What top five tips would you give to a novice teacher and why?

I recently submitted an entry to try to win a scholarship for a Trinity Diploma in TESOL at Oxford TEFL. Although I didn’t win at least the entry was chosen as a finalist. Anyway, here are my top five TESOL tips to get aspiring teachers off to a good start on their quest to become an exceptional English teacher. I’d be really interested in any comments you may have or indeed which tips you would have included yourself.

Here goes…

  1. Get ready to make a difference

Few people ever get the chance to make a real difference. Throughout your career as an English Teacher you will touch the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people, in a direct and tangible way. Teaching someone English may just be a game-changer for them. Sobering though this may be it is at the same time an exciting opportunity to really make a difference.

Why this tip? To let teachers know how valuable they are.

  1. Know your stuff

Take the plunge, make a commitment, believe in yourself and BE an English teacher in mind, body and spirit. Get involved in the global ELT community, go the extra mile with your class preparation, reflect on your teaching, write a teaching journal or blog, research and read extensively and last but not least, take your continuous professional development seriously. As Duncan Foord so rightly said in The Developing Teacher “It isn’t the same thing having ten years’ experience as having one year’s experience repeated ten times.”

Why this tip? To encourage teachers to purposefully step out of their comfort zone, experiment, learn and grow throughout their career.

  1. Nothing is set in stone

No one size fits all. No individual teaching methodology is the philosopher’s stone of ELT. You are you and your students are your students. Your classroom is a unique set of individual circumstances where you are best placed to know what works for you and your students at any given moment. Don’t be afraid to bend and adapt lesson plans or redesign pre-set exercises or activities according to circumstances and student feedback. Remember that the students themselves are the most valuable resource in the classroom and could well be your greatest allies.

Why this tip? To encourage teachers to be proactive, empowered, flexible and creative.

  1. Do onto others

If you were a student in your class, what would you expect from the teacher? Answering this question makes your teaching truly learner-centric and will dramatically affect your teaching style. Building rapport in an atmosphere of trust, respect and mutual understanding will not only result in better, faster, deeper learning but the learners will also feel good about themselves. Collaborative learning, group work and shared learning objectives all evolve and flow more naturally out of an affective learning environment.

Why this tip? To try to minimise teacher-centric classroom fronting and maximise learner involvement.

  1. Smell the flowers along the way

Don’t forget to have fun along the way. Lighten up and enjoy yourself. A relaxed happy mindful teacher is so much better at their job than a stressed-out Grinch. Teaching is, with the right focus, a highly rewarding, enjoyable and enriching career.

Why this tip? Well-balanced teachers tend to be more resilient under duress, get better results and are better at handling stress.