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6 Ways to Keep Developing as a Teacher

Another Tweetchat Preview

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“Ways I Keep Developing as a Teacher” is the topic of a tweetchat (#asiaelt) I’ll be participating in this afternoon – so this is a quick list to get the relevant parts of my brain ready (activate my schema). This is a relatively linkless version, rushed online before a classs. Links will be added later today, so check back again if inrterested.

What would YOUR list include?
1. Read constantly – Journals

Input before output:

It’s amazing how much of the peer-reviewed literature is already available with a little hunting of the Internet.Google Scholar, Google Books, authors’ websites, students’ websites, one hardly needs the journals to learn all about something we’ve just discovered.  More than that, the renowned journals tend to lag 2 or 3 years behind the Internet, and be unavailable to the very people that could benefit from the discussion taking place in them — the teachers — so who needs them anyway, anymore, right?

Well – not fair, really. For those with access, there’s usually always I great read in each issue of the TESOL relevant ones. I’m fortunate to have access to most of the ELT-relevant journals kept locked away in subscription-only digital libraries. The “elitism” and dysfunctional relationship between theory, research, and practice promoted by this practice is slowly coming to an end, and it cannot end too soon, because there is a lot there to fuel development of teachers.  One of my favorite things to do is to follow up the journal article with a hunt described in the first paragraph for references thaat intrigued me that were cited in the article.

Each semester I skim the recent issues and nearly always come away with something burning that I pass on to colleagues. The act of passing it on, or summarizing it here on this website (a practice I’ll be starting this semester) helps me process the text better, and figure out how I can use it.

2. Read constantly – Blogs and websites

The Internet is a great humbler, it reminds me constantly that there is no such thing as an original thought. What IS original seems to be everyone’s perspective and use of the same or similar thoughts. Educators’ websites provide an endless source of enrichment, accessed in many ways — through keyword searches and social networking tools. Some focus on ideas and teaching stories, others on digital and physical resources. The ideas and stories help me reflect on my own ideas and practice and stories, while the (overwhelming amount of) resources get added to a long list of things I may want to try in the right context.

Edudemic, Slideshare…

3. Read constantly – Topics

Teaching approaches, techniques and tools, cultural differences and assumptions, classroom/social discourse and practice, approaches to teacher reflection, identity construction and negotiation

4. Coming soon – LISTENING constantly

5. Interact with colleagues and other peers constantly, and students regularly

Weekly faculty/department meetings that we focus on the evolution of our courses invariable leads to introspection and sharing about how we do things, and why, and whether it’s time to adjust something. Incidental conversation with colleagues leads to extraordinary professional development. For example, a few years ago when a few of us admitted having grown irritated by students’ increasing use of phones as mirrors (and devices with which to record us), we soon realized we now had the technology in our students’ hands to lead them to video reflect on their English language in practice…

Given the plethora of channels now open to educators, It’s hard to believe that teaching can still be ‘the egg carton profession’, as someone famous once famously wrote. Establishing a culture of open office and maybe classroom doors at work, and encouraging social networking literacy ensures that no one needs practice in a vacuum bubble. Every month seems to bring video streaming to more conferences around the world (mostly free — the rest of you please see the Open Access link above), or is just the British Council being so good about this, and if so, what’s your agenda???

Regardless, learning Twitter, Google+, Scoop It and Paper Li let’s anyone’s inner genie out forever… My life and work are once again as intertwined as they were when I first started out, and I’ve achieved something I didn’t think was still possible – to grow/evolve professionally as significantly and rapidly as I did when I first started.

6. Reflect on Classroom Practice

Approaches: Exploratory Practice, Narrative Inquiry Techniques: Video reflection with transcripts Focus: Quality of Classroom life for student-generated speaking and writing

I’m a video advocate – for me it’s the most useful way of dialoging with myself and students. Helps keep me honest and focused on the fundamental building blocks of everything else going on in my classrooms – the speech and action we each produce in relation to each other and our classroom environment. I find if I concentrate on my talk and the quality of my students’ utterances, in whatever contexts they occur, I can get a handle on how useful a particular technique is for the given students.

These observations help me keep myself in a constant state of exploratory practice, which in turn leads me back to 1 above — new topics to research. What does YOUR list include?
6 Ways to Keep Developing as a Teacher

Comments (3)

  1. I’m an especially strong advocate of your sixth point. Reflection on what went right and what went wrong, as well as what unintended surprises took place, is so vital to improving as a teacher.

    I will also add supportive observations help a lot too. There are a lot of ifs here, but if the observer is there to genuinely help you improve as a teacher, then a second pair of eyes in the back of the classroom can be very helpful. The observer doesn’t have to worry about the lesson plan, student progress, etc, and can just observe all the small nuances that we would otherwise miss.

    • Hi Chris — thanks for the comment. I agree – #6, especially structured and with the help of video, feeds everything else – it’s where I determine what to work on/experiment with next. “Supportive observation”, I’ve found, is also easily, and perhaps less intrusively and more accurately handled if observer is watching a video, if both participants are watching the same thing rather than trying to rely on video and datasheets alone.

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I'm in this for the dialogue :-)

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