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5 Tips I Wish Someone Had Shared with Me in My First Year of Teaching

“You can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it.” ― J.D. Salinger

Lately, I have realized that it has been more than ten years since I started my job as a teacher. I quickly reflected and saw how much I have changed as a teacher. I remember feeling like a superhero, having that “I’ll be the best teacher in the world” attitude, which lasted until I walked into the classroom. Then came frustration, self-doubt, and that “How will I handle this?” feeling. I thought about what I would tell my 10 years younger self, and here I ended up with 5 tips I wish someone had said to me in my first year. I hope anyone in need finds some comfort in this article.

1. Have a growth mindset

Sometimes when feeling overwhelmed, having a fixed mindset (saying I don’t like challenges, I cannot do it, I don’t know how to do it, etc.) can be seen as a way out, but I’d like to remind you that it isn’t. Some days will always be more challenging than others and having a growth mindset helps one grow and overcome these days. Saying, “I love challenges,” or “I may not know how to do this, but how can I learn?” is a great start.

Let’s not forget the power of “yet”. When you start adding “yet” at the end of your negative thoughts, it changes your mindset forever. I recommend Carol Dweck’s TED talk, where she shares the power of “yet”. She is the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and coined the terms fixed and growth mindset.

2. Invest in yourself

You cannot learn everything at once. So, a college education can only teach you some things you need to know about teaching. Invest in yourself to get better, do things differently, and stay up to date. With today’s technology, information is one click away. Do not be afraid to use it.

If you are teaching the present simple tense, looking for how to give effective feedback, or in need of finding new games/ideas, you can find new approaches and techniques that fit your classrooms and students through webinars and published papers that are free!

Oxford University Press, for instance, has a wonderful page on professional development, where you can find modules on different topics (topics that you may not even realize that you need), webinars, position papers, etc. If you think this is too much, and you need more time to keep up, here is an idea: Start small. Spend 15-20 minutes in a week and see where it goes. You’ll feel more confident when you see you develop professionally. Plus, studies show that a direct connection between being a life-long learner helps boost overall well-being.

3. Have a sense of humour

Avoid taking things personally. There will always be rainy days when your lesson plan goes differently. A kid in class will always want to play more games, or a parent will ask for more. Take a deep breath and smile. As Margaret Atwood said, “Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” And having a sense of humour will help you “go around it” and cope with difficult times. Remind yourself that these days happen to everyone, and it will pass.

4. Have a teacher buddy

This person will be your rock. Your teacher buddy will understand you more than anyone. You do not have to go through the difficulties you face alone. Find a teacher buddy you can turn to when feeling overwhelmed and need a pep-talk. A Harvard study that lasted for almost 80 years revealed that adults with close relationships are happier than those without. This is especially true for teachers. So, be open to new friendships.

5. Be mindful of your self-care

You may get carried away with lesson plans, parent meetings, and end-of-year shows, but remember to take care of yourself. Take your time to get back to that parent, watch a new film, listen to a new song. You can even start your lesson with your new favourite song and change the mood for everyone.

My fifth graders used to love it when I did this. Also, remember there is nothing wrong when you expect others to respect your time when you do the same with them! Also, be mindful of your own time. It is OK to set boundaries with your time and leave work at work.



Reflect: This is one of the best habits to gain as soon as possible. If your goal is to improve your teaching skills, take some time to reflect on what you have done, how you have done it, and what could be different, and find ways to do things differently. You may find it difficult to spare time for reflection, but when you do, you will see the benefits and become the best version of yourself as a teacher. You can take a look at this article on OUP ELT Blog and start reflecting.


What other tips do you have for new teachers? Please share with us in the comments!



Aysu Şimşek is a passionate advocate of continuing professional development. After graduating from Istanbul University with joint honours in American Culture and Literature with Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, she embarked on her own teaching career. Now in her role with Oxford University Press, Aysu not only meets and supports teachers from across Turkiye, but she has also become a workplace coach which enables her to help her colleagues with their career development.


Fostering a growth mindset 

 Learners hold a range of beliefs about language learning – some of which may stem from their own experiences, but many of which they have picked up from media, family, or friends. One set of beliefs which can be impactful on how learners approach language use and learning are called mindsets. This refers to whether a learner fundamentally believes that their ability to learn a language is a fixed, given talent that cannot really be changed by anything a person does (fixed mindset), or whether they feel language learning ability is something you can develop with the right strategies, motivation, and investment of time and energy (growth mindset). In reality, most people lie somewhere along a continuum between fixed and growth.   Continue reading

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Learner Agency: The Key To A Growth Mindset In The ELT Classroom

Learner Agency The Key To A Growth Mindset In The ELT ClassroomWhat is a growth mindset?

