In education, we often talk about how to challenge our students—but what about ourselves as teachers? In a teaching career, it’s normal to find yourself in a rut or recognize a need to make changes—the skill is knowing how. Here are 20 ways to challenge yourself and your teaching.
1. Take risks
Say “hello” to the niggle in your gut that’s telling you to consider taking a challenge. Some call this “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
2. Don’t wait, start small.
Once you have an idea, don’t forget about it or let it dissolve over time: Begin—but with simple expectations at first. The idea is an evolution, not a revolution, of your skills set.
3. Present at a conference
Perhaps the results of a new technique you’ve implemented in class, changes to your school, or any other aspect of your teaching practice that may help others in the field field. Ask a colleague to present with you, if you prefer.
4. Write a 1,000 word mini-thesis
Just for yourself. Pick a topic of education that interests you and research it: its history, main players, and where it’s at now.
5. Try blended learning
Maybe this technique (at its core, combining face-to-face time with computer technology) is just what you need? Here’s more information on blended learning.
6. Evaluate your teaching
Give out anonymous student surveys, cultivate a habit of evaluating yourself as soon as class is over (“What went well? What didn’t go so well? How do I know?”), and establish a more comprehensive end-of-semester review later. Here are more tips on how to self-review your teaching.
7. Ask for feedback
Reach out to your school’s director for a review or ask a senior teacher to watch you teach a lesson and give you some pointers to improve on.
8. Try podcasting (or incorporate it in your class)
Podcast alone or get together with a chatty colleague. If life behind the mic is not for you, maybe your students will get a kick out of podcasts? Here are 14 ways to use podcasts in class.
9. Use student devices for good
It’s normal to be wary of the influence of students’ devices on their learning, however, it’s safe to say that screens aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Here are 8 ways to use your students’ devices—for the better.
10. Be assertive
If your opinion is asked for—speak up. If you have concerns—let a superior know. If you have something to say at a staff meeting—say it.
11. Be competitive…
…with yourself, that is. Look to where you want to go with your teaching and feel the fire in your belly to be better than you are. Tip: making teaching resolutions can help with this (whether at the beginning of a new year or semester).
12. Create or join a teachers group
Whether online or real-life, teachers support and social groups can do wonders for your emotional and professional development.
13. Learn something new
Learning a language, to cook, dance, photography, or other skill will help you reconnect with the sensation of being a learner.
14. Try new productivity ideas
Being more efficient helps teachers keep school out of their minds while at home or during the weekends. Here are a few of our favorite productivity tips for teachers.
15. Update your skillset
This could mean further study to teach another subject, taking webinars, or studying an online course. Tip: We offer free teacher professional development webinars (and an accompanying EF Teacher Development Certificate) throughout the year.
16. Use voice recording equipment
Thanks to our smartphones, all of us are walking around with little voice recorders. Put yours to good use with these 13 ideas.
17. Keep your mind busy
Read widely, listen to podcasts, and watch TED talks. Not just about your specific teaching area, but about its history, the history of education, great educators’ biographies…plus linguistics, politics, science, the psychology of learning…the list goes on.
18. Refuse the negative
Pull yourself away from the black hole of negative conversation. If this happens at the staffroom during lunchtime, treat yourself to a semi-regular café lunch or go for a walk to the park. If you have a negative colleague, surround yourself with those whose outlook complements and supports yours.
19. Shut off from work
It’s an often-cited tip from more senior teachers: There will always be more work to do. So, practice good work recovery techniques and learn how and when to switch off and leave work at school.