My journey from a Novice to Better Teacher
Through this blog entry, I would like to share with the ELT community my narrative of professional development. I will first briefly review the notion of teacher development and then, I will share some of the things that I have gained over the past few years to improve my classroom practices followed by my personal attributes. Thus this entry will try to showcase my both personal as well as professional development as a teacher.
Teacher development is a process of bringing changes in teacher’s behavior, attitude and beliefs in terms of teaching, construction of knowledge and classroom practice. These changes can be brought into two ways; teacher training and teacher development (Richards & Farrell, 2005). The former is related to the activities enhancing the teacher’s existing knowledge, skills and capacities in the subject matter they’re teaching while the latter refers to general growth that serves a long term goal and is related to understanding the teaching and its different aspects, classroom practices, and themselves as teachers.
Teacher development in ELT is aimed at understanding second language development process, teaching learning style, changing roles of teachers depending upon learners, classrooms, context and the society and how learners perceive what is taught in the classroom (Richards & Farrell, 2005). Such understanding transforms a novice teacher into an experienced one who then performs things differently as they can anticipate the classroom problems, think of solutions and solve them through different classroom techniques (Berliner, 1987). This understanding can be gained through different practices such as reflection, action research, collaboration and communication with fellow teachers, training, reading and writing. The following section mentions the activities that I have done to translate the theoretical aspects as mentioned above into practice.
My efforts for teacher development
The activities and strategies that I was involved in for teacher development can be classified into the following five categories:
1. Training and workshops: Like as any other teachers, one of the things that I have been doing over the past few years, in fact since I started my teaching career, is attending different trainings and workshops organized by different publication houses, different schools, NELTA (Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association), British Council and later English Access Micro Scholarship Project implemented by NELTA in Nepal in collaboration with US State Department. Most of these trainings were free and the rest of them were paid. I am sure that all the trainings were not equally useful but I have certainly learnt something. I hardly missed any training or workshop opportunities I was offered as I was very enthusiastic to attend them since they either reinforced me with things that I had already learnt at different points of time or taught me something completely new which was largely beneficial to my class.
2. Conference and Seminars: Another source of my learning was conference and seminars basically organized by NELTA. I have not missed any international conference organized by NELTA annually in February since 2007. I have attended the conferences and seminars acting different roles as a volunteer, a rapporteur and a presenter. The different roles I have acted during such occasions enabled me become a matured teacher. Plus, these events provided me with opportunities to meet national and international personalities in ELT and exchange our ideas. Such a gathering encouraged me to be more dedicated to my teaching providing me impetus to keep working to improve my English language competence.
3. Reading: Needless to say, reading holds a great significance to build on one’s professional career. To be honest, I did not know what reading is before I started it myself. The first book that I have read beyond my course book was ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe, after I became a teacher. The book made me realize that reading is a fun. I kept on reading a lot of novels both in English and Nepali and now it has not only become one of my hobbies but also a craze. Later, I took to reading ELT books and journals. Reflecting my past, now I can say that there was not a single day when I was not involved in reading a book or an article. It has helped me improve my reading speed and enhance my comprehensive skills. Most importantly, reading provided me with the chances to compare my classroom practices with the prescribed ones in different books and articles I read.
4. Sharing sessions with colleagues: Sharing sessions with fellow teachers and colleagues was another activity that helped me become a better teacher today. . I have always shared my ideas with fellow teachers informally at my schools and formally with and the audience during different training sessions organized by NELTA and other institutions. These sessions comprised of sharing of my good practices from handy classroom tips to English songs. Most importantly, attending these training sessions was a good opportunity for me to reflect on my own practices of teaching and carry out self assessment with the ideas whether they work in different situations.
5. Online teacher trainings and webinars: Attending online courses and webinars entitled ‘Teaching English to Teens (TET)’, ‘Critical Thinking in English Language Teaching’, and ‘Teaching English Webinar’ was the latest practices to add in my list. These courses were offered by Regional English Language Office (RELO) in Nepal in collaboration with some reputed universities in the United States. I found these courses and webinars useful for it provided the participants a global platform to discuss and share personal beliefs and philosophies regarding teaching. And these e-courses provided me with opportunities to reflect on my practices and engaged in professional discussion with teachers from global arena. In addition, such courses provided me some assignments like something to read, write and discuss with others as a teacher, which kept me thinking about my course, lesson plans, curriculum and teaching.
Easier said than done. I could go on writing more about these practices and suggest others they should replicate them than I would like to share some of my personal attributes that helped me become a better teacher in the following section.
Personal attributes from a novice to better teacher
One of the attributes that helped me bring this transformation was my passion to become a better teacher. Next, I was ready to embrace new challenges and never said ‘NO’ to any opportunities, no matter how trivial it was. Thirdly, my curiosity to explore the world of teaching was another X-factor in my career. Likewise, I was always positive about my learning despite all the odds. Like any other teacher, I went through hard times. My earning was meager and the pressure was always escalating, however I was always positive and I lived with HOPE.
Another thing that I kept me alive in this profession was my hard work. I never let my passion drift away. Hard work probably was the result of positive disposition, passion and the enjoyment I that derived from my teaching. Next, I was generous as I did not confine myself in the things that I learnt. I always had my goals set. Most of these goals were not big. I trusted on little goals such as completing the novel by the weekend, writing a haiku a day and writing a blog entry the next week. They gave me something to look forward to. Lastly, I would like to focus on the efforts to self development, which will only be successful when you are ready for. The readiness brings commitment and commitment gives the encouragement and motivation to accomplish a task, and this attribute has brought all the changes in me.
I would like to conclude that any teacher can transform themselves when they wish to do so. It is obvious that teachers have hard time in Nepal but this does not mean that we ignore our professional growth. I have the opinions that positive changes are possible only when we take responsibility for our growth.
Berliner, D.C. (1987). Ways of thinking about students and classrooms by more and less experienced teachers. In J. Calderhead (Ed.) Exploring teachers’ thinking (pp. 60-83). London: Cassell.
Richards, J.C. & Farrell, T.S.C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge: CUP.
About the Author:
Mr. Laudari is a visiting faculty to Kathmandu University and Ace Institute of Management. He is currently in the UK pursuing his master’s degree at Lancaster University under Hornby Scholarship.