There are many benefits to teaching learners with growth mindsets. Students with a growth mindset believe that they are in control of their own ability to learn and improve. They are not afraid of challenges, viewing them as opportunities that can help them grow. Students are more confident, as they believe that they can learn from mistakes. They are not easily defeated by failures, as failures help them identify where they should invest efforts for success. They are resilient and will persevere in difficult learning conditions. Continue reading


Free your mind – the power of taking a risk

shutterstock_415618444Adrian Leis is a full-time tenured Associate Professor at Miyagi University of Education in Sendai, Japan. Originally from Australia, he has now been teaching English in Japan for close to 20 years. He obtained his Ph.D from Tohoku University and his main fields of research are L2 learning motivation and computer-assisted language learning.

I recently found myself with a couple of hours to relax at home and so decided to watch an old movie. When I was looking through my DVDs, I stumbled across the 1999 science fiction film, The Matrix. At one stage in the movie, the main character, Neo, is told to “free his mind” in order to jump from one building to another while in a computer program. This reminded me of the idea of Mindsets – if we want to reach our full potential, we need to learn to free our minds.

The idea of Mindsets was proposed by Dr. Carolyn Dweck of Stanford University. Ever since, it has received a lot of attention in the field of psychology and, more recently, in the field of second language acquisition (SLA).

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Dweck (2006) looked at the thought processes of humans, or Mindsets, describing these two traits: the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset. So which are you? Try answering the following questions:

  1. Imagine you see your friend eat something a little unusual, like inago (locust) or escargots. Your friend says, “Yuck!” Would you still try it?
  2. Imagine you have a chance to play tennis against a very strong player. You will most likely lose. Would you still take on the challenge?
  3. Your English teacher gives you an assignment to read a difficult 500-word passage from your textbook in front of the class. If you read straight from the textbook, you can get a maximum score of 80%. If you memorize the passage, you can get a maximum score of 100%. Would you choose to memorize the passage?

If you answered “Yes” to the above questions, you probably have a Growth Mindset. Dweck describes a person with a Growth Mindset as someone who sees intelligence not as innate, but something that can be developed and improved on over time. These people are flexible in that they are willing to take the risks of difficult challenges, even at times when failure may be inevitable, in order to reap the benefits of learning from such experiences.

On the other hand, people with Fixed Mindsets, who would probably answer ‘No’ to the three questions, are those who believe intelligence is innate and regardless of how hard they study or work, their intelligence will not change. They prefer to take easier classes and avoid the risks of failure, even if they could benefit from participating at a slightly higher level. Sound familiar?!

Anxiety, self confidence, and language learners

So, what does this mean for you, and your English classes?

Well, Dweck also wanted to find ways of promoting attitudes to learning similar to the Growth Mindset. One way was to look at the effects of praise on students’ approaches to learning. Mueller and Dweck (1998) concluded that when children were praised for the efforts they had made in their studies (e.g. “You thought really carefully about this question!” or “I can see how hard you practiced!”), the children became more willing to take on challenging tasks – the Growth Mindset. However, when children were praised for their intelligence (e.g. “You are really smart!” or “You are a natural athlete!”), they tended to avoid challenging problems in which they might fail, because they were afraid that they may not be praised the next time – the Fixed Mindset.

This suggests that in the classroom, teachers should think carefully about the way they talk to their students. In my own research, I have recommended teachers think about the timing of when they praise students (Leis, 2014). Rather than saying, “Well done!” after a student has given the correct answer, which is praising for her intelligence, teachers could say, “Thank you!” after the student has raised her hand but before she has given her answer. This puts value on the effort and willingness to solve the problem given by the teacher rather than whether her answer was correct or not.

Anxiety and self-confidence have been proven to be vital factors in the success of language learners. The studies mentioned above verify how important it is to look at the behavior of teachers in the classroom and how it influences the mindsets of our students. Students’ mindsets, in turn, affect the confidence with which they approach challenging tasks. When teaching languages, we should be encouraging students to choose the risks of making mistakes in order to achieve the ultimate goals of communicating with others in the language of their choice.



Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Dweck, C. S., & Reppucci, N. D. (1973). Learned helplessness and reinforcement responsibility in children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25(1). pp. 109-116.

Leis, A. (2014). The self-confidence and performance of young learners in an EFL environment: A self-worth perspective. JES Journal, 14. pp. 84-99.

Mueller, C. M., & Dweck. C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s performances. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1). pp. 33-52.