Advice to new Languages teachers

Starting any new job can be daunting. Starting a job as a teacher can be terrifying – as much as pre-service training can prepare you, you will always be starting in the deep end, on your own, with 30 faces staring at you expectantly. This post is a collection of words of wisdom from currently practising Languages teachers, to those about to begin their careers. I’ve tried to group them into common themes for ease of reading.
Last updated: 14 December 2013


NETWORK and GET SUPPORT

advice_icon“Network!  this is much easier to do nowadays, using social media & by joining various groups.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions & seek ideas or help. Remember you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  You may need to adapt some materials, resources etc. to suit the level of your students, but on other occasions, simply use what others have shared, and in turn share some of what you have produced. Join your professional organisation  – e.g. if you are in QLD join MLTAQ & be sure to join your teachers union.”

advice_icon “Don’t go it alone. Join your  state professional association and build a network of language teaching  colleagues.”

advice_iconI would also say try to establish a professional network with other Languages teachers so that you have support from people in the same subject area. Not only that, but a great way to share resources, behaviour management ideas, amazing teaching moments and the times when we just need to vent, especially if you are the only teacher at your school, or are in the country!”

advice_icon“Search out as many mentors as possible with a comprehensive knowledge of professional standards, classroom behaviour, Essential Skills and new technologies, with a positive outlook, who genuinely like children”

advice_icon“Languages teachers are very generous with their ideas and resources and the support is there is you seek it”

advice_icon“My one piece of advice would be to network whether it is face to face or online. It was a godsend for me when I was a beginner teacher in a remote area.”


CONNECT WITH YOUR LANGUAGE / TARGET COUNTRY 

advice_icon“Establish links with the target language country straight away – technology today allows us to have authentic communication opportunities without leaving home. Find a partner school, or even just a teacher who teaches English to an age group approximately the age group of your students, and arrange an ongoing Facebook or Edmodo page where your students can chat in English and the language you teach here – the tandem, or dual way, principle!”

advice_icon“Keep your own language skills fresh by taking up as many opportunities to go back to the target language country as you can!”

advice_icon“Make your own practice of the language a systematic part of your life and professional development right from the start.  The old “Use it or lose it” adage is sadly true even for native speakers – particularly when one has been teaching at junior level for a long time.”

advice_icon“Go to the country so that you can immerse yourself in the culture.”


BE PART OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY

 advice_iconThe classroom teacher is your best friend.  Get them working as a team with you, and your life will be a lot easier.  Keep them informed of what you are doing in your class, what your behaviour management program is, and of behaviour both positive and negative in your class.  Do all your own behaviour management, but inform them so they can “value add” to what you do.”

advice_icon“Be more than ‘just a Language teacher’. Believe that what you do makes an impact on the overall learning of students, and find evidence to support this – principals love data. Use the same language as the ‘literacy’ teachers, align your program to whole-school priorities, and be involved and active in the school on a wider level.”

advice_icon“Be passionate about your subject area of languages, but most of all, be passionate about the needs of all students in the school community and try to meet those needs. Try to extend every student with whom you have contact. Consider the type of teacher you would want for your child and cultivate in yourself the qualities of that type of person. Teaching is about sharing and giving.  It is about providing opportunities for young people to develop into confident, informed and well-balanced people. Your subject area of languages is so important and it opens new doors; however you need to see yourself as an integral member of the WHOLE school community and be considerate of the needs of others. Always give at least 110%.”


PEDAGOGICAL ADVICE

advice_icon“I think it’s really important that you start the relationship with your Language class in a way that demonstrates you will be doing lots of Language! This especially means that teachers should TALK IN JAPANESE and they should expect students to RESPOND IN JAPANESE.  It’s really hard to suddenly say “ Ok let’s talk Japanese now”  or expect students to cope with you suddenly speaking more if they aren’t accustomed to it.  As Language teachers we need to DEMONSTRATE Language being used and we need to help students feel comfortable about trying to use Language. We have to make it clear that we will not accept a “ just say it in English! What are you talking about? I can’t understand Japanese” mentality.  Of course we will talk in Japanese in Japanese class!”

advice_icon“Upon reflection of my Japanese and Indonesian teaching, I would recommend to spend an even amount of time on the four macro-skills (R/W/S and L) using task based learning and TPR.  TPR works really well with younger students.  Try and use a lot of music in your classes.  I even wrote a hip hop unit for grade 9 students!   As I taught on an Island, I connected with what was going on in my  student’s lives and wrote a surf, fashion and local weather unit whereby they had to compose a surf magazine of their local area in the TL.  My overall advise it to stay positive and do what you can when you can.  Teaching is fun.  By using a mixture of R/W/S and L activities with your students; you can connect with them through their language learning and in turn they will learn more about themselves (ICLl).  All the best for your first year of teaching”

advice_icon“The best advice I received from my Japanese supervisor many years ago, was if you are going to make anything (flash cards, worksheets etc) make it properly the first time. Don’t cut corners. Then you have the resource forever. It might be time consuming, but worth it in the end”

OTHER ADVICE

advice_iconPLAN!!! Plan, plan, plan and then… plan your lessons!!!”

advice_icon“Take care of your voice. Drink lots of water, take deep breaths to calm and focus your thoughts. Also stand on one leg to balance if you find yourself getting nervous or cross. Your brain will refocus. Get the kids to do it too. It works.”

advice_icon“Have lots of games on hand to keep students interested in learning the language. You need games that help them learn the vocab and keep their interest up. I have lots of bingo games, board games with quiz questions, class games and partner games on hand. I also like to have lots of competitions and quiz games eg, I often begin a lesson with 4 true or false interesting facts about the country with winners receiving a small prize – sticker, pencil, etc”

advice_icon“Never, ever, EVER give up. You’ll come across resistance from kids, parents and even your school but be passionate and push forward.”

advice_icon“Be flexible and love your language”

advice_icon“Enjoy the experience as much as you can. You will be busy but don’t forget to reflect on your experiences on a daily basis. Make language learning relevant and fun and you will have the students wanting to learn more. Good Luck”

A big thank-you to all the teachers who contributed. If you’d like to add your own advice, please add it in the comments below, in the Facebook comments, or directly to me via email. I’ll update the list periodically.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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One thought on “Advice to new Languages teachers

  1. Know who to go to in your school to help solve your problems, talk to your colleagues, the Admin Assistants, Bursars, Cleaners, Groundspeople – we all work together in the end and you’ll be surprised how having contact and respect in each area will help grease the wheels and help you make significant change.

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