Tag Archives: TEFL

Teachers as team members – How to add value

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.00.06 PM

Picture by Tina Kuo


After a recent training course for entry level teachers, I was sitting in a café with some of the trainees when the topic of teacher roles came up. One of them commented that I was individualistic and that it accounted for my success. I was rather taken aback as I consider myself a team player. The trainee then pointed out that my favourite sport, cricket, is in essence an individual sport played in a team and that batsmen and bowlers effectively operate as individuals: you bat alone, you bowl alone and it is your individual effort that leads to success or failure for the team. This conversation led to some reflection on the roles of teamwork in an ESL set up and this post is the result of that reflection.

Let me start by clarifying that cricket is a team sport and that there are many similarities between cricket players and the individuals that make up an LTO (Language Teaching Operation). Batsmen bat in pairs and if one batsman doesn’t rotate the strike, the pressure on the other batsman increases and the effectiveness of that batsman decreases. The top order and middle order have specific roles. Similarly, successful bowlers operate in pairs. One bowler might dry up runs, applying pressure, allowing a strike bowler to take wickets. The fielders also play a huge role here. Not only is holding onto catches important, but good catches and good fielding apply pressure, get the bowlers to have their tails up and increases morale in the team. Team management, the coaches and the selection teams also form a very important part of this team set up and contribute not only to the individual performances of ‘star’ players, but also to the morale of the team. Every single individual operates as an individual and while their individual brilliance is important, they are very much part of a team.

LTOs as cricket teams

When a teacher is planning his lesson or teaching in the classroom he is operating as an individual, much like a batsman or a bowler. But what about the role other teachers, the DOS, the Academic manager or any other administration or marketing staff play in the success of the school or of the individual teacher? The morale in the school and the LTO is probably more important to the direction and success of the school than any individual teacher, however good they are. Without realising it, teachers rely on the copy machine working, the bathrooms being clean, students being recruited and showing up for class, books being purchased and a multitude of other things that are often completely out of their control. Other staff rely on teachers to produce results that increase the reputation of the school and make their jobs as administration or marketing staff easier. As with any organisation, the individuals are important, but it is equally, if not more important to be a team player.

‘It’s not my job’

In a perfect world, each batsman in a cricket team contributes runs, but in many games, this doesn’t really happen. A number 5 batsman cannot refuse to go in to bat in the third over only because he’s a middle order batsman – he needs to contribute where needed. Similarly, situations might occur in a school where a teacher is required to do something that’s not ideal. If this consistently happens, your team has weaknesses, but this is also the time when average becomes exceptional and leadership qualities are highlighted. Helping out might increase your workload, but it will also show that you are willing to work in a team, you are flexible and you place the needs of the team above your own personal needs.


  • Be willing to substitute classes when you can
  • Be willing to help and mentor other teachers
  • Get to know what the other departments in the LTO has to do and how that relates to your job
  • Be flexible when situations arise that are out of the norm
  • Show that you are reliable

‘I’m just in it for a few years/It’s just a part-time job’

How long do you think the average sports person is active in his career? Cricket players practice for hours knowing that their careers as players can last around a decade, maybe a little more if they’re lucky. Is only doing something for a few years an excuse for doing it poorly? Or for not really trying to get better? Even the greats in cricket spend hours in the nets working on technique or ironing out problems. Should professional teachers not also show the same level of commitment to their trade?

Great team players compare themselves to excellence, not to other players. You don’t want to be just above the weakest link in the team. Professional development helps not only the individual, but creates a culture of excellence and a team of winners.


  • Attend meetings and PD sessions
  • Contribute to the culture of excellence by developing your own skills
  • Lead by example

‘How can I work if everyone else drops the ball?’

There is nothing as frustrating as seeing plans go up in smoke when someone drops the ball. There’s also nothing as debilitating for a team as when members start blaming each other for failures. People make mistakes, but as team players, we need to work past those instances when balls are dropped, get back to our marks and storm in again with ball in hand. When the blame game starts, productivity goes down. Effectiveness goes down and no one wins. Good team players play the team game, not the blame game.


  • Don’t blame
  • Communicate clearly and constructively if problems arise.
  • Be a problems solver
  • Be adaptable in crisis situations

‘They need me more than I need them’

Not all players are equal. Some people are more talented, some work harder, but all of these individuals make up the team and contribute to its culture. But when players start seeing themselves as bigger than the game, they no longer respect those in the game and may even lose respect for those outside of the game. They lose their commitment,stop listening to the opinions or concerns of others, and place themselves first. Your classroom may seem a one-man-show, just like a batsman playing a brilliant innings, but never forget that your classroom is part of a much larger picture, and that the  students play as big a role in the success of the LTO as fans play in the success of cricket.


