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

Author
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!

Note
* 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.
 

Comments

Submitted by lasereyes on Thu, 10/08/2009 - 13:28

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

Submitted by Tessa Woodward on Fri, 10/09/2009 - 12:28

In reply to by lasereyes

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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

Tessa

Submitted by aliihsan on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 14:32

In reply to by lasereyes

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  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

Submitted by Irinka81 on Sat, 10/10/2009 - 15:48

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Hello,

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.

Thanks

All the best

Submitted by marthita on Sat, 10/10/2009 - 22:04

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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

 

Submitted by Vitazh on Sun, 10/11/2009 - 13:38

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 ''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!

 

Dear Marthita!

Thank you for the answer.

I completely agree with you, teacher training is a complex notion that defies simple definition.

Thank you for recommending me the books by Jeremy Harmer. He is also one of the authors I like.

Best wishes,

Vita

 

 

 

Dear Vitazh,

Oh! Thanks so much for what you said about Ways of working with teachers. It is great to know that you find it useful!

When you say about having to do lots of research before a new session...? I just love all that. It is quiet, thoughtful time when I do loads of learning and thinking and then try to make a practical session out of it all. It is like fantasizing (is that how you spell that?) about what might happen when you get with those particular people, in that particular room, for that particular session. I find it very restorative and creative!

All the best

Tessa

 

Submitted by Vitazh on Fri, 10/16/2009 - 17:27

In reply to by Tessa Woodward

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Dear Tessa!

Thank you for the answer

I absolutely agree with you and have the same attitude to the research teacher training requires...

Sometimes we can use materials developed by other trainers... But I enjoy the process itself, I prefer to explore the topic on my own and then decide on which ideas to focus on. It also helps me feel more comfortable & confident during my sessions.

Of course, the reaction of audience can differ a lot depending mostly on the previous experience of the trainees. The same session given for different groups of trainees can get different turnings and additional focuses... That is amazing.

With best wishes,

Vita

Submitted by claireross on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 07:24

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Lots of food for thought here.  I agree, Marthita, that you can learn so much about your own teaching through researching, delivering training to other teachers and particularly observing and talking to other teachers about teaching.

As to deciding whether you are ready or not, I believe it is a question of desire and commitment and the willingness to listen to other points of view.  I'm a great believer in learning by doing, and I had some of my most valuable teacher training experiences a few years after doing my CELTA when I wasn't sure if I was ready or not!

I agree with Tessa that proximity and familiarity with the language classroom is important to teacher trainers.  I believe it's vital for trainers who move away from direct teaching to sustain this connection by observing and talking to teachers they train to understand their context.  Only then can you be sure that you are really targeting teachers needs.

Claire

For Claire and others,

Now this is where my inexperience with blogging shows up!!

Because I am the guest writer this month, I have the feeling that, to be a good web host (or the "Hostess with the mostest!"), I should respond to most of the messages that appear. But of course some messages , like Marthita's to Vitazh above, are clearly for each other and I don't need to get in the way. But then there is Claire's message above which comments on a couple of comments!

I really do want to learn more about blogging. It's one reason why I wanted to be a guest writer. But I do need a bit of educating by those of you who are more used to doing it, (including Claire hopefully !)

What is the netiquette? I mean, what is the etiquette in blogging like this. Claire, if I answered your message would you feel it was a bit unecessary? If I didn't answer it, would you feel sort of a bit ignored?

Please tell me because I really want to learn!

Thanks to all who try to "larn me"!

Best wishes to all

Tessa

 

Submitted by mr.bob on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 14:48

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I am perfectly ready.This is not because of the know how but of the deep conviction of the the calling.I love carrying out reseach and in this career my best moment is always one that find myself succeeding in  something I started with little doubt.I think if one has to become a teacher trainer you most always have in mind that everyone has something to teach at any given time to someone.I very much agree with the article that, "if we start naturally with colleagues, if we start small, then most of us actually are teachers who are part mentor, part teacher trainer".This does not reject the fact that the know how in the profession is highly recommended.

 

 

Hello Mr Bob!

