GETTING OUT OF A TEACHING RUT

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When you start your journey teaching English as a Foreign Language, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. No matter if you are teaching kindergarten in China or businessmen and – women in Germany or students in England, your first few months as an EFL teacher can be a steep learning curve. You may feel a bit lost as to what you should be teaching, how you should be teaching it and whether or not you are even being effective. Plus then there’s all the paperwork on top of that.

One day, though, you will wake up and walk into your classroom and realise you can teach your lesson blindfolded. Ok, maybe not blindfolded but you’ll feel like you don’t need to spend your entire weekend planning just for Monday, you have an idea of what your students need in terms of language and you can respond to your students as and how they need you to.

The teaching plateau

Just as out Intermediate students experience a time when they are seemingly stuck at a plateau, so too can teachers reach their own plateau in teaching. When you become comfortable teaching whatever students or levels you are teaching, while you may enjoy teaching on autopilot for a while, there may come a time when you actually feel a bit frustrated.

Up to this point you would have felt challenged every day and you would have gone home with a great sense of accomplishment because you would have learnt something every week. If you reach this plateau you may feel like you can deal with any problems your students can throw at you and that you could plan your lessons on the bus on the way to work each day; you may feel like you are not learning and you are stuck in a groundhog day scenario.

How to overcome the teaching plateau

  • Change it up. Try a new teaching method. Try teaching a language point in a different way. Don’t just stick to your tried and tested methods –  test yourself and try something new.
  • Be a student again. Take up lessons of some kind – Mandarin Chinese, the tango, ice skating – anything that will put you back in the student seat again. Use this opportunity to remind yourself what it’s like to be a student and how this can be affecting your classroom.
  • Observe a teacher. Organise with your Director of Studies to observe another teacher. Even though it may seem like a waste of time, you’re guaranteed to discover something about teaching when you see it from another angle.
  • Record yourself. If you can’t do an observation (or even if you can) record yourself and watch yourself back. This can help you view your lesson critically and you may become aware of a weakness you didn’t know you had.
  • Teach a different class. If you can, change your schedule up a bit by teaching a level or an age group you’ve never taught before. This will certainly challenge you and force you to think about teaching.

There is no reason for you to ever feel unmotivated during your career as an English as a Foreign Language teacher. If you are feeling like you are treading water, be proactive and figure out a way to change that.

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