploring Ways to Develop and Grow as a Teacher
Take a moment to think about something you learned recently. What was the situation that triggered the learning? What was the input? What impact has it had on you ?
When I reflect on these questions, I think about a recent coffee with a fellow educator where we chatted about technologies that can make lessons more accessible and inclusive. Not only did I leave the conversation full of ideas on how to support my students better, but I was also inspired to adapt tools to support my day-to-day work. An example is the dictation and read aloud tools in Microsoft Word that I’m using to write this blog while simultaneously taking a break from typing and looking at my computer screen.
In this instance, learning happened informally by chatting to a peer and taking time afterwards to reflect on how I could apply what I had learned to my context. This example highlights how we can use different spaces to support our learning and development as teachers. In this blog, I will outline three ways teachers can engage in similar conversations to support their ongoing development.
1. Conferences and Workshops
A simple search for teacher workshops and conferences results in a variety of options. Due to the growth of online events, it’s encouraging to see that many leading companies and institutions offer live online events frequently and (in many cases) for free. Added flexibility is offered by organisers who record and share resources following an event so trainees can access it on-demand if they are unable to attend the live workshop. This helps in making ongoing training accessible and affordable for teachers who may have limited time and resources to attend in-person events.
Here are a few examples of online workshops that cater for ESL teachers:
- Trinity College London’s Transformative Teachers Webinar Series. This is a monthly series of webinars that focus on a variety of topics from ‘Reading with Authentic Materials’ to ‘What can neuroscience offer to educators?’ If you miss the live event, then you can catch the recordings here.
- Cambridge University Press and Assessment Webinars for Teachers. Cambridge currently offers webinars twice a month covering topics like Mindfulness, Exam Preparation, and Storytelling to mention a few.
- Online English Teacher Conference hosted by EF Teach Online. This annual conference offers a variety of workshops designed to support instructors who teach ESL to adults online. Sign up for the Teacher Talk Newsletter here to stay up to date with EF Teach Online news, including the conference.
2. Forums and Groups
Continuing with the theme of online spaces, teachers can join forums or groups to share ideas and troubleshoot challenges. Whether you sign-up for a public group on a platform like LinkedIn or set up a private group for your local community, online groups enable members to step beyond the walls of their classrooms and connect with teachers from other subjects, locations, and contexts. If you feel stuck with a particular teaching challenge, forums and groups are great spaces to gather input from various perspectives.
For example, you may ask about techniques to support beginner learners in the classroom to gather ideas. Alternatively, you can share a challenge you’ve been facing to elicit ideas and advice from other teachers who have encountered similar situations. As well as eliciting ideas and advice, forums and groups provide a wonderful opportunity to share your experience to support other teachers too.
If you’re interested in exploring this option, then check out the following groups for inspiration:
- ELT professionals on LinkedIn
- EFL Teachers Development Network by Oxford TEFL
- ELT Footprint Facebook Group
- IATEFL’s Special Interest Groups
3. Informal Coffee Chats
At the start of this blog, I described how chatting with a fellow educator was a springboard for me to experiment with using different tools to support my students and myself as a teacher. This demonstrates the power of partnering up with fellow teachers for a coffee chat, whether once a week or once a month, online or face-to-face. Reflective conversations between educators work well when both parties commit to focusing on their development and supporting each other in the process.
In my experience, coffee chats have worked well when we have:
- Committed to a short sprint.
For example, two 15-minute coffee chats a week for a month.
- Focused on an agreed goal.
For example, identifying opportunities to develop as teachers by setting bite-sized goals.
- Employed active listening and coaching strategies.
For example, asking follow-up questions to support deeper reflective thinking.
- Used strategies and tools to track our progress.
For example, micro journaling and displaying our goals in a space where we can see them as a daily reminder.
If you would like to set up a coffee chat with a fellow teacher, then you may find it helpful to focus on asking each other the following questions:
- What would you like to focus on this week and why?
- What resources or support will you need?
- How can you measure and share your progress?
Whether you organise a meet-up for teachers in your local community or attend an international workshop online, these are a few examples of spaces where we can engage in conversations to support our learning. In a profession that’s often called a closed-door practice, spaces like these are incredibly impactful in supporting our growth and development as teaching professionals.
Learn more about EF Teach Online here.