Number one for English language teachers

Introduction to Survival Guide

We’re Lindsay Clandfield and Duncan Foord; two language teachers, teacher trainers and writers based in Spain. With more than forty years’ experience between us, we also consider ourselves survivors.

Why do we use the word survivors? Well, many people enter English language teaching with the idea of wanting to help others. Some want to ‘share’ their language (if they are native speakers) or ’share’ their knowledge and interest in the language (if they are non-native speakers). Some want to use the profession in order to travel, as English language teaching is one of the few really international portable professions. These were certainly some of the things that motivated both of us when we began in English language teaching.

However, the daily reality of the classroom and school was very different from what we were led to expect during our initial teacher education. We expect this to be the same for many teachers entering the profession now. Even if your training has included practical teaching experience, it has probably been short and the conditions have been fairly ‘safe’, meaning that you have had little to worry about other than your lesson plan. Talk to any teacher who has been ’at it’ for a few years and it may be that the lesson plan is the least of their worries!

In this series, we want to address some of the day-to-day issues that teachers face inside and outside the classroom, based on the belief that the glue holding your lesson plans together is you and if you don’t feel right, then your lessons won’t be right. It could be called Surviving being an English language teacher.

This is not a methodology series about teaching. We think there are already a lot of very good books and articles like that, and you can find some excellent examples right here on onestopenglish in the methodology section. However, we will address some methodological issues. This isn’t going to be a series of photocopiable worksheets or a series of activities for Monday morning either. Again, there are lots of these available right here on this website. But we will share activities that teachers can use. This series is going to be about ‘surviving teaching’. 

We will be talking about job interviews, job stress, the staff room and teacher development. We will try to help you feel more comfortable and confident about being a teacher before you sit down to plan your lesson.

We will also cover topics that you will find in other books, such as grammar, teaching in company, using materials and teaching children. For each of these, we are taking a slightly different angle. Our approach is to take typical challenges voiced by teachers themselves as our starting point and work through them.

We are going to look at body language, culture shock and using mother tongue in the classroom because we think these subjects are part of the fabric of teachers’ day-to-day lives but seldom dealt with in-training courses or basic methodology books.

We’ve prepared a potted guide to the history of EFL, which gives an overview of language teaching methodologies and helps you to situate yourself within the ‘bigger picture’. We hope too that it will make you curious to find out more. We’re also putting together short reference guides to English language exams, teacher training and other aspects of ‘the job’.

Finally, we will still include lots of practical teaching ideas in the series, including a must-have emergency activity kit. Well, you can’t have too many of those, can you?

On a personal note …

When I first learnt to ski, my ski instructor encouraged me to enjoy the snow, which was a good idea because I spent a lot of time in those early stages flat on my face eating it! “The snow is your friend,” he would say, and he was right! We’re writing this to help you enjoy teaching. You’ll want to stay upright most of the time and get up as quickly as possible when you go down, but don’t worry if you do find yourself with some snow on your lips from time to time. It tastes OK.
Duncan Foord, 2013

One thing I can honestly say about teaching is that, for me, no two days have ever been the same. What I’m teaching might be different (a new language point, a new word that has never come up before), how I’m teaching might be different (trying a new method, a new activity) and who I’m teaching might be different (new students, same students acting differently). Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s not so good. But, at least it’s different. Surviving teaching is seeing and appreciating these differences – they are what helps you keep going.
Lindsay Clandfield, 2013

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