Experienced teachers sometimes ask themselves the question, 'Am I ready to be a teacher trainer?'

Am I ready to be a teacher trainer? - methodology article - guest writers
Tessa Woodward

They may ask in response to a request from a boss to run a workshop, in response to seeing a job advertisement, or in response to their own desire to keep developing and moving on in their professional field.

Each individual needs to answer the question for themselves, of course. But in this article, I’ll provide a few areas you might like to think about when turning the question over in your mind. These are:

  1. What do you need in order to be any kind of teacher?
  2. Do you need anything more in order to train, educate or mentor other teachers?
  3. How can I judge if I’m ready to be a teacher trainer?

What do you need in order to be any kind of teacher?
It seems to me that in any kind of teaching, whether you teach a modern foreign language to someone who doesn’t speak it, or teach tennis or physics, you need the following:

  • Physical and mental stamina
  • Good management skills
  • The capacity to engage participants, relate to them both one to one and in groups, and find out what they know
  • A good understanding of the content you teach and an ability to transform it into (a) clear, succinct messages and (b) practice via tasks and materials
  • Good classroom skills – for example, the ability to hold attention, question, wait, listen well, make good quality interventions, explain, demonstrate, negotiate learning that is meaningful and relevant for participants, monitor groupwork and synthesize everyone’s offerings...
  • The ability to get on with colleagues and those above, to the side and below you in your context.

In addition, it’s good if a teacher can keep up to date on relevant literature, theory and practice; have thoughts on their own role as a change agent; and keep developing.

I’m sure you’ll think of other important areas that I’ve left out but it already reads as a pretty long list. Of course, if you are a teacher of teachers, all the above still apply. But let’s look at the next question.

Do you need anything more in order to train, educate or mentor fellow teachers?

Working with adults
If you normally teach children or teenagers, then the first extra is to get some practice working with adults. Adults may differ from young people in their relaxed pace, longer concentration spans, constructive sense of humour, ability and willingness to bring in their longer life experience, their motivation and their desire to know why you are asking them to do this or that task.

Getting experience
To be useful to other teachers, you really need to get as much experience as possible with different class sizes, levels, types of student, types of course, materials, teaching contexts, and so on.

Getting ‘meta’
It’s just not enough to be able to teach any more. You’ll now have to have a good understanding of what you can do in a classroom, who with or to, when, how, and why. In other words, you’ve got to get meta – that is, look over and behind all you do from a professional viewpoint so you can comment on it lucidly and provide shortcuts for others.

Core tasks
Many teacher trainers/mentors/educators, no matter how different their settings, find they are all involved with certain core tasks such as: helping teachers with lesson planning; observing teachers at work; giving feedback on observed lessons; and supporting teachers while they process new knowledge and experience, map the new onto what they knew before and draw their own conclusions. There are parallels between some of these teacher training core tasks and ordinary teaching. Thus, it could be said that giving feedback on observed teaching is similar to giving a language student feedback on an oral presentation done in class. Some skills – such as using tact, providing support and giving data-based commentary – can transfer from the language classroom to the teacher training classroom. Nevertheless, the core tasks of language teaching are pretty distinct in some ways and so their content and process, their what and how, need to be learned and practised.

One other thing that is distinct, in my view, is this: By becoming a workshop leader, conference presenter, observer of teachers, or any kind of teacher trainer, you are setting yourself a little apart – not just from your new adult students of teaching, but also from your colleagues, the teachers who have chosen not to become trainers. This will have implications that depend on the culture and context you work in. In some cultures, it will immediately give you pride, respect and support. In others, you will stand out like a lightening rod on top of a building. And if there’s any static electricity around in the atmosphere, you’ll draw it – especially if you are of a gender, age, religion, race or other group that is normally either conspicuously dominant or oppressed. It’s time to look at the last question.

