So, you’ve completed your initial teacher training qualification. Well done! There may have been a moment (or two or three) when you thought you wouldn’t make it, but make it you did. Take a deep breath, enjoy the feelings of relief and satisfaction…
OK. That’s enough. The real work is only just beginning. Five, Six, maybe more hours of teaching a day. Perhaps teaching a level you haven’t taught before, using coursebooks you’re not familiar with (perhaps no coursebook or materials at all). You could have a bigger class than the one you taught on TP, nationalities you haven’t taught before, age groups you’ve not encountered.Or,you might be returning to a state or international school as an already qualified teacher with the addition of a CELTA. The list is endless and the variety of ELT institutions seemingly limitless. But that’s what makes it so exciting, right?
Rest assured you are not in this alone and that we have all been in your shoes once. We are here to support you! Below is some advice to get you through those first few weeks of full-time teaching.
This is, without doubt, the most important aspect of your teaching practice. It may seem obvious, but after the intensity of the CELTA and the nerves of your new job, you could find yourself feeling over-tired or under the weather, and reaching for the traditional teacher pick-me-ups of strong coffee and cheap biscuits. Look after yourself. Be kind to yourself and ask for help where you can.
Planning and Preparation
Yes, you were up to midnight (or beyond) during the CELTA agonising over every detail of your lesson plan for TP. No, you cannot continue to plan in such detail, and nor do any reasonable schools expect you to. Limit your planning and give yourself a cut-off time. Try alternative ways of planning, such as making mind-maps, writing bullet-pointed lists, or annotating a copy of the coursebook page/handout you’re using. Find what works well for you. Busyteacher.org is a useful website full of tips and tricks to make your teaching life a little easier. Look under ‘How to Write a Lesson Plan’ for a five-stage guide to simple and effective planning. Alternatively, try Evernote, an app available on iOS and Android, that allows you to take notes as well as upload pictures, video, audio and text. You can plan lessons from your phone or tablet anywhere!
Make sure you’re being efficient in your planning. Is it really worth cutting up those tiny cards that will be used once, by only one level of class, in an activity that lasts ten minutes? If you are finding it all unmanageable, don’t be afraid to speak to your DOS or another teacher. They expect new teachers to need support with planning.
Be Your Own Tutor
Remember how great you felt when your CELTA tutor praised you for achieving that part of lesson planning and delivery you had been struggling with? And remember how it was sometimes tough to hear the constructive feedback on your TP? Now you have to be your own tutor and reflect on your own practice. But remember to be a fair tutor to yourself; point out areas you achieved in as well as areas to improve on. This is a sign of good reflection.
Reflection doesn’t have to be done daily, but do make time for it regularly. You might like to use your smartphone to record (video or audio) your lesson, or perhaps you have a trusted colleague who can observe you in the areas you’re keen to work on. Keeping a journal or joining Cambridge English online PD tracker (tracker.cambridgeenglish.org) will help you keep track of your development and give you something positive to talk about in your first appraisal or observation feedback.
As much as you love interacting with your students and helping them with any issues they may have, keep break times and lunch times to yourself. You need to set boundaries from the beginning so that students (and managers) respect your down-time and you can re-energise.
In the Classroom
My final piece of advice is to relax and enjoy the experience! Easier said than done, but remember, you’ve got your own class now and you’re not being observed (at least not every single lesson, but do expect to be observed by your school at least once in your first few weeks). You can (and will) make mistakes. Just be sure to reflect on these and learn from them. Focus on building a good rapport with your students; find out about their interests, their reasons for learning English and get to know them in general before diving into that grammar lesson. Be a human first and a teacher second. Your students will appreciate your interest in them and the rest will all be fine. I promise!
You’re a CELTA-qualified teacher; you’ve got this.
Useful Websites for ELT Support
scottthornbury.wordpress.com Scott Thornbury has an amazing blog and new edition of his book (An A-Z of ELT) which has discussions on all aspects of ELT organised alphabetically. You can read about anything from ‘Articles’ to ‘Zero Uncertainty.’ There is also a forum where you can ask questions and get replies from Scott himself.
demandhighelt.wordpress.com Adrian Underhill and Jim Scrivener host this blog where you can get tips on areas such as classroom management, engaging learners and reflective teaching. There is a forum where Adrian and Jim regularly post replies to your questions.
adrianunderhill.com Also from Adrian Underhill, this blog will help you integrate pronunciation into your every-day teaching. Still learning the chart yourself? Download the Sounds App and improve your phonological skills.
onestopenglish.com This website has plenty of lesson plans, daily news activities and advice. There are podcasts and news articles which are great for including into a daily routine and take the pressure off your planning.