Advice to young teachers: what I wish I had been told


Yesterday I saw at Joanna Malefaki’s blog the #youngerteacherself challenge. It is about, as you may suspect, advice to your younger you. I love these challenges. In fact, my very first blog post was a challenge by Vicky Loras that you can read here. Although Joanna didn’t tag me, it’s one of those cool things you have to do!

So here it goes:


(Photo taken from: by Carmen Arias Blazquéz used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

Dear T.,

You’ve just started university, congratulations! I know you’re not super excited about it, as you were not accepted to the university you wanted. I understand you wanted a BA in English and Literature, but a BA in Portuguese and English will do you good. Besides, you will make amazing friends and meet professors that will inspire and challenge you.

You’ll party hard. You’ll party so hard during your first semester that you’ll focus more on your studies and work afterwards, which is good, I guess.

Don’t work too much. I know you’re a dreamer and a quite ambitious one, but take some time to enjoy university! Time will fly and you’ll regret not having dedicated more to some courses. By the way, wait for the 5th term, when you study Phonetics & Phonology. It’ll blow your mind. Phonetic transcription is sickening; you’re going to love it.

Your body is your temple, treat it with respect. This is supposed to be about more professional advice, I know. Something I learned is that if you’re not feeling 100%, you won’t be able to be at the top of your game. Your personal life and the way you see yourself are inextricably intertwined with your ability to do your job.

You don’t need to lose or gain weight, as long as you stay healthy. Take it easy at the gym! I know you love lifting, be careful. Your knees will thank you in the future. Take care of your vocal cords too. You should definitely see a speech therapist. They will give you the best advice to make sure you don’t have problems in the future.

Don’t obsess (only) about the English language. You’re a teacher, try to learn as much as possible about teaching techniques, approaches and methods too! Of course it is important to know your subject matter and the CPE will do wonders for your self-esteem and CV. Take the CELTA, the time is now! I know you’ve been working for some time now, but let’s face it: you need the fundamentals of teaching practice. I know what you’re going to say, ‘I can’t afford it!’. Take out a loan, be in debt! Do the CELTA in London, you only live once! Just do it. If you don’t do it now, you’ll eventually learn, you’ll be trained by great people, but the path will be rough. And when, years later, you say to people that you’re thinking about doing the DELTA, they’re going to think that you’re cocky (not that you’ll care, but I thought I should let you know).

Listen to your students. From a technical point of view, your teacher talking time should be low. Even though this is very important, it is not what I want to highlight. Your students are human beings. I promise you will learn something wonderful and unique about each one of them.

However, not all of them will like you. It’s not personal. Well, maybe it is. Even when you notice a student does not like you, make an effort to find something you admire in that person. Believe me, you will always find something. That is the most fascinating part of your job. You’ll listen to their stories, be a little part of their lives and, hopefully, be able to make a difference.

Don’t be a jerk, going to conferences is a great way to learn new things. After your first term at university, you’ll be very excited about conferences, congresses, and symposia. You won’t be able to wait for the next one! Then you’ll be a jerk about it and think they’re all the same and people only talk about the same things over and over again. That doesn’t mean that you should stop going to conferences, just that you’ve been to the wrong ones lately, genius.

I know right now your access to it may be limited, but this thing called Internet is a great resource and you’ll learn a lot. I am not talking only about preparing your lessons, although this will save much time. That site called YouTube is not only for you to keep up with lonelygirl15 (she is not even real, it’s freaking fabricated)! Seriously, YouTube will be a revolution not only in people’s leisure activities but also in your lessons. No more spending money to rent videos for a 3-minute snippet in class! Maybe one day you can even start your own web show. Will it be successful? I don’t know. You might want to give it a try.

The Internet will give you the chance to take online courses, teach online and connect with great educators from all over the world.

Be stubborn, be curious. Did you try something new in class and it didn’t work? Try again! Just because something was not successful with a group, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Remember each student, each group is unique. They will react differently and it is okay. You don’t have to follow the exact same procedures, even if you are teaching the same level, grammar topic or the same lesson. Try to be sensitive to your students and remember your lesson plan is there to help you, not to be a straitjacket.

Peer observation is great, don’t be lazy. You will be very lucky and work with amazing teachers, who also happen to be amazing people. They are generous! Observe their lessons, invite them to your classroom, there is no need to be shy. I dare say that you will learn more from your colleagues than in any course you take.

Don’t stress about lesson observation. It can be intimidating, not going to lie. This is also a great way for you to improve and reflect upon your teaching practice. Receiving feedback can be hard sometimes, but worth it. Some observers are not going to be tactful. Don’t take it personally because it isn’t, I assure you. It is not easy to observe a teacher, give feedback, and write a report. Believe me, you will know.

Above all, remember to have fun. You were lucky to have chosen one of the most interesting and diverse industries to work, make it count.

With love, 

The older you

I hope this made you think about your young self, I certainly did. If you’re willing to take up the challenge, pay a visit to Joanna’s blog and let her know. Now I’d like to know if you could give only one advice to the young you, what would it be? Leave it in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Advice to young teachers: what I wish I had been told

  1. Hi T.,
    This was so fun to read. I smiled while reading various parts of your post.

    When I was peer observed for the first time, I said to my colleague, ” Oh! Great job nothing to comment on”, even though I did have a few suggestions. Back then I thought that if I made suggestions, they would be taken the wrong way, so I chose to say nothing. What a shame!! Now, I know better.

    As for lesson that don’t work. I totally agree with you. If you think they can be something good, then try again. It may work next time. Trial and error. If after trying a few times, you see no results then time to move on!!! 🙂

    Do the Delta, it’s a great learning experience!! It’s tough, but worthwhile.

    I tweeted and shared your post on facebook (my twitter name is @joannacre/ joanna malefaki on FB if you want to connect). I also added it to the other posts on my blog (I didn’t know you, how could I tag you? :p).

    Thanks for writing. It was great to read your post!!!

    Joanna 🙂


    • Hi Joanna!
      I’m glad you had fun while reading it. 🙂
      About the Delta, I did module 1, but unfortunately it is hard to find a center here in Rio to do module 2.
      Thanks for setting up the challenge and keep up the great work, your blog is awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: #Youngerteacherself | My Elt Rambles

  3. Pingback: #KELTchat Slowburn: My #YoungerTeacherSelf. 28th April 2015, 11am–7pm (KST) | #KELTChat

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