Experiences of an English Language Teacher

20 More Ways To Be A Better English Language Teacher (Part 2)

In the first part of these blog postings, we looked at various ways to develop and enhance your career as a language teacher with 20 ideas which could be incorporated within your personal CPD goals or aims.  The second part of this series looks at another 20 ideas which you could incorporate at any stage of your ELT career.  Before I start this blog post, I would like to thank all those that have visited this post – it has been the most popular blog post on this website despite only being live for a short period.

1. Volunteer with a Special Interest Group (SIG) or Association

If you have joined an ELT association such as IATEFL, or a local association in your country, then you could volunteer to help them in your free-time.  There are numerous posts that may require your skills or assistance.  For example, if you are able to use technology affectively or have organised your own Google Hangout, then you maybe able to help organise a similar event for the association or if you have experiences of writing book reviews then you could help co-ordinate the editing of these.

2. Improve your board work

I have now made a conscious decision to improve my board work in as much as learning how to draw various places, activities, etc.  It definitely shows to those observing your lessons that you are able to draw or use your board effectively.  You will become more confident on using your board effectively and shall become quicker during lessons.  I have had students photograph my whiteboard after a lesson as they find it more visually appealing.  More information about the whiteboard in the following blog post here.

The (White) Elephant in the Room

3. Create a (video) podcast

If you don’t have the time to dedicate to writing blog posts, you could look at creating a (video) podcast about your experiences of ELT.  It is very simple to do.  You can just use your smartphone to create them and then can upload to: YouTube (for video podcasts) or SoundCloud (for audio podcasts).  Share them with your colleagues in the staffroom or via other social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

4. Learn a language

I started learning a foreign language, more information available on my other blog “Kimchi Bites“, Korean to be precise, to put myself in the shoes of my learners and to become more aware of what a language learner is like: the difficulties, possible habits, etc.  Learning a language and how your students keep making mistakes can be aided by learning about their language and culture.  You will then be able to relate to your students in both inside or outside your classroom.

5. Demand more from yourself

As in the previous blog post – demanding more from your students – you should demand more from yourself to keep yourself evolving as a teacher.  If something didn’t go well, change it.  Evolve with the changes otherwise you may become that teacher who is always moaning in the staffroom and trust me you don’t want to end up being that teacher.

6. Consider doing another course

You completed your CELTA a number of years ago and have gained some classroom experience.  But things are not just developing as you have expected in the past year or two.  You could consider doing an additional course to supplement your CELTA or equivalent such as a young learner extension course, a Diploma or Masters.  You will meet similar teachers when you do this type of course and it will further confirm your desire to continue in this profession.

7. Take a break

To avoid any form of burnout, you need to take time out from teaching during the year.  The time you take away will give you the space and time to unwind, relax and have a well deserved break.  During this period of relaxation, try to meet with friends or family, listen to some music or read a non-ELT book.  If you are suffering from burnout, your lessons will be difficult to plan, learners will notice your lack of motivation or concentration during lessons and they will likely complain to your line manager.  So if you need a break, tell your boss and arrange a mutually agreed period to have time off.

8. Collect books for your school

Your learners will likely have access to eBooks via their tablets, smartphone or computer but reading a traditional book still has its place in any school.  Unfortunately for many schools, they do not have the resources to purchase brand new books and stock them up similar to a local library.  However, you could collect or ask for a donation of unwanted books from family, friends or hotels.  Hotels are a wonderful place to request for books as they are likely to receive them from tourists who leave them in their room or lobby.

9. Use smartphones in class

Rather than banning the use of smartphones outright in the classroom, you could incorporate them during dedicated lessons.  A previous blog post that I had written offers 7 wonderful ideas of the use of smartphones in the classroom.  Perhaps you can create your own lesson(s) with your learner’s smartphones or get students to record speaking to review at a later date.

10. Create a school magazine/eBook

If you want to be a bit more creative and would like to showcase all the wonderful work that students have completed over the course of an academic year or so, then creating a school magazine (available as PDF or digital download) would be fantastic.  I created a school magazine for a group of young learners who were studying at our school during the period of four weeks.  This was then emailed to the group leaders so students could then download or print their own personal copy.  It is a great opportunity for students to share their work with family, friends or other teachers.School eBook

11. Pilot material for publishers

There is a chance, should you wish, whereby you can get in touch with the main ELT publishers and pilot any of their material or their coursebooks which they are considering for publication.  After a period of piloting material, you will build up a good relationship with the publishers and they may offer additional opportunities for you to consider in due course.  There is a new website set up for teachers who wish to get into authoring with publishing houses known as “ELT Teacher 2 Writer” and it is free to register.  Once you have registered, you will find possible courses on starting to write for various publishers.

12. Mentor a new teacher

When you were a new teacher, as was the case for me, everything was probably quite overwhelming and there was a lot to take on board at the time – keeping registers, marking students writing, dealing with student queries as well as preparing and planning lessons.  However, I was fortunate to have the support from various teachers at the time but unfortunately, I hadn’t had the chance to be mentored during this period.  These days, I take a very active role in developing teachers and in one way, I get more experienced teachers to mentor less experienced, or newly qualified, teachers.  So, consider mentoring a teacher over a period of time and help your team out during the year.

