If you’ve been teaching English for over 2 or 3 years, then you get the idea of how demanding the profession is and how tough it can get sometimes. Making the choice of becoming a teacher was the first step, but developing as a professional and keeping on believing that you’re on the ‘right track’ is a daily challenge we all have to face.
If you take a look at the big picture: experienced teachers, years behind and a big number of teacher training courses, language certificates, conferences attended and (now) webinars, it doesn’t look that hard. Once you’ve made the big decision of embarking on this journey, you realize that golden bricks ain’t what you’re going to get.
When it comes to professional development, I’ve noticed along the way that some teachers don’t realize the extra mile they must go in order to get real professional development. A teacher training course like the CELTA might be the next step, but stopping there is a big mistake.
Pic from nzgabriel CC license
I see real professional development as a seesaw: keeping the balance is the key. If you are too heavy with certificates and courses, then your professional experience will be too light. Planning your career, taking the right courses and getting real experience according to the courses and training you have, seems to be the solution. This solution might be at the school where you teach or at the job ad you’ve seen online, deciding what to do is not easy, but it can save you from avoiding a teacher burnout, or ending up like Tom in 500 days of Summer.
Here are some things you should do:
1. Apply what you’ve learnt from a TT course immediately after finishing it. (i.e. get different groups according to age or level, teach English for Specific Purposes, do action research)
2. Read books, magazines, ELT journals and blogs in order to keep updated with what is going on in your career.
3. Ask for advice from experienced teachers, coordinators, DoSes and mentors.
4. Be competitive. Reflect on where you want to get and where you want to be as a professional. Decide how you’re going to get there and how long it will take.
5. Join a teachers’ association, either a local, regional or international one. Share with other teachers by creating a blog or posting comments to their blog posts.
6. Attend seminars, webinars, local events and conferences. Networking is very important!
7. Invest time and money in your career. Analyze the benefits you will get and how long it will take you to reach your next goal as a professional.
8. Think BIG! But don’t forget to bridge the gap between expectations and reality: know where you’re stepping and keep up the pace.