I have been teaching English and Spanish for 17 years and many teachers e-mail me with the question: Adir, what do I do to improve my English and my teaching skills? Is there a magical recipe? The answer is NO! However, there are very simple things you can do in order not to be good, but to be excellent at what you do! Here are some of them:
1. Watch movies and series with the subtitles in English. I know, sometimes you’re tired and want to relax watching a good ol’ movie but don’t. Stick to your guns, keep your little vocabulary notebook right beside you and stop whenever a new phrasal verb, slang or idiom pops up and write everything down, preferably with an example. Remember, no pain no gain!
2. Make an indecently hard effort to use monolingual dictionaries. They bring valuable information about word usage, prepositions and collocations. Use your bilingual dictionary as your last resource (in case your house is on fire, or something.)
3. Be very, but very careful with your pronunciation. Your students will notice if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Study phonology, know where sounds come from, how they are formed, sentence stress and intonation. Be analytical when you listen to English dialogues, be them in movies, series or even in listening exercises from your coursebook. And don’t be afraid to ask or imitate. At first, the more exaggerated, the better. Then you’ll get the hang of it and it’ll become easier and easier. (If it doesn’t you can sue me for trying.)
4. Read, read and read. English teachers are known for having extraordinary world knowledge because we read so much and about so man different things. But also, read about methodology, new (and old!) learning approaches, start taking an interest in things that are relevant. There are tons of mediocre teachers out there. Do you want to be one of them? Well, I don’t and I won’t!
5. Be humble. The more we know, the more there is to know. I am amazed at the amount of new things I learn every week. For example, I know the word “appendix”, but I didn’t know there was the verb “to append” and I found that out doing a translation. It is refreshing to see there is so much out there to be learned.
6. Get tech. Yes, although many of you dread the thought of being in front of a computer and doing jillions of things with it, if you don’t catch up, in 5 or 6 years you will be completely tech-illiterate. Take your time and don’t come with the “I don’t need this. I teach with books and chalk.” Come on! There’s a plethora of resources to be used and your students need that, believe me. They are more and more demanding every day and that is not going to stop so you’d better brace yourself, ask for help and even ask your students for help. I’m sure they’ll be more than glad to help.
I guess this is it for today. Post your comments because they are very important and will help us all grow together as ELT teachers.