How Have I Developed? How Can I Develop?

I think I’m a pretty busy person as a teacher, in that my teaching load is quite large (for a part timer at three universities, freelancer and co-op member) and I juggle quite a lot on top for continuous professional development. Sometimes it stresses me out – the actual balancing of the things I want to do with the things I should do and the things I absolutely have to do.


Why on Earth am I so bothered about developing professionally anyway?

I don’t know whether it is pride in my work or not. Probably a sense of reward in knowing that I haven’t messed up, and have helped people learn something faster than they may have done otherwise. Something like that. Or the sense that money is changing hands and if the job is teaching (or getting people to learn), then that ought to be happening, and the more money, the higher quality needs to be delivered.

I also know when I haven’t had CPD opportunities before that I’ve felt dreadful and just completely in a rut. Maybe that says more about me than the corporate English language teaching landscape, but so be it.

How have I developed?

From when? I suppose that I should take it from when I finally gave in to the realisation that bon viveur was not a career choice for someone with insufficient means.

I learned how to sort out hosting for a website.

Really, Marc? How come your sites have awful templates? Well, that’s because I’m too stingy to fork out for the all-singing, all-dancing templates. I also realised that I don’t have the patience to sit and learn how to code in PHP to make things look cool and to import stuff from jQuery to make it look amazing. So, text and some scabby photos of blackboards is the style I go with.

I learned to go only with rates I deserve.

I wrote about freelancing ages ago. As I become less freelance and part-time now, I am even fussier about work I take on. Is it a block of work? Will I like it? Is the rate more than my minimum? Do I feel too busy? These questions are worth asking.





Never work interesting jobs for less than your minimum rate. If it’s an interesting job where you can learn things you are going to expend brain power on finding stuff out about how to do it the best you can. Pretty much all of the interesting stuff I have taken on and has helped me develop a lot has paid me the minimum or over, and the odd things that have not were follies and have not been repeated since.

I learned to trust myself more than someone I’ve never met.

There is rarely a pedagogical reason to teach unit 3 in the coursebook. What do the students need to be able to do? Is using these materials the best way to facilitate that? Honestly, the answer to the last question is not usually ‘Yes’. Honestly, the answer to the last question might be ‘No, but I have not time to make anything else’. But the answer could be ‘No, so I’ll get the students to do [X] so they can learn to [Y].’

This isn’t easy, but it can come with trial and error and experience and a bit of background reading can help it along. For me, Dogme/Teaching Unplugged helped a lot, then the Willis form of Task-Based Teaching (or Task-Supported Language Teaching) helped a bit, and the Long model of Task-Based Language Teaching keeps helping me.

Making materials also helps. I read a lot about design and things when I was playing with websites (no, really) and while my designs could be better, I know everything will print out on a monochrome litho machine at high-speed without jamming it.

I got to know where to find stuff out (and how to).

Reading, basically. And podcasts. People. To use the rhizome model, people are the nodes on the rhizome. Which people? Friends, acquaintances, strangers, authors, podcasters, and on and on. Then put things together. Don’t be scared because you’ll kill nobody. Just make sure you think things through and that there’s some kind of rationale, and if things don’t work, well, nothing ventured nothing gained.

I found out stuff.

Tons about listening, pronunciation, and phonology; a bit about how I don’t like to teach and how I do like to teach, about teaching reading and writing and speaking, about assessment, about thinking more about teaching and action research, naive research practices and using games as tasks; corpus linguistics. Probably some more stuff I forgot about.

How Can I Develop?

There is still so much I want to learn or learn to do better. I am going to redo some reading circles with low-ish level students, do a major research project on listening and phonology, do several research projects on teacher cognition and judgements ostensibly about listening, make my instructions less wordy (a constant) and, well, there’s nearly always room for improvement. Time? That’s another thing entirely.



3 Replies to “How Have I Developed? How Can I Develop?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Marc – there are so many different ways to develop, and no one right way. I enjoy seeing what other people do. Keep up the passion for development!

    1. Thanks very much, Sandy. Hopefully I will, if my to-read list doesn’t suffocate me first.

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