As many of us have learned from previous years, New Year’s resolutions tend to fall flat if there isn’t a firm plan in place to support them. No matter how motivated you may be on January 1st to achieve all of your 2022 goals, things may seem quite different by the end of the month. There’s a way to set yourself up to achieve your teaching goals for 2022 though. By setting specific, clear goals and creating a plan to check in with those goals and evaluate as you go, you can make 2022 the year you achieve all of your New Year’s resolutions. If you’re planning to do just that, take a look at the following suggestions we have for New Year’s resolutions for teachers and choose one (or two!) that speaks to you.
Create a steady habit to search for new ideas or things to try in the classroom so that you can select something to implement in your lessons each month. Maybe you’ve got a nice break every Tuesday afternoon or every Friday after class you can dedicate to research and inspiration mining. You can find great ideas from teaching podcasts, blogs, youtube videos, social media accounts, you name it! Once you’ve heard or seen an idea that piques your interest (maybe a new way to approach error correction in January, a few fun warm up games in February, a different approach to listening activities in March, etc.), make a plan to implement it. After each lesson, be sure to reflect and adjust as needed. If the new approach/tool/material is a success, add it to your tried and true list of teacher tricks that work for you and your students. Take note of the students who responded positively or negatively to the new approach and remember, just because something didn’t work in one class or group of students doesn’t mean it won’t in another and vice versa.
It’s important to keep up with our students and the learning landscape if we want to have engaging lessons, especially if they are online lessons. Similarly to the idea above, this resolution requires you to do some research or be well connected to EdTech trends in the classroom. Again, pencil in some time each month to do some EdTech research to get ideas. If you’re tech-averse, choose the tools or technology that seem approachable and interesting to you as a comfortable place to start. Incorporating technology into your classroom doesn’t have to be expensive or daunting; choose the tools that make sense for you, your students, but especially the target language you’re teaching. If you’re really into tech, make sure you’re choosing things that will be easy to use or learn for your students. Again, youtube channels, podcasts, and blogs are all great places to go for inspiration and guidance when trying to deepen or grow your knowledge and confidence around a certain software or platform– try curating a list of resources you know you can turn to in order to learn a little more each week!
Wrapping up a class only to dive into the next one or begin preparing for upcoming classes doesn’t allow you to really reflect on your performance as a teacher or your student’s progress. An after-class habit that allows you time to reflect on your lesson as well as unwind will help to put you in a better headspace for the rest of your work that day. If you have a series of back to back classes, is there a comfortable time in your day to take some time for yourself? During your break you can go for a walk, get back to your favourite hobby or craft, read, or even catch up with a friend. These activities can help you as you reflect on your lessons and reconnect with yourself. If a midday break doesn’t work with your schedule or if you’re one of those people who loves riding the wave of enthusiasm from one class to the next and don’t feel like interrupting that flow between classes, consider an end-of-teaching-day activity. We all know that feeling of having finished for the day but not being able to stop thinking about what a student said, an idea for a lesson, or how to help so-and-so remember that tricky grammar rule. Being able to completely shut off from your role as a teacher to address the other roles you play in life is essential to making sure you can give it your all when you are in teacher mode! Whether it’s a cup of tea that signifies your work day is done or a yoga class, jog, call with a friend, or anything else that helps create a division in your professional and personal life, find what works for you and make it a habit!
If you’ve been tracking most of your student progress in your head, maybe it’s time to really get organized and put pen to paper, or data to spreadsheet ― whatever approach works best for you. Adding this to your after-class habit can be a great way to consistently record your students’ wins and areas for improvement. Set up a system that works for you where you can track your students’ weaknesses and their improvement in these areas. Like most things, be specific in your comments about their progress and use these notes to challenge them as you move forward.
What’s the teaching skill you’d most like to work on this year? Is there a skill that always makes you a little uncomfortable in class that you’d like to finally dominate? Whatever it is, first start by identifying the skill and the specific weak points of that skill. Rather than saying “I’d like to get better at error correction”, it’s best to think of the specific parts of error correction you’d like to work on. Do you want to improve your ability to coax students to self-correct? Maybe you’d like to let fewer errors go unnoticed but you feel uncomfortable getting your student to correct because you can understand them anyway. Or maybe giving clear instructions is the teaching skill you’d most like to improve. What is it about giving instructions that’s throwing you off your game? Really think here about what it is you’d like to work on specifically and do your research on that area of the skill so that you can implement some strategies. Our very own library of blog posts may have the answers you’re looking for!
We can understand a lot about ourselves when we not only reflect on our teaching but when we are able to watch ourselves teach. To do this, consider recording some of your lessons (you’ll need to make sure this is okay with your students first!). I know what you’re thinking, ‘I hate seeing myself on camera, I cringe when I hear my own voice’ but the initial awkwardness of seeing and hearing yourself will fade when you can really watch how you perform in class. After you’ve recorded a lesson, make note of things you’d like to improve upon, but don’t forget to celebrate the wins you see (big or small) in class either. You’ll be able to pick up on any nervousness, bad habits, use of gestures, moments of confusion, and ways you could have handled things differently. I promise, watching yourself teach will be an incredibly helpful experience, even if it’s a bit weird at first. Schedule a self-evaluation every couple of months (or as often as needed) and be sure to choose different lessons each time, especially the ones you feel could use some work.
On the blog we recently discussed the pesky teaching rut and how settling into a routine can put our performance on autopilot. Teachers get worn out and it’s important to know your limits and understand when you need a break. Before we get that far though, we can set some clear boundaries with our students and/or employer so that we’re taking on a manageable workload all while having time to take care of our minds and bodies. Just like in Resolution idea #3 where we talked about taking time to recharge our batteries, it’s important to make room for ourselves on our priorities list. Take a look at your schedule at the beginning of each month and pinpoint areas where you may be agreeing to take on too much. You don’t have to remove these commitments from your schedule but can you make room for a break afterwards? Is there any time allotted for self-care? We schedule time for our students and we should do the same for ourselves so get your google calendar or your daily planner out and pencil in consistent me-time in 2022.
Good teachers understand that learning never stops. When we share the learner experience with our students, we can approach teaching from a more empathetic way. Just because you teach English doesn’t mean you’ve gotta learn another language (but it certainly helps!). What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn? Is 2022 your year for learning a new language, craft, or skill? Look up opportunities near you (or online) to learn something new and see when you can fit this into your schedule. As an added bonus, you might be shocked by the little teacher ideas and tricks you can pick up along the way from a boxing instructor, carpentry teacher, or writing coach! Remember, learning is a commitment and requires your time so only sign up if you can really commit.
Which goals will you be putting on your list for 2022? Whatever your goals may be, we hope you can achieve all of them this year! We’ll be growing alongside you and achieving our own goals here at The TEFL Lab.