  • Listen to the concerns and problems of other and consider their position before responding
  • Show that you see yourself as part of the team first
  • Be willing to be mentored. Even stars have coaches.
  • Share with your team
  • Respect others

‘I’m in it to win it’

Contributing to success of others is a key element in tasting success yourself, but being a great team player – or being an ambitious individual within a team set up – does not mean you have to live, eat and sleep your job. Every once in a while, remember to take a step back, enjoy your hobbies or go on vacation.


  • Take care of your health
  • Relax when needed
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Play hard when it’s game time!


This post was written by Gerhard Erasmus (@heimuoshutaiwan). Gerhard is currently the Director of Studies at a language centre in Taipei, Taiwan, and actively involved in teacher training, from entry level qualifications to tutoring on the Cambridge Delta. He has authored a Young Learners series and consulted on various curriculum and training design projects. He also co-authored the ebook Brainstorming with Hall Houston. His main area of interest in ELT is teacher development including continuous professional development.

Introducing the #AusELT Resource Wiki

Way back in October last year, there was an #AusELT Twitter chat on ‘Integrating Australian content into courses’. You can read the summary here, but one theme that emerged strongly was the lack of easily available ELT material with an Australian focus. One reason is that Australian publications are simply much rarer than ‘global’ ones (ie, from the UK or US). Another is that, despite being surrounded by authentic Australian materials, putting together lesson plans and worksheets that use authentic material appropriately and effectively is difficult and time-consuming.

The net result is that we spend much more time doing grammar/skill ‘McNugget’ lessons (to borrow Scott Thornbury’s term), using the same coursebooks that students can find in their own country, than we do truly engaging the students with what language really is: an integral part of the surrounding culture and community.

wiki logoAs a result of the chat, we decided to create a community wiki, the #AusELT Resource Wiki, with two main aims:

  • to help our learners better understand and engage with Australian culture, lifestyle, music, film, current events etc, whilst learning English in a way that is practical, relevant and interesting
  • to help each other by sharing our favourite resources, ideas, lessons, worksheets and links in one place, so no one has to reinvent the wheel alone anymore.

So far we have pages, all with an Antipodean focus, on Culture and Lifestyle, Expressions and Idioms, Movies, News, Published Resources, Pronunciation, Songs , Television, and Websites and Blogs
…and we look forward to many more! Do you think something is missing? You can add it!

Now we have the framework, what we really need is more content. The URL of the wiki is http://auselt.pbworks.com. If you have any suggestions, problems or questions – or even better, some fantastic lesson plans 🙂 – please get involved and help make this the amazing AusELT community resource it has the potential to be.

Many thanks to Lesley Ciocarelli (@cioccas) in Canberra, Kristin Walters (@krisawal) in Melbourne and Paul Forster (@forstersensei) in Brisbane for helping put this together – a national effort!

This post by @sophiakhan4

#ELTchat summary: “Dream jobs: where do we TEFLers dream of ending up?” (21 Nov 2012, 12pm GMT)

This post is a chat summary for a recent #ELTchat, which I was very proud to do as #ELTchat have been such a big influence on and support to #AusELT. This particular chat concerned “dream jobs” for TEFLers, and it was very entertaining, meandering happily between daydreams, wishful thinking, aspirations, misty-eyed nostalgia, and both gloomy and not-so-gloomy reality. The summary is divided into the topic areas that we discussed as (possibly) essential to a TEFLer’s dream job. You can read the original transcript here.


Location took the lead early on, with many of us longing for warmer climes. ‘Beach’ was a popular dream location, although @Shaunwilden objected to beach-teaching due to “all that sand”.

@OUPELTGlobal suggested “basking in the sun while your language school is making loads of cash” was the dream job, and this clearly struck a chord with several #ELTchatters who were being rained on at the time. @suzanne_efl expressed a wish to teach in Columbia, and @claubluefeather in Great Britain. But it was quickly agreed that location is NOT a key factor when identifying what makes a dream job:

    • @suzanne_efl: I think you can make the best of most locations but respect, recognition and a decent salary would make it the dream
    • @esolcourses: IMO, respect, working conditions etc, more important than locale
    • @sophiakhan4: I agree – location can compensate for, or add to, but can’t substitute 4 the qualities of the job itself 


And it didn’t take long for @TPMcDonald85 to start us off on the unavoidable topic of money:

  • If I was paid a fair salary and sick pay everything else would be a bonus!

