The interaction of training and observation in one teacher’s development – Chapter Summary

Oooh, I’m in a book. Well, not me, because a 6’4″ book would be a bit unwieldy. But I have a chapter in Daniel Hooper & Natasha Hashimoto’s book, Teacher Narratives from the Eikaiwa Classroom: Moving Beyond “McEnglish”, which is published by Candlin & Mynard as an ebook and on actual paper. I think the book is very reasonably priced and I know that several chapters are actually brill. You can buy it from Smashwords as an ebook and Jeff Bezos’ shop in your favoured territory, and probably other places.

Cover of Teacher Narratives From the Eikaiwa Classroom: Moving Beyond "McEnglish" Edited by Daniel Hooper and Natasha Hashimoto. Foreword by Ryuko Kubota


The chapter started life as an offhand comment at a conference that all in attendance were freaks who wanted to attend a conference on their day off from work. In the chapter, I puzzle about how I got from fresh off the plane English instructor at a chain language school in Tokyo, with no experience, to where I am now and pontificating at conferences, in print and on this blog.

There’s a lot of trial and error, basically due to rushed on-the-job training. The only winner here is the company owner. Teachers are stressed and students are annoyed. Eventually I learned through incidental observation through makeshift plexiglass cubicles and talking to colleagues. However, we all have basically the same training, so there’s an argument to be made that teaching in language schools is made into menial work. The incentive at the companies I worked for to have any teaching qualifications was Y5,000 per month, which is not great, especially seeing as you got it whether you had a certificate, a diploma, or a master’s degree.

Any formal guidance given in the language schools I worked at was by managers, who rarely had any teaching qualifications themselves. This was also geared more to customer satisfaction/retention than sound pedagogy. Also, due to the lack of training that the managers had, they were going off beliefs and instinct.

So, the formal observations could be less useful than the informal, incidental ones. Also, not only seeing ‘good’ lessons helps; seeing ‘bad’ helps you to take a reality check and think about whether or not something is a good idea.

The chapter goes into theory a lot more than I have done here, but hopefully this gives you a taste.


Manage projects with Bullet Journalling

This is how I use the Bullet Journal method (Carroll, 2018) for project management with the project management hierarchy from Agile Faculty (Pope-Ruark, 2017) If you want to find out more, check out the books on the author websites.

Keep it simple!

A lot of the things you see online about bullet journalling is elaborate, almost like you need a degree in graphic design to do it. You will also see a lot of expensive Moleskine and Leuchterm notebooks and washi tape. I use a cheap squared notebook, cheap Pilot eraseable ballpoint pens or whatever is to hand. My notebook does not look lovely. I am all about the speed and simplicity because it helps me to streamline things so I can mitigate my bad ADHD days.
Basically, our to-do list becomes a hierarchy of Epics, Stories that are part of the Epic, and Tasks that are part of the Story.
The spacing is mportant. I have overarching tasks, which are called Epics (Pope-Ruark, 2018) justified to the left margin, then any tasks that are part of that, called Stories, underneath that and indented. Any Tasks, basically the smallest unit of action we are working with, would come underneath the relevant Story. If you use an agile planning system like Kanban it can be similar. Basically, think of the indents as:
     . Task
The bullets are simple. For project management the only bullets necessary are:
. task
x completed task
o doing/in process
< scheduled to calendar
You can use – to add notes under the relevant task and also / if you delegate an item to somebody, which you can then change to a x when it is finished. I rarely delegate so I don’t really use the slash often.
This has helped me stay on top of a lot of projects, particularly because it’s easy to copy a project and insert more sub tasks as they come up if you don’t leave enough space for them in the first place. The journal is light and mobile, and you don’t have to worry about losing sticky notes that have come loose.
The kinds of projects you could use this for are syllabus design, needs analysis, planning a particularly complex lesson, writing a test or even overhauling your admin system.
I hope this is useful and if you have anything to add, I’d love to read about it in the comments.
I would also like to thank Ted and Kamila for helping me keep this blog ad-free and not doing advertorials and things by becoming patrons. It’s easy to do by just clicking the link to my Patreon page.

New Project: The ELT Manual or How to Teach English like a Pop Star

I have started a new project, which I hope will be as fun (more fun?) and informative as the usual Freelance Teacher Self Development posts and resources. It’s going to run over on my new Patreon page, with other resources to come available, and with FTSD content available earlier than this site because webhosting and children’s shoes are expensive.

Teach Like A Pop Star – The ELT Manual

In 1988, The KLF released a book, The Manual: How to have a number one the easy way. It reduces the way to have a number one hit single to a formula and a series of actions.

ELT can work in exactly this way. People like predictable rhythms and catchy melodies. Your students like that, too. It doesn’t matter about teaching virtuosity or musical virtuosity. Hook them with a hit, they’ll be interested in your other songs, or lessons in our case.

The ELT Manual or How to Teach English like a Pop Star will reduce the variables in lesson planning and preparation for you and give you better reviews in those student surveys.

Become a Patron and get full access to the ELT Manual posts as they become available.