A year in Review 2017-2018

Before the new academic year starts up it’s time to look back and carry out the (third) annual review of my practice and development as an English language teacher (previous yearly reviews can be found here: 2016-17 and 2015-16 ). With these reflective pieces I want to make myself look back at the previous academic year, evaluate my achievements and consider areas for development. Moreover, It’s a chance to set myself some new challenges for the forthcoming year. By doing so in this public forum, the goals I set myself seem in a way more formal.

In summary:

Achievements

  • Practice Development
    • Improved my student monitoring & feedback
    • Developed my board work
    • Gained more teaching experience with my own groups
    • Put into practice many aspects from different courses
  • Professional Development
    • Completed CELTA
    • Monthly development workshops
    • Continued Teachers’ Club
    • Attended national conference
    • Developed my Personal Learning Network
smiley-2979107_1920
Image Credit: freeGraphicToday on Pixabay.com

Misses

  • writing book project
  • observed classes and performance feedback
  • blog updates
  • own language skills
  • work/life balance

New goals

  • Attend a national conference
  • Be a speaker at a conference
  • Further develop my board work
  • Develop my grammar tool kit
  • Teach in new contexts

In detail: The longer version

Achievements:

  • Practice Development
    • Improved my student monitoring & feedback

Over the past 12 months I feel I have been much more aware of and responsive to my classroom and those in it. A big takeaway from CELTA was the importance of circulating around the classroom and looking over the shoulder of students to monitor their progress and any issue that might need addressing. With some groups I also held some individual tutorials with each student. These short, one-to-one evaluations were incredibly useful with praise and suggestions following both ways between me and the students involved.

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Image Credit: Mohamed_Hassan on Pixabay.com
  • Developed my board work

OK, my handwriting has always been a personal challenge for me, but I really feel that over the last 12 months my board work has improved significantly in terms of not just presentation, but also regarding better organisation, information on the board and its clarity.

whiteboard
Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos on Pixabay.com

During the year I have been taking photographs of my board to document it and review. This is a practice I aim to continue during the forthcoming year too. I have also found the photographs very useful for documenting the class too, even sharing them to class WhatsApp groups for students who were absent to see what vocabulary and other key points were covered in the class. However, I know that my board presentation is a challenge that is on going.

  • Gained more teaching experience with my own groups
classroom
Image Credit: Skitterphoto on Pixabay.com

The academy where I have been mainly working until now has a kind of co-teaching system in place where one teacher will teach one group of core skills and the second teacher the other skills. This was very comfortable for me in the beginning but I have now come to realise that I have been missing out on valuable experience with teaching grammar. Last year I specifically asked to take my own groups, of which I was given two, and the experience has been very rewarding. I feel that I not only get more experience and develop my skills but also I feel like I have a better relationship with the students as I get to see them twice weekly rather than just weekly.

  • Put into practice many aspects from different courses

short film in class

Apart from CELTA, this year I also completed a course from the British Film Institute on using Film in the language classroom and another course from Cambridge English on teaching English Online.

The Film course was incredibly rewarding and I have put its teaching into practice many times and in many different ways during the year. One aspect of the course that was of particular interest, and led to a change in my own practice, was its emphasis on using not just the visual aspects of video but the soundtrack too. For example, playing different sounds from a piece of video, or a short extract of the sound track to stimulate discussion and debate about the content prior to watching; or to create ‘mood graphs’ and remind students on specific content post viewing.

onlineteaching cert

The Teaching English Online course, along with over 9 hours of actual practice of online teaching with a ‘practice student’ during the time that the course was running, were a real highlight too. It has sown the seeds of an idea that I feel extremely keen to explore develop over the coming months. I had initially applied for a position with a very well-established provider of online courses in my area but finally didn’t succeed in demonstrating my suitability to them. This was a big disappointment, but both my experience on the TEO course and the feedback from my practice student have uplifted and motivated me not to give up on the idea of becoming an online teacher of English.

  • Professional Development
    • Completed CELTA

As previously mentioned in this and other blog posts (here for example), Last August I completed the Cambridge English Assessment CELTA teacher training course. I have already mentioned the effects of the course in terms of improving my monitoring and board work skills, but I feel that many other areas have also improved too such as my classroom management, lesson planning and my personal learning and support network.