There was general agreement that “unfairpay is often an issue in elt” (@Shauwilden) with wavering during the course of the chat between acceptance and annoyance:

  • @TPMcDonald85: it comes with the job I guess. Overworked and underpaid. It helps to enjoy what you do.
  • @hartle: if pay is not important, then it means, in fact tht only those who cn survive on less r supported cn do it! A loss of resources
  • @OUPELTGlobal: hm, sucky pay does not equal dream job, right?
  • @SophiaKhan4: Guess it depends on yr criteria for “success” & “happiness”. Think in ELT we have 2 survive on ‘alternative’ criteria


Being independent and trusted to do your job well is clearly a strong preference amongst us.

  • @buckyacademics: Somewhere you have freedom over what you teach. I love experimenting with new ideas & approaches. Luckily I write the syllabus!
  • @Marisa_C: freedom to work the way you want to work 
  • @theteacherjames: a big part of my ideal job would be autonomy & the freedom to get on with teaching without interference from outside . . . managers who don’t know what they are doing, politicians, parents etc. . . . I enjoy that freedom at the moment. Hope I have it in the future!

This led to a tangent on parental involvement in teaching

  • @Shaunwilden: Parents pay for the teaching though so surely they have a right to an opinion?
  • @theteacherjames: Of course, as long they don’t tell teachers how to teach.
  • @susana_castaned: some schools here in Peru are actually owned by parents, so yes, they have an opinion
  • @theteacherjames: They’re entitled to an opinion, just not on everything. I don’t tell doctors how to operate.
  • @OUPELTGlobal: I always felt the fine line between parents contributing and interfering.
  • @susana_castaned: Parents are supposed to trust teachers, and teachers are supposed to build trust


This was another major sticking point, which includes “being treated as a professional” (@OUPELTGlobal ), “appreciation and recognition” (@FionaTT) and feeling “valued” (@PatrickAndrews). It was a factor people returned to again and again, and it seems that whether you get this or not is just luck of the draw. Managers should take note that a little bit of apreciation can go a very long way to making up for other issues such as heavy workload, poor pay and stress . . . We didn’t really explore what it requires to be shown appreciation, recognition and value, but perhaps this is a topic for another chat!


@theteacherjames asked:

  • How important is promotion to you? Do you expect to move beyond the classroom at some point or do you prefer to stay there?

@hartle seemed happy with her uni language centre even though there is no promotion at all, because “that also means there’s no hierarchy and we work quite well”. And many agreed that keeping at least one foot in the classroom is important:

  • @hartle: 2 much material development without classroom work drives me mad and it is important to be with stds 🙂

At the same time, having a sense of career progression is necessary. For @FrancesEales, the dream job is

  • Working in a school or uni where professional development and career paths are explored, fostered (and paid for)

But @susana_castaned wasn’t alone in feeling like she hadn’t had many options open to her:

  • @susana_castaned: You just have 3 paths: u can be a teacher, a coordinator (6 of them, same hierarchy) or the owner of th school! . . . I quit my last job for not having opportunities for promotion

Many of us are interested in particular teaching contexts or specialties, or looking for ways to apply our teaching knowledge other than in the classroom. Here’s a list of some of the jobs we have (or aspire to have) as discussed in the chat:

  • A university role: @Julian_Lenfant: A uni role has its perks, more people in the community willing to talk to me; have a healthy book budget, uni resources, etc. . . But the challenge in a uni environment is that innovation can take time, & requires lots of discussion & diplomacy.
  • Materials developer
  • Syllabus writer: @pjgallantry: my dream job would also involve developing materials and courses, especially online/blended learning stuff and m-learning
  • Conference speaker
  • Teacher trainer
  • ‘Other’ trainer: @FrancesEales: I know colleagues who moved from training in ELT to training in e.g. NHS or the Ministries or Retailers Skillset is v transferable
  • Business-owner: @susana_castaned: I hv a business now, teaching in-company, a staff and sometimes am invited to give conferences. I work mon-fri up to 3pm no more.
  • Language consultant
  • Kindergarten teacher: @yitzha_sarwono: never imagined it before but teaching montessori kindergarten has become my dream job. I get to learn everyday!

Career path in EFL

Some chat participants are lucky enough to be doing their dream job, at least in terms of the section above. @MarjorieRosenbe tweeted:

  • I like combination of teaching, teacher training and materials development and writing

And @Shaunwilden agreed, saying at another point:

  • my career path all a matter of luck I think 🙂

@sophiakhan4 bemoaned the fact that paths aren’t really clear and whether you end up in teacher training or in management, for example, can depend entirely on being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. @suzanne_efl agreed:

  • I would love to get into teacher training but not sure how

@FrancesEales suggested going to a school that regularly does teacher training and expressing interest/getting involved that way, and @sophiakhan4 added:

  • At least knowing u have that goal is good. The good thing about ELT is that there’s always an opportunity somewhere

Of course you can always do what the impressive @susana_castaned did and set up your own company – although, as she said herself, don’t expect this to be easy!

