By Eduardo Santos

4 Steps for a Successful TEFL Career: Part 3 – Time to reflect and go a step further

By Henri Bergius from Finland (Conference starting ceremony audience) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been one year since you started working as an English teacher, and by now your responsibilities and roles as a teacher should be clear for you. Some experienced teachers say this period of adaptation may take over a year, which I think is true, but by now you must have a better idea of everything involved in teaching and what your employer’s expectations are. It’s time to reflect and look back at your first year and decide on the best way to go a step further in your career.

Now that your contract is over, you must be thinking of taking a summer job to get some extra money, or taking a long break and enjoying not having to prepare lessons or mark exams. Whatever you decide, most schools give you 20 days paid holidays at the end of a year’s contract. My advice is to take these days off and reflect on the year and how things went before accepting another job offer. It’s important to look at your life from the outside, away from your busy routine as a teacher. Your next steps will be crucial for your professional development.

Here are five tips for trainee teachers after their first year:

1. Define your strengths and weaknesses.

Think about the different age groups and levels you taught on your first year. In which groups did you feel most comfortable? In which groups did you feel there was a lack of specialized training to reach your general aims? Which areas do you feel you did a
great job in and would like to get some further training on? If you feel you need more specialized training, maybe it’s time to take a short course on teaching Business English, Young Learners, teaching pronunciation, and so on.

2. Add a personal touch.

Most of your lessons have probably been planned based on a course book. The school you worked at gave you a syllabus, which you had to follow and base your lessons on. It’s usually difficult for beginner teachers to prepare materials and activities which aren’t linked to the course program, since they have little experience planning lessons. Now that you feel more confident with lesson
planning, you should add your personal touch to the lessons and make them ‘look more like you’.

3. Attend local or international conferences.

Conferences and one-day seminars usually happen throughout the year, and it’s a great chance for teachers to check the latest trends in English teaching. It’s also a good chance for teachers to be part of a community or special interest groups (SIGs) and even get the chance to do some networking.

4. Define your schedule.

You have a good idea of what your work schedule will be like. On your first job, you probably accepted what was given and couldn’t say NO to what you received. Now that you are aware of a typical teaching schedule and what a school expects from you, try to negotiate your schedule with the school director so that you feel more comfortable and avoid a stressful routine.

5. Analyze future job offers.

Take your time, sit back and analyze future job offers. The first thing you have to decide is whether you are going for your second year at your current school, or if you want to start at a different school. Deciding if you want to work in another country with a multilingual group or maybe stay where you are and give yourself one more year before going abroad is a big decision. Talk to other teachers and to your DOS, ask questions before taking another job and find a place where you will feel comfortable and where you will be able to benefit the most from.

After taking a well-deserved break, think about your next steps in English teaching and put these ideas in action. Reflecting on your first year and analyzing future offers is essential for a successful TEFL career.

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