How can I judge if I’m ready to be a teacher trainer?
Even someone who has just a little more knowledge or experience than another can be helpful to the other, for a time. So, even if you’ve just been teaching for six months, you can still be useful to the newly qualified teacher who’s just arrived in your staffroom. We can, too, take a very broad definition of a teacher trainer and say that it is anyone who helps a colleague with an idea for their next lesson or who spends time listening to an upset colleague after a bad class.*

In this way, if we start naturally with colleagues, if we start small, then most of us actually are teachers who are part mentor, part teacher trainer. Being a teacher trainer, in my view, shouldn’t mean leaving the language classroom. For if you stop language teaching for months on end, how can you keep realistic and helpful to those who are about to be, or who still are, in the thick of it all? So to answer this final question… if you’re enjoying your language teaching, and getting better at all the tasks noted under question 1, if you’re being turned to for help and support by colleagues, as noted under question 3, and if you’re willing to work on the tasks under question 2, then you’re probably as ready as you’ll ever be!

* See Ways of Working with Teachers. Tessa Woodward. 2005. T W Publications. ISBN 0-9547621-0-X

This article was first published in the
Teacher Trainer Volume 20 Number 2, pp 7-10, and is reproduced here with the permission of the editor and author.



Being a teacher is the noblest profession. It takes enough determination for you to become a successful teacher.

Dear Lasereyes,
I agree..it certainly does take constant work, dedication and determination to become a good teacher.
When you say teaching is the 'noblest' profession though, does it mean that you feel that training teachers is somehow not as noble?
If so, I would be interested to learn more about how you feel about that...?
All good wishes

  I agree with you .I think it is right. To be a teacher is the noblest profession.İn my contry to be a teacher is very important profession.Everybody respect for them.But to be a good teacher is the most important.Some teachers don't develop themselves.İt is very bad situation for them.Everyday Teachers must develop and learn new methods and inexperience.
 Thank you very much

Very interesting and timely article for me. Actually I'd been thinking before how it is to become a teacher trainer and will I be able to be one of them. Having read the article I found the reply to my questions.
All the best

Dear "Irinka"! I am very happy you found an answer to your question. Great! Tessa  

Being a teacher is such an enriching experience that you just can't help feeling the need to share your knowledge and expertise with your students as well as with those who are just starting in the career. What is more, having the opportunity to be involved in teacher training is invigorating because it enables you to see your own teaching in a different light by reflecting on it. Therefore providing you with an insightful view of yourself! Teacher training can be considered hard work because it's more demanding than teaching the language but at the same time it adds to the large number of rewarding experiences that as teachers we enjoy!  

Dear "Marthita"! Hello! You say...."enables you to see your own teaching in a different light"... I SO agree with that! It seems to me that you have to consider your own work and name it, analyse it, think what is good and bad about it, extend it, adapt it, think why you do it and where you learned it from...in short, you have to get "Meta"! I think that Meta level is so absorbing and useful! Thanks for writing in! Tessa  

 ''Am I ready to be a teacher trainer?''...  This article reminds me of my own way to teacher training...Some 5 years ago I wouldn't have been able to answer this question... I just wasn't ready... My chief suggested that I tried teacher training as a part of my job responsibilities. I undertook two courses and the first one was a challenge for me as the majority of fellow-participants were quite experienced teacher-trainers... ...... Now it's my third year of teacher training... Yes, it's more difficult than teaching... sometimes it's rather time-consuming and requires a lot of research in search of necessary materials for my sessions... This way I am still learning myself! - and I do enjoy that. As well as I like working with my younger colleagues feeling that I contribute to their professional grouth & develoment......one of the books I value very much is Ways Of Working With Teachers - a very interesting and useful source of ideas for a teacher trainer... (For instance, I borrowed 'loop input' technique from your book - and it works perfectly!)  I am really grateful for this book, Tessa... Good luck & much inspiration to you)  

Dear Vitazh, I couldn't agree more. However close, time-consuming, lots of research, contributing to our colleagues' growth and development still fail to describe entirely what teacher training is. A real challenge but it's worth it! I have worked with " The practice of English language Teaching" and "How to teach English" both by Jeremy Harmer and I highly recommend them! 


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