Are we already doing our ideal job?

@SophiaKhan4 asked:

  • Is it possible we already do have the dream job – just can’t recognise it because the pay is so sucky? 🙂

And “sucky pay” aside (see “Salary” above), it does seem that we have a lot to be grateful for:

  • @Shaunwilden: i dont know about dream but I enjoy what I do and I love being self-employed
  • @Marisa_C: I am doing my ideal job – observing a class
  • @FrancesEales: I love working with other teachers to share ideas
  • @theteacherjames: I think I might have already had my dream job when I taught in Korea. Not sure to feel happy I had  it, or sad it’s gone.
  • @eltknowledge: This is without doubt my dream job. Always a chance to grow, develop & learn. But u r right abt the pay.
  • @OUPELTGlobal : Having started out in banking, I’ve always considered being in EFL a dream job


Here’s where everyone got a bit misty-eyed – it seems that colleagues are often crucial to our happiness in our work:

  • @Julian_Lenfant: Actually, I remember the great people I worked with more than the place. That was ideal!
  • @buckyacademics: Working with colleagues who want to learn and develop from each other. That’s why conferences are so great.
  • @FrancesEales: I’ve worked in many environments and never found same positive learning atmosphere as  ELT staffroom
  • @SophiaKhan4: Some fantastic, educated, intelligent, well-travelled ppl in an ELT staffroom. Spoils u for real life
  • @eltknowledge: I agree! The International House London Staffroom is electric and so supportive!
  • @teflerinha: Had a lot of dream ELT colleagues- motivated, supportive, happy to share…
  • @Shaunwilden: I think i had dream colleagues in my early days in prague, a buzzing staffroom full of supportive colleagues
  • @ hartle: We had a good atmosphere in early days in verona. Everyone on gd contracts, team spirit, which brings us back to pay etc.
  • @ OUPELTGlobal: It was a great EFL staffroom that made me stay in EFL – hadn’t really considered that in a dream job
  • @pjgallantry: in some ways, my old job at Dilko in Istanbul in the 90’s was a dream job – great friends and students, cheap booze & fags 🙂 . . . . and, of course, great lessons 😉

@theteacherjames asked:

  • what would your dream colleague be like?

sparking a flurry of responses:

  • @GemL1: like r PLN on here ~ supportive, knowledgeable, creative
  • @ PatrickAndrews: Helpful, engaged, open minded and realistic
  • @ yitzha_sarwono: people with passion on their classes 🙂
  • @ PatrickAndrews: People who read quite a lot
  • @eltknowledge: A dream colleague be like you, James! Fun, generous, intelligent and well-read, thoughtful, humble and creative!
  • @alturki3: my dream colleagues are from different backgrounds, native and nonnative teachers


We also need to thank @theteacherjames for bringing up the fact that:

  • Nobody has mentioned the students – what could be more important in defining a great job for a teacher?

And to thank @yitzha_sarwono for being pretty much the only person to jump on this:

  • I’m having the best students ever! Young and restless with great enthusiasm!


Variety is implicit in the “Opportunities” section also, but came to the forefront towards the end of the chat, when @eltknowledge wrote:

  • I know the topic is about where we’d like to end up…but perhaps the best thing about our job is constant change & learning!

@hartle agreed:

  • I don’t know where I want to “end up” either.. Ends are depressing it’s all about getting there, isn’t it 🙂

And @Shaunwilden added:

  • Very true, the constant variety is one thing that has always appealed to me and kept me energised

To sum up

Everyone had a good go at reiterating the key factors, so to sum up, a dream job is one which has

  • a good salary/fair pay
  • motivated students
  • opportunities for development/promotion
  • good location (preferably a nearby beach and with opportunities for fun/a life outside ELT)
  • freedom to teach as you want
  • appreciation and recognition
  • variety
  • flexibility
  • challenge and stimulation
  • great people (colleagues, students, parents)
  • a decent textbook and syllabus (and the freedom to decide how much to use them)

Now, is that too much to ask? Maybe all at the same time. But as the song goes, “You gotta have a dream, / If you don’t have a dream, / How you gonna have a dream come true?”

Useful links:

Bonus extras:

  • Favourite comment: @pjgallantry: ideal job? Being Scott Thornbury- does that count? 🙂

I still think they need to make a movie called that.

  • Second favourite comment: @Marisa_C: Does my ideal job have to be teaching – cos I really wish I were Annie Lennox

Feel free to file this under “Things You Can Bring Up One Day When You Meet @Marisa_C”

This summary by @sophiakhan4