13. Watch a webinar

The brilliant result of technology these days is that a lot of the seminars are now available to watch via Google Hangouts or recorded with Adobe Connect and you don’t have to watch exactly on the day or time of the online web-seminar (webinar), as you are able to rewatch these again and again.  Some free webinars which are available include: British Council Seminars, Macmillan or OUP ELT Webinars.

14. Write a teacher diary

Blogging about your experiences of an English language teacher can be quite open and lack any form of privacy.  However, you may wish to write about your experiences but keep them private and, in this case, within a diary.  You could decide not to share this diary with any other teachers and reflect on things that had happened during the week or look back at what you had done, with the intention to review your progress from any given date.

15. Rearrange seating in the classroom

If you are having trouble with motivation or lack of focus during lessons, you could consider rearranging the seating in the classroom, then monitor to see how the response is with regards to this change.  You are then able to note any positive changes in classroom dynamics with the seating of the classroom.  I have done this personally a number of times as well as nominated seating for particular students around the class.  There is both positive and negative feedback if you go ahead and tell students where they have to sit but sometimes it is nice to spice up the lessons a bit.

16. Specialise

Just teaching is not the be all and end all of language education.  There are plenty of opportunities for teachers to specialise in this field.  For example, you may find that you find an opportunity to train teachers, organise social events or be responsible for stock in the Teachers’ Room.  If you are able to become more responsible for more than just teaching, you will find that you are given more responsibility and are responsible for other aspects of running a language school.  Should you be incredibly lucky, you may secure permanent employment.

17. ELTPics in the Classroom

ELTPics is a wonderful yet unknown resource for English language teachers.  All teachers should become more aware of the possibility of using ELTPics in the classroom.  The benefit of using ELTPics in the classroom is that you do not have to worry about copyright law as all pictures are under Creative Commons Licensing and Attribution law.  As teachers, it is important that we use a stock of images that we are confident that do not place us in a legally difficult area.  For more ideas about using ELTPics in the classroom is available from a previous blog post here.

18. Get Involved with ELTChat

As with ELTPics, there are plenty other websites available to consider.  ELTChat is also another wonderful discussion group on Twitter which teachers of English around the world could consider using.  Every week on a Wednesday (either at 12 noon or 9pm GMT), the moderators organise a discussion on various topics for those that are interested.  Obviously being held on Twitter, it is necessary for teachers to join Twitter before contributing to the discussion.  More information about the ELTChat discussion group is available to read on their website.

19. Write an ELT book review

As with my previous suggestions in the last series of this blog post, you could read various books about English language teaching.  However, you could start reviewing ELT-related books for journals or other publications.  Read other book reviews and try to choose a style which is most suited for the journal or publication that you wish your book review to be published.  For example, a book review in the ELT Journal would be quite academic compared to the EL Gazette, which would be less formal and academic.

When writing your book review, consider the following questions to help you:

  • What is the type of book?
  • What is the contents of the book?
  • Who is the book aimed for?
  • What way is the book different to other books?
  • What did you like about the book?
  • What did you dislike about the book?
  • What is your evaluation of the book?  Would you recommend it for other readers?

If you are able to answer the following questions about the book you would like to review, you will then find writing up a book review relatively stress-free.  You can read up on my own book reviews here.

20. Create your own online teaching portfolio

The final blog post in this series looks at documenting and organising your own CPD.  As with anything, it is important to keep a record of your professional development so that they can shared to various organisations or individuals when requested.  To help assist you in producing your own online teaching portfolio, you can use the Cambridge ESOL Teacher Portfolio website, which is completely digital.  It is easy to create your portfolio and if you spend a little bit of time on each week or month, you will then be able to provide a digital copy when requested.


  1. Hi Martin,

    Another good list of ideas for teachers. Just to let you know that unfortunately Cambridge have decided to close the Cambridge Teacher Portfolio tool, and it won’t be usable after the end of this month. I’m not sure whether there is another similar tool or not.


    • Martin Sketchley

      Hi David. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately I didn’t know about Cambridge deciding to pull their website down at the end of this month. The Cambridge Teacher Portfolio tool is very useful. I suppose an alternative is to create your own blog and document as well as build up your own CPD portfolio.

  2. Zhenya

    Hi Martin
    Just a short message to say thank you for sharing the ideas for teacher development: both part 1 and 2 are useful and provide so many choices (from small steps, like re-arranging the seats, so doing something longer-term, like teaching portfolio).
    Good to know that the Cambridge version of this portfolio will be up till the end of June (thanks to David for this info): can see an example, and then as you said, can create a blog, or something similar.
    Also, wanted to thank you for following my blog. I am still in the learning process, or beginner state of mind, and enjoying this stage!

  3. All good tips. I wonder if you know of any TEFL teaching (audio only) podcasts. I’ve been writing a post wondering why there aren’t more, but not much point if there actually are loads, I just don’t know about them!

  4. Hi Martin,
    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.

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