I have been working at the same private language school for the past ten years. I was used to the teaching methodology used, I had mainly children aged 8-16 as students, I taught the same levels (A2-C2) each year, I knew the textbooks and I felt quite confident as a teacher since I practically did the same things every year. But this May everything changed when the new job offer by the owner for the coming year was completely unacceptable. As a result, I resigned and found myself looking for a new working environment and as it is easily understood after 10 years this was something quite stressful. Luckily almost immediately I found a new private language school to work for.
The new school was an adult only school of English. Suddenly, my younger student was 18 years old and I even had a student who was 50! This was a Terra incognita for me. The needs of my new students were completely different than in the past because they needed a certificate in order to do an MA or find a work in another country. And some of them needed it really fast. Suddenly, I soon understood that everything was different. First of all, it was like you, the teacher, are responsible for the realisation of these people's dreams. In addition to this, the materials I had to use were completely new; I had to find a new teaching methodology and a way to approach my students. And the greatest difficulty of all was that I had to teach completely new exams to me such as IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and SAT.
Very soon I realised that I had to come up with a course of action if I was to keep my job. I quickly understood that there was a variety of challenges and I really had to change my teaching approach. I had first of all to find a way to correct mistakes without making my new students feel offended. Another very serious problem was their reluctance to answer any question using English, unless they were completely sure about the answer. Another issue was that most of the classes were mixed ability classes with great differences in level. And of course I had to learn the format of so many different exams.
The first thing I did was to study; study really hard about the different exams. Fortunately, in our times there is so much information on the Web that I very quickly started feeling like an expert. I watched exam videos, I studied very carefully the band descriptors which I found extremely helpful and eye-opening and of course I talked to teachers with greater experience than me in these exams to help me choose the appropriate material. This made me realise how important it is to network with colleagues! As far as the teaching practices I had to follow I, once again studied a lot. I read some methodology books about teaching adults and I found a lot of useful information on the internet once again. Also, I realised that I had to spend some time in the beginning of each course to explain what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, what are our aims and which is the best methodology to achieve them. Another extremely important thing was to create a friendly, relaxed and non-judgemental atmosphere in the classroom and make everyone understand that we work as a team and that my job as a teacher was just to facilitate them achieve their goal and not to correct every single mistake they make. The way I used to do that was with the use of humour. When people laugh and are relaxed they open up more easily and stronger bonds are formed.
To sum up, the previous year has been a year of changes. A year when I had to redefine myself as a teacher and my teaching practices and to find a way to make my learners learn and succeed in their goals. At the same time it has been one of the best years of my life because all these challenges, all this new field made me find again my motivation and forced me to push my limits and become much more creative in my teaching practices.