  • Monthly development workshops

As a direct result of the CELTA course just mentioned, I have had the opportunity to attend monthly Saturday Morning Teacher training workshops at the London School of Languages Teacher Training Centre in San Sebastian. These workshops have included a wide range of practical topics that have always given me something to take away and put into practice straight away as well as more long term ideas and considerations to mull over. I am very much looking forward to attending these again this year.

SmartSelectImage_2018-01-27-08-36-43

  • Continued Teachers’ Club

The in-house teachers’ club I helped to establish in the academy where I have working also continued for a second year but with dwindling support. Despite the lack of participants, and an unsocial meeting time, there were some constructive sessions with very interesting exchanges of ideas and a supportive atmosphere. It was very comforting and enlightening to hear the experiences of other teachers in the academy as well as a chance to look at areas and topics in our small group while collaboratively exchange ideas and enjoying a take-away meal.

  • Attended a national conference

tesol badge

One of the aims I set myself last year, and also stated in my final CELTA assignment about on going professional development, was to attend a large national or international conference. And I did it! I booked myself onto a train and headed across Spain for my fist visit to Madrid back in March and attended all three days of the TESOL-Spain annual conference. I was very surprised how many faces I knew and recognised from the regional events I have attended. After three days I returned on the train with a significant collection of ideas for the classroom, new contacts in my address book (who continue to be a great source of support and indeas) as well as the feeling that I was part of a warm community. If I can then I would very much like to attend again to next year’s event.

I really appreciated the chance to hear my CELTA tutors (who were also there) opinions, perspectives and comments on some of the talks and topics – It was like an extra bonus element to those sessions.

However, I also felt a little overloaded by the end. There was so much to see, hear and absorb. I really need to be more disciplined and set limits for the number of sessions I attend each day and allow time to review the sessions… and proper meal breaks!

tesol brand

I also realised that I should sit more towards the back of the room during the sessions. I am not sure what it is but the closer to the front I sat, the more involved and engrossed I became in the sessions. When I Looked back at some of the sessions I realised I may have been too engrossed and tunnelled in – forgetting about others in the room – answering questions and contributing ideas a little too readily and enthusiastically. There were moments that I may have become that annoying person at the front of the room.

  • Developed my Personal Learning Network
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Image Credit: Rawpixel Pixabay.com

This has been mentioned above already but has been a big and important aspect of the year. The people that I have met at events and during courses – and with whom I now keep in touch – have been invaluable for exchanging ideas with; support during the deeper parts of the year; and a great source of fresh perspective, ideas and inspiration.

Two real connected highlights were at different local conferences when speakers recognised me and sat down for a chat about teaching, how they got started in their careers and just a bit about life too over coffee.

Misses:

  • writing book project

For the third year running I’ve not updated my writing book resource. This resource was created for my advanced students to use as a reference for use during exam preparation and contained all my notes on the different writing tasks and styles.

I was hoping to make it more useful and add some links to more online content and curated screen-casts. Hopefully, this year it will get some of the attention it deserves

  • observed classes and performance feedback

This year I was offered the chance to record my classes and have then evaluated and receive feedback on them. I set up a test and attempted to record the class but very disappointingly the video recording failed. I never got myself organised to repeat the attempt and submit a recording for observation. This is one major regret for the year and very much a missed opportunity.

  • blog updates
blog
Image Credit: Pixies on Pixabay.com

This site was also a victim of neglect. I have a pile of class plans from the year that never got polished up and posted online; as well as well-meaning intentions to write reflective articles on my experiences at the Madrid, San Sebastián and Bilbao conferences that I never got around to writing.

  • My own language skills

This year I failed to continue my own language learning. I was hoping to restart online classes but, like with the above misses, procrastination and a poor work/life balance resulted in another miss.

  • work/life balance

Not much to explain here but I didn’t get this well organised at all. I’ve taken steps to reduce my academy hours this comming year to try and address this and allow some time for new projects and to address my own language learning needs.

New goals:

  • Attend another national or international conference
  • Further work on and develop my board work
  • Further develop my grammar knowledge and my grammar teaching ‘tool kit’
  • Teach in new contexts
  • find my speciality in TESOL
  • get some formal observation and feedback on my classes and classroom practice
  • Be a speaker at a conference (long term goal!)

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