Boost your ELT career

my opinion
Boost your English language teaching career in 2022 (and 2023!)
It's New Year. How can you make this year productive and achieve your potential? Here's a story, a couple of pieces of advice and a challenge for you!


We’re a week into the new year. Want to be a little bit honest with me? How many of your New Year Resolutions have you already broken? OK, you don’t really have to tell me. But if you want my advice on how to take your career forward, keep watching. I’ve got a story, for you, two pieces of advice and a challenge

Hi, if we're meeting for the first time, I'm Jo Gakonga. I'm an English teacher, a CELTA trainer and assessor, and I have a website at ELT, where I make video based material to support you, whether you're just starting out on your CELTA course, or if you've got a bit more experience, and you're looking for some new ideas.

Let’s start with the story – predictably, it’s about me! There’s an old adage about work experience–someone who has been teaching for 20 years could have 20 years’ experience or one year’s experience repeated 20 times? There are good things about teaching the same kind of learners for a few years at a time and developing your skills, but if you always do the same thing, there are problems. Probably not mostly for your learners, but for YOU.

If you’ve got variety in your work, it keeps you interested and it helps to prevent burnout… and it will hopefully take your career forward, too.

I started teaching in 1989 and I can honestly say that every teaching year has been different. Some of those changes have been because I’ve worked in lots of different environments and with lots of different learners. I’ve worked in

-          Private language schools in Taiwan and Australia

-          A primary school in Yorkshire

-          The British Council in Prague

-          A college of further education  in the UK and

-          A British University

And in terms of different learners, I’ve mainly taught adults but I’ve also done a bit with teens and children – I’ve taught lower and higher levels, IELTS and Cambridge suite preparation, CELTA and MA TESOL teacher education. Every year has brought new challenges and change and that’s kept me interested.

Sometimes the changes were out of my control, but mostly, I’ve made the decision to keep trying new things. Some of these changes have been quite small – like wanting to teach using a flipped approach

Some of them have involved major financial and time commitments like doing an MA

Some of them started small and then grew organically – like ELT-Training.

It hasn’t been a straight road and not all of the paths I took were successful – after 2 years of primary school teaching, I ran screaming back to adult education and although I’m happy to have been part of writing IELTS Foundation, course book writing wasn’t really my jam.

But if you keep trying different things, you will find the things that you enjoy and want to do more of, and perhaps have a talent for. And here are my two bits of advice, for what they’re worth -

The first is not to just think vaguely about what you want to achieve- you need to write your goals down . EM Forster said ‘How can I know what I think until I see what I say’ – writing things down is a powerful way of getting things clear. So I challenge you to write down your goals for 2022. What do you want to achieve with your work this year. It might be small – maybe just follow one of the CPD links I send each week, or you could challenge yourself to try different activities in your class. It might be more major like a new job, a new course (try one of the ones on my site), or teaching a new kind of class.

Get a piece of paper or open a Word doc (I love OneNote for this kind of thing) and write a list of 5 things that you want to achieve this year.

My second piece of advice is this – keep going back to your goals. Every month, maybe on the first day of each month (put a reminder on your calendar or your phone) go back to the document and see what progress you’ve made. If you want to add to it, that’s great. If you achieve something, put a big TICK by it, or a smiley face. Having a record of what you’ve done will really help to motivate you – not just the ‘to do’ but also the ‘done’!

You do have to be realistic with yourself. Make your goal manageable. When I had three small children, my work goals were very small because my main life goal was to keep my kids alive, safe and happy.

BUT even when you’re busy - have a goal – something for yourself. Something to keep you thinking.

One last thought is - just say YES to the opportunities that come your way. Even if you feel you can’t do whatever you’ve been asked to do – try it. You might be surprised and you can always stop it if you hate it.

I hope that 2022 is a brilliant one for you and your classes and that this helps you to move things forward and make this year your most successful and productive and interesting one yet.

Created with