Time to think, time to develop.

“After playing in any match I’m usually very hard on myself and rarely feel satisfied with how I’ve performed. Even if I have done well I seem to remember the mistakes I have made, more than the things I executed well. I think this mindset helps me to be a better player, as it means I’m rarely satisfied and always looking to improve but it doesn’t always make me very good company in the days after a match.” (Evening Standard, Aug 2011)

The above quote was written by Tom Palmer, a rugby player for Stade Francais and a full England International. I instantly saw the parallels in his routine post match analysis with my own reflection on my teaching. Having lots of time on my hands this summer has allowed me to look back on the past teaching year and try to pick out areas that need improvement.  I read the above quote during a particularly long journey home on the train and it prompted me to whip out my note-book and to draw up a list of areas that I hope to improve on in the upcoming teaching year as well as including some new ideas that I would like to introduce into my teaching.

1.       Continuity – My first teaching year involved a lot of time trying to find interesting and engaging lessons for my students. This took precedent over whether the lessons were taking on any kind of natural progression from one to the next and I found myself jumping around from topic to topic and language point to language point without any real cohesion in my lesson delivery. I hope to stop this scattergun approach and concentrate more on delivering a series of lessons that have structure and clearer aims.

 2.      Self reflection – Something that I only really started to do in the last 2 months of my teaching year. Hopefully this blog will help but it needs to be more consistent and then acted upon rather than just talked/blogged about.

 3.       Board work – Something that needs to be improved more for my students more than me. I see this as the record of the lesson and therefore it needs to be clear, readable, reliable and well organized.

 4.       Video recording of Lessons – Something that I would like to start doing from the beginning of the year and to start putting it on this blog. Regardless of whether I think it’s a success or a failure it allows me scope to get feedback from a much larger audience.

 5.       Further reading – Again something that I only really started to do at the end of the year.  My reading in the summer has made me really look at the way I teach and how much I can and need to improve. Reading has provided me with lots of ideas that I want to put into practice and therefore has kept up my enthusiasm and interest throughout the summer. By continuing it through the teaching year it will hopefully maintain my attention and allow me to continuously introduce new ideas into the classroom.

6.        Recycling language – The amount of times I would introduce large amounts of vocabulary into a lesson and the next day never follow it up or even mention it still makes me cringe.  Good board work and continuity in my lessons will hopefully combine to allow me to introduce and carry this out effectively.

7.        Pronunciation in the classroom – Pronunciation only ever become a main teaching point with my YL classes when it was supported by material from the course book. My knowledge of pronunciation is woefully lacking and it is something I hope to really work hard on during the summer. My aim is to make sure some form of pronunciation work features in all of my lessons and probably more importantly to be confident in teaching pronunciation.

8.         Being positive – It seems obvious but I think this can override any lack of knowledge or lack of preparation in the classroom.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” (Herm Albright)


Further reading:        www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/ways-continuing-professional-development


8 thoughts on “Time to think, time to develop.

  1. Hi Adam,

    I always find a break is the perfect way to organise your thoughts and start setting some goals… a lot easier in the summer than winter when there’s all the C-word malarky to think about.

    Of all your development points, number 8 stood out the most to me. Without keeping a positive outlook to development, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of well-intentioned goals and action plans, which can even impede you from seeing the progress you make…

    Good luck in the next year and I look forward to reading about your progress on your blog.


  2. Hi Adam,

    What a great list of development points! I think you’ve chosen some really useful things to tackle here, and a lot of them correspond with my own (unpublished) list.
    One thing I have found that helps me to develop areas I want to be better at is to give a workshop to my colleagues on that point. So, funnily enough, I am doing a workshop on pronunciation in October. As I put it together (which will be in dribs and drabs over the next month due to a Celta beginning on Monday) I will let you know the sources I find, if you like?


  3. Thanks for the comment. I would love to know how your workshop goes and yes please send me the sources. Pronunciation is probably the weakest point in my teaching. I have a copy of Sound foundations still waiting to be read on my desk and pronunciation is something my students always ask for help with and I feel very guilty when I can’t help them properly in this area.
    I like the idea of giving workshops. Perhaps it’s something I could try later in the year once i’m settled.


    • Hi Adam,
      Have only just seen this as I forgot to press the “tell me if anyone writes back” button.
      On the subject of giving workshops – I find that (similar to blogging in a way) it helps me get my ideas in order and to find new ones. I did one back at the start of the summer on using authentic texts in class, which reminded me of all the things I had forgotten about! I will definitely post my workshop in some format for you and everyone else.
      I ask my colleagues before I start planning the workshops what they want to know about/have difficulties with and then I find them some answers. If you have any specific questions, let me know and I will add them to the list! : )

      • Thanks for getting back to me Jem.

        I think I would quite like to give a workshop on unplugged teaching or even setting up and maintaining a blog. I’m by no means an expert in these areas but I think it would be a challenge and useful for my fellow teachers.

  4. #3 Boardwork. How can it be well-organised before you know what you’re going to put on it? I think it could be organised AFTER the lesson, such as taking a photo of it and rewriting bits for future dogme-style study, or if you’ve got an interactive board, saving it, but during… not sure. I know what you mean, and I’m not saying that a board should be deliberately messy, but sterile boards with lots of linear sentences written out to me show the teacher places neatness above flow, and I’d guess more great things come from the latter mindset.

    • I see where your coming from David. I think it was just something as simple as a new vocabulary box on one side of the board to keep a record and show parts of speech etc. Which is something I do in every class now. But the rest of my board is pretty open to have anything put on it. I would like to start using your method of language plants for example, especially for my younger learners. We have recently had an I.W.B installed so I am hoping to save my board work and perhaps make it available on line to my students, who are participating in my unplugged project.

      Thanks for taking an interest and leaving some comments.


  5. Pingback: When life imitates blog. | Unplugged Reflections

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