I feel my first year of blogging would be incomplete without a little “as this year draws to a close” post. Here it goes, my 2015 in review. Quite a few changes, many challenges, and some lessons learned.
Starting my blog
As cliche as it may sound, deciding to start this little project was the best decision of 2015. I think the best thing about having a blog is becoming aware of other similar websites run by teachers and educators. Learning about other teachers’ opinions, experiences, and ideas has been incredibly developing and rewarding. It’s encouraged me to reflect upon my teaching and rethink my approach to lesson planning and classroom management. I still can’t believe I discovered the world of blogging and tweeting teachers this late!
Making it as an English teacher in a new country
Moving from Barcelona to Berlin meant adapting to a completely different model of working as an English teacher. I started working as a freelancer which involves getting used to more responsibilities (paperwork!), becoming more organised and pro-active. Almost overnight my students became my customers and I have to admit, it felt weird at first. There was no more dancing around the prices, there was no evil school owner to blame. I was in charge (?!)
On a more sentimental note, more freedom and independence in planning your schedule goes hand in hand with working mostly on your own, not having a team of colleagues to socialize with or your own shelf in the staffroom. These things might seem trivial to some people, but what I really appreciated about my previous job was the feeling of belonging and being a member of a school community. I’m still not entirely sold on being a freelance teacher.
Starting to teach online
I decided to try my hand at online teaching and it’s been quite an adventure. Different teaching tools, totally different “classroom” dynamic”, and constantly learning by doing all make it a very new and unpredictable experience. I’ve been reading a bunch of blogs written by online teachers (Jaime Miller, Jack Askew, and Elena Mutonono) and I feel I’m getting a better grasp of what it is about, but I’m still very much outside of my comfort zone. There are so many new things which I’d like to implement in my online classes and the process of selecting the best tools and methods seems to be the most difficult thing at this point.
My first teachers’ conference
Yes! I participated in my first ever conference for teachers which was organized by Lang LTC, a language school and a teacher training centre, in Warsaw, this November. It was an amazing experience. A day filled with practical workshops, informative discussions, and wonderful people passionate about language teaching. I’m definitely going to try get more engaged with similar events happening in Berlin.
Moving away from the coursebook
If you’ve been to this blog at least once before, you probably know I’m a big fan of making my own teaching resources and using authentic materials. Working on my own gives me greater freedom of choosing teaching materials and although I still use some coursebooks, they serve mostly as a reference point (unless it’s an exam preparation class). It’s great to be able to mix and match different materials I find valuable without having to feel guilty over skipping some pages from the book my students paid for and, therefore, are very determined to do every last exercise.
Teaching in many different classrooms
I feel like this year I’ve taught in very different settings. I went from a school equipped with interactive whiteboards and laptops in every classroom to one with no WiFi and a chalkboard. And then I started teaching online. It’s been a pretty crazy year in terms of resources available to me. Even though I’ve taught in two different countries, it feels these have been two different centuries. Not long ago I felt I wasn’t taking enough advantage of technology my school offered and now I need to relearn teaching without the Internet handy. On top of that, I have to get familiar with such wonders of technology as realtime board, emaze or EDpuzzle. I can’t say that juggling so many teaching tools and management techniques has been easy or convenient but having to adapt quickly to changing circumstances surely is a valuable skill!
Focusing on needs analysis
This is probably the consequence of abandoning coursebooks and teaching more individual students. I’ve always known that finding out why the students want to learn and how they need to use the language will make my lessons more relevant, engaging and meaningful. Then I’d get a group labeled “intermediate” and I’d just follow the coursebook (like a mindless drone). I feel this year I’ve managed to step up my game as far as establishing my students’ goals and needs. It’s several times more demanding and time-consuming to prepare such a fine-tuned class but I think I’m finally learning to really meet my students expectations and it feels great.
Come to think of it, 2015 might not have been that special. What’s special is the fact that it’s the first time in years I actually took a moment to reflect about what I’ve done and experienced, both professionally and personally. It probably wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for this blog which brings me back to the first headline of this post. One of my goals for 2016 is being consistent with updating my blog and trying to connect with this amazing community of blogging teachers more.