• ELT Action

Be the Best Teacher You Can Be

As a teacher educator, I often ask teachers what they need to be the best they can be. The number one answer I’ve been getting in these 20 years I’ve been teacher-training is…Time!

Since I can’t help with making Time using my witchy wand and craft, I will give here very simple tips on how we, language teachers, can get better (or even become the best)!

1) Tell yourself often ‘I’m not sure’

The first step to becoming better is admitting and feeling deep inside our lack of perfect knowledge. Check if what you think is right is right. Be ready to unlearn. To relearn. To question what you know. To open to everything you might not know.

2) Study

Read articles. Read blogs. Read books. Attend seminars, workshops, webinars. Go to conferences. Take courses. Develop both academically and professionally. Embrace change. Be a constant learner.

3) Know your SLA and your Pedagogy

How are languages learned? How is language stored and retrieved? How do memory and learning work together? What conditions optimize learning? What impedes learning? Explore such questions relentlessly. Ask yourself, read about them, get updated with cutting-edge research findings.

4) Know your CEFR

What does each level mean? What should the language user be able to do at each level? How do we need to filter our expectations for our learners? Do we expect too much? Do we penalize for developmental errors? Do we care about their learning curve? What does B2 really mean? (No, it’s not just the ‘Lower’!)

5) Know your learners

There’s no successful teaching without successful bonding. Get to know these people, what they like, what inspires them, what they feel, what they need. Try to find out how they like your lesson, what changes you need to make, how you can engage them. Connect, share, walk hand in hand with them. And let them teach you too. Language is an exchange, it goes both ways.

6) It’s not just the language

We don’t just teach English (or any language). We teach people. We teach values. We teach social models. We teach power relationships (hopefully not power games). We teach justice. We teach to and how to make the world a better place. Teaching is the most optimistic job in the world! It means by definition, faith in a better world. Teaching is a political choice. Don’t take this beauty out of the job by neutralizing it and making a dry language lesson.

On a final note, make sure you know why you decided to become a language teacher. It’s not a side job, it’s not a hobby and no, it’s not a vocation either. It is (or should be) a conscious professional choice, leading to a successful career, requiring hard work, a solid academic background, lots of inspiration and an insatiable hunger not primarily to teach but to Learn.

PS. Don’t forget to be kind. Loving. Caring. Don’t forget to be a good human being.

Maria is a school owner, teacher, teacher trainer and researcher. She has a BA in Philosophy, Cambridge DELTA, an MA in TESOL, St Michael’s College, Vermont, and has studied for a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University, UK. She is now completing her Doctorate degree in Athens. She held an ESRC research award. She has more than twenty-five years of experience in teaching, teacher training and syllabus design in Greece, the UK, and the US. She is a language school owner in Athens, promoting alternative and experiential models of teaching. She is an international trainer and academic consultant for publishing companies, private schools and Ministries of Education. She is an adjunct professor for the Hellenic American University (HAEC), where she teaches TESOL Management and for the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Western Macedonia.

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