By Dave Dodgson
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anais Nin
Think of “writing” and “teaching” and we often make one of two connections – improving our students’ writing skills, or writing materials for our own classes or for others.
There is, however, another connection to be made – writing about our teaching. This allows us to explore our teaching by reliving moments from class again. By taking the time to sit down and commit our experiences to words we can engage in a process of reflection, learning from our successes and failures to develop as language teachers.
We can write for ourselves focusing on what is personally important to us or we can write for an audience. This may seem a daunting idea at first but relating our thoughts on teaching and in-class experiences for others to read encourages us to consider our experiences from a different point of view (much as I am doing now by writing these words for the iTDi blog!).
The opportunity to engage with an audience also provides a space for feedback. Comments from our peers can encourage us to keep on trying, or they can offer a new perspective to reflect on.
Through my own blogposts, guest posts for other websites, and articles for magazines, I have written a lot about my teaching over the last seven years or so. I am often asked two things: where do I find the time and where do I get my inspiration?
Starting with the latter question, any writer, teacher or otherwise, will tell you the same thing – the main source of inspiration is simply personal experience. The vast majority of my blogposts and articles come from the experiences I have had in class. As always, my students, along with their struggles and successes, are my inspiration.
Writers will also tell you the work of others acts as an inspiration and this is true of teaching as well. Reading blogs and articles by other teachers is a fantastic way to get ourselves thinking about our own teaching contexts. Writing offers us the chance to capture those thoughts and process them.
And that is another reason why writing about our experiences is important – it allows us to capture and preserve experiences that would otherwise be lost. From time to time, I revisit older posts in my blog and it is amazing how clearly I can remember the lessons described. It is also an insightful experience to consider how my approach has changed and what I would do differently now.
The record of personal teaching experiences in my writing has also proven invaluable when taking on responsibilities as a teacher trainer or mentor. I can easily draw on real classroom moments to illustrate my workshops and training sessions. The routine of reflection also proved highly useful when I took the Trinity Diploma. Not only could I refer in detail to past experiences, but I was also prepared to engage with my tutors when getting feedback on my teaching in an in-depth way.
As for finding the time, I see writing as a vital component of my professional development so I make time in my daily schedule for it – 10-15 minutes at the end of a lesson/day to scribble down some thoughts and time from my non-teaching hours to turn those notes into something more substantial.
So, if you are interested in making writing part of your development as teacher, how can you get started? Well, the first place to look is your own classroom by drawing on your own experiences as well as those of your students.
And as for how to write, there are several options:
- Keep a journal – the “old school” way of doing things! This could be a hand-written journal or a file on your computer of smartphone. It could take the form of quick notes or lengthier entries. I personally use Google Keep on my phone to quickly capture thoughts as notes, sound clips, or even images (e.g. snapshots of the board). These are then instantly synced with my PC, from where I can use them for…
- Blogposts – by going online, you can share your experiences with teachers around the world. This may seem like a scary prospect at first but you will soon find a supportive community of like-minded teacher bloggers who are willing to comment, offer advice, and relate their own experiences.
- Articles – there are numerous teaching magazines and teaching association newsletters that are always looking for contributors. Many teachers’ response to this idea is to think “but I don’t have anything worth sharing!” – but the truth is, you do. You have your own experiences and unique perspective to share and this is exactly what magazine and newsletter editors look for – real stories from people who work with students every day. Practical accounts of successes and lessons learned from challenges are what the readers want to see as well.
To return to the quote at the start of this article, by writing about our teaching, we can relive moments, process them, reflect on them, and learn from them. By writing online, we can share our ideas and experiences with peers around the world and perhaps inspire or encourage them in their own teaching. We can also read their words to get further inspiration of our own.
And you are already at a great place to start sharing with a vibrant and supportive community – the iTDi blog! Get in touch with our blog editor Anna and share your ideas with us in a future blog issue.