Who were your favourite teachers at school or college?

If you spend a few minutes thinking about the question above, probably a couple of teachers will spring to mind. Now, ask yourself, did those teachers have anything in common? Was there a common thread that they all shared? When I ask myself this question, the common quality I can recognise is enthusiasm. My favourite teachers were enthusiastic about their subjects and their jobs. They were highly motivated and their motivation definitely seemed to rub off on the students.

At the other end of the scale I had several teachers who obviously cared little for the subject they were teaching. If they were enthusiastic at the beginning of their careers by the time I got into their classrooms this enthusiasm had died and I could tell. I think that most students would agree that the attitude of the teacher plays a vital part in the learning process.

It’s not always easy for teachers to remain motivated

Teaching can be very demanding and the financial rewards often may not seem to compensate the time and energy most teachers put into their job. However, teaching can be also be very rewarding and satisfying. Whether or not, as a language assistant, you’re intending to pursue a teaching career there will probably be times during the year when your enthusiasm flags a little and you feel the need for a motivation boost.

Here are some pointers you could try to keep your motivation levels up:

  • Try something new

By now you may have got into the swing of your lessons and found things that work for you and your students. It’s quite easy to fall into a routine but it can do you good from time to time to try some different types of activities and tasks. You may have felt uneasy at the beginning to organise whole class speaking activities or to set up games and role plays. Trying something new will keep you on your toes and give you a challenge. If it doesn’t work at first think about why and try again.

  • Share your ideas

If you try something in class and it works well, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your ideas with colleagues. In turn they will probably share their ideas with you. A great way for you to share ideas with other language assistants is through the discussion list. Most ideas in the world of EFL are adaptations of other people’s ideas. Don’t think that your idea has to an earth shatteringly new one. It may be as simple as a new seating arrangement that works for you. It can be really motivating to pass on an idea and then get positive feedback on it.

  • Observe a colleague

Observing other teachers or language assistants can be a great way to pick up tips and ideas for your own teaching. Approach a colleague and see if they would mind if you observed them. Make sure this doesn’t come across as threatening in any way. Ensure them that it’s for your own personal development. A two-way observation can sometimes be the most fruitful, so you observe each other and then have a chat about it afterwards.

  • Ask a colleague to observe you

Although it can be nerve wracking to be observed, it’s a great opportunity to think about your teaching. If you can, ask the observer to watch out for specific aspects of your teaching that you think need some improvement. Giving clear instructions can be an example of this. Ask them for feedback afterwards but remember that there is often no right or wrong in teaching but many different approaches.

  • Keep a teaching journal

Keep a record of what you do in your classes and how students react to different activities and techniques. This will help you to look back and see how you’re developing as a teacher and to remind you of things that have worked well or not so well so you can reflect on them later.

  • Read about the subject

As you get to grips with teaching English you may find that it helps to read around the subject a little. The TEFL world is huge and there’s a lot of reading you can do without spending a lot of money on books. For example, imagine you just gave a conversation lesson and you left the class feeling that you would like to help your students more with their pronunciation, but need some ideas to where to start. Lots of English teachers are now writing articles which are published on the internet about everyday classroom topics and it can really help to see what other teachers are doing in the classroom. A starting point that I would recommend is the British Council’s Teaching English site which has articles by teachers on a wide range of subjects. There are also several EFL journals like the English Teaching Professional or the Modern English Teacher which you may like to investigate.

  • Think about the skills you’re developing

I’m sure you’ve already thought about the range of skills you’re developing as a language assistant. Whether or not you plan to teach in the future, you will have gained valuable skills in many areas from presentation skills, collaborating with others and time planning to name but a few. The skill you will have picked up and developed are transferable to many other types of jobs. It may be worthwhile to keep a note of examples of situations you’ve been in and how you’ve handled them. This may be useful interview material for a later date.


By Jo Budden

Useful links
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles - The Teaching English articles pages