Eat better, lose weight, travel more, watch less TV, read more, write more…Sound familiar? This year I’m not making any resolutions about my personal life or health. Instead, I’m going to focus my New Year’s Resolutions on my teaching, and I’m going to make small, smart, and manageable resolutions so that I’ll still be on track next Christmas. So, are you ready to take the challenge? You can borrow my resolutions or come up with your own. Remember, make them small enough to easily integrate into your daily routine, or you won’t keep them! Even small changes can have a big impact on your classroom!
Here are my 2014 News Year’s Resolutions for Teaching:
Integrate more technology into my classroom
I’ve made class blogs, class websites, online end-of-unit quizzes, etc…but my attempts have been haphazard and I’ve always stopped updating them by the end of the course. For my first New Year’s Resolution I’m going to approach this goal systematically, scheduling it into my weekly planning time, and take it in much smaller bites. There will always be time in the future to go bigger, if I choose. Each month I’m going to choose a new tech tool to try out with my classes, and experiment with the different possibilities. The first new thing I’m going to try this year is asking my students to submit video diaries of their progress each month with any questions they have for me, and responding to them via my own videos. Not only will this count as homework and aid in my assessment of their speaking and pronunciation skills, but I’d like this to replace traditional one-on-one tutorials which I feel are a collosal waste of a class period.
Keep work at work
We all need a break sometimes, but we also know how quickly “looking at the news” or that “5 minutes checking Facebook” turns into the click, click, click that wastes the next hour of our time. Sure, I read a lot of interesting articles, and I found out that my friend’s friend is expecting a baby, but did I get my lesson planned? That’s why for my second New Year’s Resolution I’m challenging myself, and you, to unplug during our time at work. If you need a break, take a real break. Go outside and walk around the block, or grab a coffee and head back to your desk. These kind of real world activities are much less likely to lead hours and hours of lost time. The best part is we’ll be able to head home without books and with the wonderful feeling that our evening is just that: ours.
Keep up with PD
Too many teachers think they’ve learned all there is to learn. We haven’t! Not even close. Professional Development doesn’t have to mean attending a million seminars or workshops a year. We can hone our skills bit by bit, even in 20 minutes a day, without even leaving our homes or offices. One of the beautiful things about the internet is that there are thousands of tools for our Professional Development right there in our laptops. I’m already on track to succeed with my third New Years Resolution. I’ve found TEFL websites that I can learn from and I’ve subscribed to their feeds and followed them on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been amazed at how much valuable information I’ve already learned this way, and how one website can lead to another, and another, and…you know, just make sure you don’t do this when you have a lesson to plan. There are teachers all over the world learning collaboratively in a way unthought of even ten years ago. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite TEFL websites to start following.
Also, I’ve started following #ELTchat on Twitter, which I highly recommend. Every Wednesday TEFL teachers gather there to discuss a topic chosen beforehand. It’s like attending a workshop all within the comfort of your browser.
If you have your own favorite TEFL websites, please comment below so I can check them out as part of my Professional Development resolution!
Learn Another Language
This sounds like a big commitment, but really it’s not. There are incredible free websites out there these days, and you only need a few minutes a day to practice. So for my fourth resolution I decided to learn another language. It’s been tooooooo long since I last felt the sweet victory of achieving fluency in Spanish. I want more. Nothing can help you understand your students more than trying to learn another language. If it’s the language that your students speak, great! But it doesn’t have to be. For me, Vietnamese is far too challenging a language to motivate me to keep learning beyond survival skills. If I were going to stay here the rest of my life, perhaps I’d give it another try, but come on, six tones! I’m sorry, but I’ve given up. I’ve been studying German on my own though, (which I find far less frustrating) and I have to say it’s given me a renewed sense of empathy with my students and their frustrations, not to mention reminded me of how language acquisition feels. By studying another language you prove to your students that it can be done, and you share an experience with them. It only takes 10 minutes a day of online practice to make some progress on sites like Duolingo or Busuu. You won’t regret it. Who has ever regretted learning another language?
Get to know my students more individually
They’re why we do this, after all. And because of this, my last New Years Resolution is to get to know them better, no matter their age.
With young learners, this could mean taking the time to notice how each personality is so very different from the others, and making sure to focus feedback based on their individual needs. In my favorite class, some are great at art, others better at singing, and still others stronger at fine motor skills. Take the time to observe them and figure out who is who. Then you can encourage them better in both their strengths and their weaknesses.
With teenagers or adult learners, a very easy way to get to know them better is through social media. I know, everybody says that you should never be friends with your students on Facebook, and I used to agree with that. Last year though, I started accepting these requests and I’ve noticed an absolutely remarkable improvement in class rapport. Perhaps seeing me on Facebook helps my students relate to me by making me less an intimidating teacher, and more an accessible human being. Their updates allow me to see what they are really interested in, not just what they think is acceptable to write on a needs analysis. When I get this personal glimpse into their lives, not only does it build rapport, but I can tailor my lessons around their real interests. This year I’m going to try to build on these new Facebook friendships by commenting on their posts more often, and creating Facebook groups for my classes.
If you’re worried about your Facebook profile not being appropriate viewing for your students, consider tweaking your settings to create a limited profile, or even a totally new profile that you only use for interacting with your students.
So, how many of these things do you think I’ll have kept by the end of the year? I’m confident about most of them, but who knows! I’m sure that every teacher out there is making their own resolutions this month, and I’d love to hear about them. What are your Teaching Resolutions? Do you think you’ll keep them? Leave a comment below!