What I’ve learned so far in teaching

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been teaching over half a year! Throughout these past months, I’ve picked up some very helpful advice from colleagues as well as learned from my own mistakes. Here’s a brief compilation of what I’ve learned so far in my first year of teaching:


1. Parents. I wouldn’t have survived up to this point without my parents. I’m not ashamed to admit that I live with mum and dad. With this being my first year out of university having a monstrous student loan to pay off, I need their support more than ever.

2. Nourishment. I’m the kind of person that prefers skipping breakfast if it means I get an extra 10 minutes of sleep. But as I’ve learned, it is very difficult to concentrate, let alone teach, when all I can think about is food. I’ve also learned that bringing snacks to work makes a world of a difference for my energy level and my general mood.

3. Colleagues. If you get along with your co-workers, it makes the day go buy a lot faster. I feel blessed that there is such a positive energy and filial vibe in the staff room. I’m also learning so much from the other teachers. We’ve gotten used to swapping material, sharing ideas and lessons, and even sharing funny things our students say.

4. Back-up. Having a bank of activities is a life-saver. I now have a trusty collection of anywhere between 5-15 minute games and activities to pull out whenever I have some extra time left in a lesson. The beauty of teaching ESL is that practically any game can work. Even if it is not grammar or vocabulary related, if there is an opportunity to practice speaking – students love it.

5. Balance. I made the mistake a couple of days ago of doing intense grammar work for the first period and beginning the next period with intense vocabulary. If students don’t get a break to do something a little more relaxed like group discussions or a game, the lesson – no matter how interesting it may be – will become tedious, for both the students and the teacher.

6. Purpose and Progress. Before beginning any lesson or activity, I often explain to my students why it is important that they know this and how this will be useful to them. I’ve done this with my high schoolers in my student teaching days and it has helped me to avoid the dreaded question, “Why do we have to learn this?” As well, I’ve noticed that my students become much more motivated when they see their improvement or areas that need improvement.

7. Sleep. I no longer have the post-secondary luxury of staying up late watching movies or finishing a good book. If I don’t get to bed before 11pm, I end up snoozing 4-5 times before finally scrambling out of bed and dashing out the door minus breakfast. Lately, I’ve been catching up on my sleep on the train.

8. Deviate. I find that my lessons become much easier to teach and much more interesting when I allow myself to go off topic. I used to think that teachers who did this were just easily distracted, but unless a student is purposely trying to waste your time, it’s actually rather refreshing and stimulating to talk about something different. So far, for all the times that a student has posed an “off-topic” question, the class also seems to be interested to know.

That’s all I can think of at this moment, I’m sure there are a lot more that I have forgotten, so I shall follow up with a Part 2!

Have a great rest of the week :)



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