A Letter To My Younger Self


This post is part of a blog challenge created by Joanna Malefaki in which we write a letter to our younger teaching selves. To read more posts in the challenge, click here.

Hi James,

So you’re just about to give your first lesson, armed with nothing more than a few pages of interview questions and a whole lot of curiosity. Before I give you some advice, you should know that I’ve teaching English for 9 years now and you have no idea about the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen. But you’ll discover all of that in time. Here’s what you need to know right now…

  • Teaching is all about people being together and sharing. Your job as an English teacher is to make sure that your students have the language ability to have these conversations. You teach adults, so there’s no hierarchy, and they don’t expect you to be some great authority on the English language. Engage with your students, and engage them with each other, and the rewards are huge.
  • Remember, and I can’t emphasise this enough, that the lessons do not belong to you, they belong to your students. What you are in doing in the classroom is nowhere near as important as what the students are doing. Stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about them.
  • You’re going to meet a lot of very interesting people because of this job, so learn from them. Make sure they know that you are genuinely interested in their lives and professions and you will learn as much as your students.
  • The quicker you can learn about the language the better. At this time, you don’t really know anything. If you don’t believe me, then tell me what a preposition is. Trust me, in a few months that will seem like the most basic of terms. Spend some time learning how English works, you’ll make my life much easier now if you do.
  • Right now you are all potential. You have no experience and no qualifications (English being your first language is not a qualification!), so stay humble, be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given, and learn quickly.
  • Really pay attention to your colleagues and what they do. You can learn a lot from watching other teachers, and not just the things they do better than you, there’s a lot to learn from people’s mistakes too.

That will do for now, I don’t want to overwhelm you. You don’t know it yet, but this first lesson is the start of something life-defining, so enjoy yourself and work hard. The rewards are yet to come.




Photo credit: Photo taken from https://flic.kr/p/6ohrWx by insEyedout, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ 


8 thoughts on “A Letter To My Younger Self

  1. Hi James,
    I really enjoyed reading your post! It’s so interesting to see what everyone is saying in these posts. When I started teaching, I stuck to my plan and what needed to be taught in my lessons, which were based, of course, on the course book. Your 2nd bullet about the lessons belonging to the learners is so spot on and something I struggled with when I started teaching.
    Thanks for writing 🙂

  2. It’s amazing how much a teacher can evolve after so many years. It takes a lot of humility to write this kind of letter to your younger self as you are acknowledging the fact that there were so many things that you wished you have realized and done differently in the past. Teaching language is all about the students, and it takes a good teacher to realize this and apply it in practice. Enjoyed reading your letter, thanks for sharing something so personal yet inspiring.

    1. Thank you, I appreciate your comment. I think humility is something we need as teachers in order to continuously develop. It’s difficult to reflect without it.

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