One of the best things about teaching in a cooperative is the communication with other teachers that you have instant access to. Most TEFL courses will tell you how important it is to build relationships with other teachers even if you’re a freelance teacher because the support you can get from people doing the same thing as you can be invaluable. Here are five reasons why you need to be part of a wider teaching community.
Ongoing teacher training
Regardless of how many courses we’ve done or how long we’ve been teaching, almost none of us would say we’re currently the best teacher we can be. Most teachers want to learn more ways of engaging and supporting our students for the length of our carers and being part of a wider teaching community means regularly receiving tried and tested tips.
This network also gives us a place to turn for specific advice. If a student has a learning issue we’ve never encountered before or is from a country we know little about, we can ask for advice before the class. The good thing about a teaching community is that what is unfamiliar to you could be the specialism of somebody else. This means we can learn from the best just by exchanging a few messages.
For some of us, this could be an extra push to explore our own specialism in more depth. As we learn more, we can share better tips with other teachers.
For more industry transparency
Like many companies, language schools are not always entirely honest with their employees about things like pay rates, policies, and the future of the company. Teachers can find themselves working for less money than they were encouraged to expect or spending hours filling in applications for schools that don’t have enough students. Communicating with other teachers can help us to avoid these traps because they will usually be more honest than employers will.
This transparency can extend to resources we use to teach, such as online whiteboards, subscription sites with lesson materials, and advertising methods. Teachers who have tried certain things can share their experiences and inform other teachers of the downsides and fine print that we should read but often don’t. In addition to saving us time, it can make us feel better about our own mistakes if we’re able to help others avoid them. Doing this could even turn a mistake into something positive, like a friendship.
For emotional support
Teaching is a lot of fun and very rewarding, but it is also challenging. Whether you’re a freelancer or working for a language school, difficulties are inevitable. Talking to people who are going through the same difficulties can help you work out solutions, or just vent after a bad day.
A nice bonus to this is that it can keep your expectations realistic. We all have setbacks. We don’t like this, but we’ve all taught bad classes. Many of us have had power or connection issues that have caused us to miss class. The situations we dread do unfortunately happen and knowing that you are not alone and that it is not the end of your career can be invaluable in these moments.
The best thing about teachers sharing these stories is that it lets us plan for many of these things before they actually happen, or at least get advice on how best to deal with it after it has happened.
Sometimes we have a trial class with a student we’re not the best fit for. At other times, we might have a student who doesn’t like missing classes but we still want to go on holiday for two weeks. If we’re connected to a network of teachers then we can pass on details of an appropriate teacher to students and arrange cover for our classes when we know we won’t be available to teach them.
To refer students to more appropriate teachers
This can be useful for those of us who teach children because they’re likely to continue studying after they’ve outgrown our classes. Being able to find another really good teacher for their child when they need it can reassure parents that you’re the right person to teach their child. It can also be important to us to know that the child we’ve been teaching for several years is still getting all the help they need to reach their goals.
It can also be helpful for those who teach adults. As any freelance teacher will know, there are students who ignore the teacher’s specialism and book lessons with someone with little or no experience helping people with their particular goal. An IELTS teacher with a student who wants to learn business English then needs to decide whether to spend lots of time learning about business English, use generic lesson plans, or have potentially unpleasant conversations with the student about choosing another teacher. But when we’re part of a teaching community we can pass on the details of a more appropriate teacher and avoid a potentially unpleasant situation.
For help with career development
As freelance teachers, we all know that there is so much more to our job than teaching. There’s marketing, dealing with tech problems, and creating lesson content, to name a few things. Being part of a network of teachers means that we can help people with the things we’re good at in exchange for help with what we’re not good at.
Many teachers have ambitions to work in other aspects of the TEFL sector, like web design or creating course materials. Communicating with other teachers can help them to solidify what their target customers want, which will lead to better products and services for the rest of us. Teachers could even work together on their projects. For instance, if someone who wants to write course materials meets someone who likes drawing or graphic design then they can help each other achieve their goals.