Wow! What a great start to your message. I love that sureness you have!

And how right you are when you say...

"..everyone has something to teach at any given time to someone..."

I find that very true, very reassuring and also , actually, quite a beautiful thought!

Thank you!

Tessa

 

 

How do you do, Mr Bob I agree with your every single written there words... so do you have something special teach to me? I'm really so interested to learn something new from really professional teacher and I don't like to assess and evaluate students am I wrong and what would you advise me about this subject?

Submitted by Yocas on Sat, 10/31/2009 - 11:08

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This article is very important for me, as a biology teacher who has to teach my subject in English. 

Submitted by humay.musayeva… on Wed, 02/24/2010 - 11:20

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hello, dear Tessa Woodward how are you? I'm an English teacher, at the commence on the long way of teaching we all want to be a good teacher, so as every ambitious teacher I wanted and still want to be professional at my job but time flies so fast and today I've been teaching about 11 years. Now I want to be a teacher trainer. what would you like to advise me? What do I need to be a trainer?

Submitted by abumada on Wed, 02/24/2010 - 20:59

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Dear Ma'am , It is very interesting article , i just read though. what makes me read it is its wonderful title . I have some teachers whom I observe , cannot read some English words such as " recognize , plump ...etc " although they teach 9th level in my country - Yemen . Do u have some ideas in this regard . My heart is bleeding .

Submitted by gabygaione on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 19:21

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I would like to share with you the fact that in my case it was hard to start as a teacher trainer. I wonder if it turns out to be like that for everybody!.

I was a good student. I used to get straight As and attended as many talks and seminars as I could. Then I did my TTC at CERP DEL SUR - Dirección de Formación y Perfeccionamiento Docente- ANEP CODICÉN- That is, the State TTC. Before, I had done an IH course for EFL teachers in Uruguay through London Institute- IH.

I had started teaching when I was 19 because there was obvious shortage of well prepared EFL educators in my country in 1989. One day, I thought that I would like to become a teacher trainer. I really admired my own tutors, Prof. Suárez, Villaverde, Kaplan, Martínez, Laurenzano and Musto-among others. To make a long story short, I can say that a Maths teacher, a friend of mine who was already in the system- Prof. Teresa Pérez, had to convince me that I was quite well qualified to become a teacher at Formación Docente. But I was scared to death. I did not even want to think of handing in my CV and qualification papers! When I eventually presented them, I entered the English Teaching Training World!

Submitted by Gulshan Huseynli on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 16:50

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Thank you for this article. This what I was looking for. I have been teaching for 4 years. I want to be a teacher trainer. It is my wish. I have expereince teaching children, teenagers, young people, adults  who are more than 60 years old. I can say that teaching  adults are different.  You need to meet their needs assesment and they always want to know the reason of learning one or other language point.  You should professionally prove them why it is important. They are also looking for safe learning enviromenment.  I usually do presentations for teachers.  I do it for teachers in order to learn myself as I am kinethetic learner. I think I am not ready to be a teacher trainer yet. In my opinion in order to be a teacher trainer one needs  to gain  a lot of experience. I hope one day I will be a good teacher trainer as it is very interesting for me to share my experience and learn from others. I am trying to be involved in the things which can lead up me being a good teacher trainer. I enjoy working with adults.

Submitted by chrisben on Mon, 10/31/2011 - 05:44

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I agree that a teacher-trainer must also be language teacher in the language classroom as valuable suggestions can be given, activities can be updated to the likes of the present day learners and the attitudes of the learners can be discussed with great ease.

Submitted by 3rohana on Fri, 06/15/2012 - 22:44

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Teaching is a process of planning and reflection. If you really do so you are a successful teacher. You can then enjoy your teaching with your collegues to become a teacher trainer.

 

Rohana Andaraweera

Submitted by koviba on Sun, 06/17/2012 - 06:53

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Dear Tessa,

, to become a teacher trainer we need to have good deal of observation, imagination , the 'meta' skills  which include Critical Thinking Skills ! 

The article is very interesting and useful!

regards,

Vijay

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