You and I don’t know each other but I’m guessing that if you are reading this, you are probably a lot like me when it comes to your professional development: committed, dedicated and pro-active. I think it’s also safe to assume that you are the kind of person who likes a challenge and wants to feel fulfilled professionally and financially with the work you do. Am I right? Well, now is the perfect time to be planning your next steps.
In this blog post I’d like to share with you 5 things I am prioritising as goals for 2018. This isn’t supposed to be a comprehensive how-to guide to developing professionally, but rather a gentle nudge in the right direction. By reflecting on what you have achieved in 2017, you can set your own 5 priorities and come up with a plan to make them happen in the coming year.
So here we go!
1. Get feedback – top-down, bottom up and 360º!
Advancing means different things to different people but regardless of where you want to go, feedback from others is a great starting point. It can shed light on our strengths and weaknesses as professionals and show us where we need to improve. As a teacher, that might mean asking the Director of Studies for an appraisal or to observe your lesson (top-down) or getting feedback from trusted colleagues (360 feedback). Then don’t forget to consult your students to find out what they liked about your classes and where they think you could improve (bottom-up).
For me, as a teacher-trainer, it means contacting my trainees and getting their opinion on my Teaching Young Learners Course. That will help me make changes, keep improving the content, and developing my skills as a trainer.
Asking others to point out our flaws is never easy but there are ways of conducting feedback surveys that you can use that make getting honest and useful information easier. Once you have this data, you are in a much better position to decide on the areas you need to work on to keep improving.
One of my favourite ways of getting feedback has come from a book called The Developing Teacher by Duncan Foord. You can download this activity here. It’s called: Three against one.
2. Set Realistic Professional Development Goals
Before you run off and start writing a long to-do list, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on 2017 and get honest and realistic about how much we can get done in a year. Ambitious people like us typically put too much on our plate and these unrealistic expectations about how much we can achieve can often lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and a little lost about what to do next. To set yourself up for success in 2018, I recommend narrowing down your list to maximum 5 specific priorities for the year. These might be things like changing your job, giving a talk at a conference, getting an official qualification, improving your income, or improving an area of your teaching.
Once you have your 5 targets, turn them into SMART goals. Now, when I say ‘smart’ I don’t just mean clever. It’s actually an acronym that is used to describe a goal setting process that will help turn your vague objectives into a solid plan of action. Check it out on this link and then get to it!
3. Hone Your Skills
We can’t expect to advance and improve without putting in the work. Getting really good at anything takes time and effort. There are lots of ways we can improve our teaching practice and thankfully not all of them require big investments of money. Many we can do alone or with the support of like minded colleagues.
Nicola Meldrum is a tutor on the Teaching Pronunciation course here at Active English and also the Director of the Trinity Diploma Course at Oxford TEFL, so naturally she is an advocate of formal training. She does, however, know just how powerful teacher-led development is and gave a plenary talk about this in Mexico a few years ago. It’s worth checking out the recording. As she says:
“It can be as simple as sharing your day with a critical friend/professional soulmate during the bus ride home or a coffee before class”.
Inspired by her talk, I spoke about the same topic from the point of view of a Young Learner teacher. You can read my blog post that was published on onestopenglish. You can also watch the ideas that the teachers came up with during my workshop in São Paulo earlier this year. There are some absolutely amazing ideas here!
4. Connect With Other Teachers!
I can’t tell you how important this has been to my own professional journey. Teaching can be a lonely career if you don’t have a supportive network of supportive colleagues to encourage you to grow and improve. If, like me, you live in a town where the ELT community isn’t exactly thriving, get online and connect with teachers there.
I couldn’t mention this topic without giving a shout out to my favourite online community of teachers.. BrELT! It’s my online staff room full of supportive colleagues from all over Brazil.
You should also aim to attend at least 1 ELT event per semester. Whether it’s a face-to-face conference or a webinar, these kinds of professional activities are a great way to learn more about teaching and learning while also connecting with other English teachers who are also dedicated to their professional development.
If you want to know what attending a conference for the first time is like, I encourage you to read this wonderful blog post by Leandro Zuanazzi.
5. Take Control of Your Finances
This is my biggest challenge as I’ve always considered myself to be more a ‘people-person’ than a ‘numbers-person’. In fact, I struggle a lot to set financial goals and keep track of the money coming in and out. As a new business owner, I had to develop in this area and really take control of my finances in 2018.
To do this, I’m seeking help from ELT management expert and tutor on the Buisness English course, Julio Vieitas. In 2018, I’ll be taking some of his short courses on financial planning in ELT. He’ll also be mentoring me so I can equip myself with the skills and knowledge I need to organise my money and also change my attitude about working with numbers. Planning financially for my professional development (conferences, courses, subscriptions and memberships, etc) will be a focused part of the financial planning. You can find out more about these courses on Julio’s website.
So these are just a few things that I have set as priorities for me after evaluating what I have achieved in 2017 to make decisions about what’s next for me moving into 2018. I couldn’t finish this post with throwing in a cheeky mention of the online professional development courses that we offer here at Active English. If you would like to become a part of our community of Developing Teachers, click on the links below to find out more about the short courses we run with our team of expert tutors!
I hope you have enjoyed my suggestions and they inspire you to get planning and make 2018 your best year yet!