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 to advance your career in ELT.

In this blog post I’d like to share with you 5 things I am prioritising as career goals. 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 so far, you can set your own 5 priorities and come up with a plan to make them happen in the future.
So here we go!

Happy professional - career in elt

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.

a studying professional

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 your previous year and get honest and realistic about how much we can get done in 12 months. Ambitious people 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!

a teacher and businesswoman in a career in ELT

3. Find a CPD Buddy

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.

One of my favorite talks on Teacher-Led professional development was given by from Nicola Meldrum. 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”.

It’s worth checking out the recording

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!

two professionals exchanging information

4. Become part of a teaching community! (online and in-person)

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 some of my favourite online communities of teachers. Active English on InstagramBrELT and some others for those interested in a career in ELT.

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. (Full disclosure… still working on it.)

To do this, I’m seeking help from a professional so I can equip myself with the skills and knowledge I need to organise my money but 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. 

So these are just a few things that I have set as priorities for me as I make steps to move my career in ELT forwards.  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 take your career in ELT into your own hands.

Claire Venables


  • Claire Venables is a qualified English teacher who has been dedicated to ELT since 2001. After a decade in Spain, she moved to Brazil in 2011 where she has worked in the creation and implementation of bilingual programs in schools, the development of teacher development courses, as a national and international speaker, materials writer, active member of the National Association of Teachers of English (BRAZ-TESOL). Despite her wide-ranging experience, she is and always will be most passionate about teaching children.