Get inspired and inspire!

I have recently met a teacher going through a crisis in her professional path because colleagues and supervisors had been telling her that she was too good not to want to be more than a teacher – she questioned her ‘lack of ambition’. I am not sure what the rationale behind comments might have been, but I would say we need more of those great teachers with the courage to persevere and remain ‘just a teacher’.  I believe this is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers nowadays – keeping their efforts and motivation focused on teaching when they feel this is their passion. After all, choosing to be a language teacher is anything but opting out of ambition.

From my view, teachers are more ambitious than any other group of professionals as their ambitions go beyond their own growth to include the development of each and every learner that crosses their path. Here are some tips for teachers who are willing to pursue professional development as a language teacher – becoming the greatest teacher you can be – and inspire learners to build a habit of learning:

  1. Study the language you teach. In this year’s IATEFL conference, Martin Parrott emphasised the importance of learning more and more about English, no matter how long you have been teaching the language. The English language is in constant change and studying it brings more and more insight into its specificities, the cultural aspects, how to better teach/ learn it. Besides, a teacher who is also a learner inspires students of all ages to do their part in the learning process.
  2. Choose a mentor, someone who inspires you to be a better professional, to teach better lessons and that will be willing to guide you, doing what’s best for you. Ask for help, ask for tips, observe, be observed, plan and act on your development.
  3. Become a mentor to a peer. There will be a moment in your career when you need new challenges and supporting a peer may be a path you want to pursue – be the helping hand to another teacher and learn from teaching someone else. Learners may notice that their peers may be a powerful tool in the learning process once they perceive teachers as inspirational role models.
  4. Explore your own teaching to experiment with various techniques, approaches. Carry out action research and become more aware of your strengths as a teacher. Read to find out about new ideas or to get inspired (you may want to check out Palmer’s The Courage to Teach). Build your own repertoire and let the variety of what you do in the classroom keep you motivated. In any case, ensure that what you are doing has a positive impact on your students’ progress.
  5. Embrace destabilisation and leave your comfort zone every now and then. It is quite common to fall prey to routine and autopilot, especially if one has been teaching the same levels, the same groups and/ or in the same school for a long time. A practical way of challenging yourself is to question what you do every time you plan your lesson or reflect upon a lesson you have just thought. Keep a journal and record changes made to your teaching or beliefs – you may want to revisit them later to check on your progress or even share your findings with your peers.

What other tips would you give to those teachers who chose to be in the classroom and make their ambitions as inspirational as possible to their peers and learners they influence throughout their careers?

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Marcela Cintra

Marcela Cintra is the Head of Products in the Academic Department at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has been working with English language teaching for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in ABCI, LABCI, BRAZ-TESOL, TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A CELTA, ICELT and Delta tutor, she has an MA in TESOL. She is the current first-vice president for BRAZ-TESOL.

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