While your TEFL course is excellent preparation when starting your career as an English teacher, many of the concepts you were introduced to during your program will require further study and practice before you fully master them. While you may think it’s enough to be getting first-hand experience teaching classes, ongoing professional development is necessary in any field, especially when it comes to the continuously changing world of learning a foreign language.
Here are a few ways you can ensure that you stay at the top of the ESL game:
Keep Up With the Research
You may think that the evolution of teaching plateaued with the invention of the Socratic method but nothing could be further from the truth. The science of teaching (sometimes referred to as pedagogy) is as dynamic and active as any other academic field; with new research, techniques, and tools being developed all the time. Academic researchers are constantly publishing the results of new studies regarding questions such as whether and how to use L1 in a classroom setting, gamification strategies, and digital learning tools. Studies such as these can prove invaluable for new teachers looking to incorporate the latest techniques into their classroom.
There are dozens of academic journals focused on exploring new and better ways to teach foreign languages. Teachers belonging to a university can often access academic journals through their institution. For the rest of us, a trip to the local library might be in order.
Welcome to the Club
Teaching can often seem like a lonely profession. After all, it’s just you up there in front of your students. Unlike an office job, you usually don’t have access to a co-worker in the classroom out to help you out when you’re in trouble.
But you aren’t alone. On the contrary, you are part of a broad community of teachers all around the world. This community can be an invaluable resource when it comes to continuing your education as a teacher. Remember, if you’re having trouble with a difficult student or explaining a particularly difficult language concept (phrasal verbs, I’m looking at you), other teachers have probably run into the same challenges you have. Meeting with ESL colleagues to compare notes or discuss teaching strategies is a great way to continue your professional development.
Even if you don’t know any other ESL teachers in your area or social circle, there are still plenty of ways to connect with the community online. Websites such as EdTechTalk.com, on which teachers meet to discuss ways to use technology in the classroom, or TeachingEnglish.org.uk, provide platforms where teachers can meet, share knowledge with colleagues, and improve their teaching skills.
Meet Your Peers from Around the World
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an excuse to travel and prefer meeting researchers face-to-face, organizations such as the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) hold annual conferences designed to disseminate new academic research and help ESL teachers keep up with the latest developments in the field. Other organizations hold similar conventions around the world. In addition to helping you stay current with the latest research, these events can also help you stay connected to the broader teaching community.
Get Your Voice Heard, or Listen to Others!
Many ESL teachers have their own blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels dedicated to ESL teaching. These platforms offer yet another way to further your development as a teacher while also connecting you to the broader ESL teaching community.
While achieving your TEFL certification is a major accomplishment, you shouldn’t let yourself stop there. The more you invest in your development as a teacher, the more benefits you’ll receive. New teachers should view receiving their certification as only the first step in a much longer journey.
About the guest writer
Jef Cozza is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher living in Spain. You can follow him on Twitter at @jefcozza.