Having just finished off my fifth year of teaching and reflecting on what has changed in that time, here is my list of things I wish I’d known when I began…
You don’t need a PowerPoint for everything, and it certainly doesn’t need whizzy animations and transitions. Once upon a time it seemed like the PowerPoint was everything – if you didn’t have a PowerPoint, had you even planned a lesson?! But this isn’t the case! Just include the essentials on a fairly plan template. It doesn’t even need to look pretty.
It’s all too easy to spend many an evening laminating sheets and games that you think you’re going to re-use loads. You’ll never get back all of those hours you spend in front of the laminator (not to mention the environmental waste…).
Think about the impact of what you’re doing. If it’s going to take a huge amount of time and effort then it ought to be having an equally huge impact on learning. If it’s not then re-think.
You don’t need to religiously follow the textbook but equally you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is a balance between following a textbook and having to come up with the most creative and engaging lessons ever. Realising this will save you quite some time.
There’s no need to splash the cash on school-related stuff. There will be great displays, resources and online subscriptions but you don’t need to fork out for all of these yourself. Discuss with your department and other trainees about what you could share.
It’s absolutely fine to have a different approach to another teacher. You don’t have the same sort of lessons as the NQT down the corridor who seems to be having some sort of party (whilst having total control of the class and being adored by staff and students alike). Who cares? Different teaching styles can be just as successful as each other in their own way. You do you.
Worry less about fun and engaging activities. You’ll spend too much time trying to work out a fun way of teaching certain concepts when the class would get it so much quicker if you just explain it and then give them time to practice. There are some great, fun activities out there designed to help students practice language, but you don’t need to pack your lessons full of them.
Focus less on teaching lists of vocabulary and get students using them. PowerPoints with slide after slide of pictures to introduce lots of lists of nouns are all well and good but then you won’t spend enough time actually supporting students to use those nouns in a more useful way.
Remember to keep your eyes and ears open to ideas from all sources, no one person will be right about everything (even if they do have loads of followers on twitter!). Be open to new ideas and critical of what you are told.
Giving feedback doesn’t mean marking a book to within an inch of its life with multiple colours, stamps and stickers. There are easier ways.
Get yourself onto twitter. There is loads out there for language teachers! Start by looking at #MFLTwitterati and following some of the people who are tweeting there. Then follow @MFLChat and join the chats on Mondays at 8.30pm.
Finally, and ironically considering the article you’re reading, you’re going to be bombarded with advice from all angles. Know when to listen and take on board what suits you. You can’t do it all!