3 Things you can do right now to get yourself out of that ‘teaching rut’
The article gives practical and immediately applicable advice about how to re-inspire yourself as a teacher and escape that rut.
Back in 2016, I hated my job.
It wasn’t the teaching. It was the lifestyle.
I would spend all day rushing from one lesson to the next, travelling half-way across the city in Istanbul’s heroically crowded public transport with my face in someone’s elbow. I spent more time with the teeming masses than I did with my students.
If, at the time, I’d known where I’d be now, I would’ve been amazed.
What I do now is almost the opposite. I teach online. Mainly short lessons to business students, and what I teach is up to me. No buses, no travelling, no syllabus and … no structure.
It all sounds great, right?
The thing is, all this presented a new problem: no development.
I am alone. It’s just me, my students and a small blue light representing the camera that connects us. I meet no other teachers, I don’t go to workshops or staff parties or hang out in the teacher’s room.
But most importantly, I don’t have a director of studies to lend support or point me in the right direction.
It’s surprising how stuck that can make you feel and how quickly you end up just reusing the same old materials and going through the same old script.
That means boredom. Boredom for me and boredom for my students. I wanted to be excited about teaching again but I’d found myself in a rut.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, here’s what I think you need to do.
Why? Because it’s what I did – and it worked.
Have you ever observed another teacher’s lesson before? In my experience, whether I was watching a less experienced teacher or a great master at work, I’ve always found seeing someone else in action one of the very best ways to improve my own teaching.
That’s when the videos aimed at English learners can help out; it’s essentially like watching another teacher teach. The good news? There are hundreds and hundreds of YouTube channels like this.
Want to go a bit deeper? Why not learn from the top of the field? A lot of the best talks given by the best English teachers and pedagogues out there are available on YouTube.
Whether it’s Jeremy Harmer assessing the merits of Dogme or Hugh Dellar discussing a bottom-up approach to grammar teaching, you can always learn a lot from the best.
Read a blog!
There are hundreds, if not thousands of teachers out there writing about their experiences. Some of them are brand new to the teaching world and are sharing their growing pains. Some are very seasoned teachers and can offer all the tricks in the book.
Either way you can pick up anything from everyday classroom procedures to abstract pedagogy, all of which will inform your teaching and help reignite that teaching spark you’re looking for.
Here are two to get you started:
Go to conferences!
This is probably the best thing you can do to inspire your teaching.
What better way to make yourself enthusiastic about teaching than by surrounding yourself with enthusiastic teachers?
I went to my first teaching conference a few years ago. It was a small affair, but I found it massively inspiring for a number of reasons.
First of all, I saw some of the best English teaching thinkers talk about their ideas and provide really valuable insights into how to be better, more effective, more approachable, more skilled and even happier teachers.
But there was more! The smaller talks, given by down-to-earth, ordinary teachers, provided a wealth of practical advice from the front line.
And there was even more! I met people. Lots of people who were all interested in what I had to say and what I thought. People who I could start asking questions to and people who asked me questions back, always with openness and enthusiasm.
We really work in an industry full of some of the most sympathetic and supportive people.
Apparently this is quite unusual. I was talking to a friend of mine who works in town planning. She hates going to conferences. Apparently everyone in the town planning industry is trying to climb the career ladder and the office politics is vicious and difficult to deal with. Thankfully, English teaching conferences are the opposite – full of enthusiastic and encouraging people.
Since my first conference, I’ve been going to conferences (and speaking at them) every chance I get. They’re addictive. I’m hooked.
And the good news is that you don’t need to go far. There’s a high probability that wherever you are, there’s an IATEFL association organising conferences in your country. Just Google “IATEFL” plus the name of your country.
So – stuck in a teaching rut?
Then I strongly encourage you to try these out. Even if you just go for one of them, you’ll start to feel inspired and your teaching will change.
Gabriel EA Clark is an English teacher with an MA in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. He runs Clark and Miller, a website that offers courses and books, and a blog that often features giraffes.