12 inspirations for a New Year’s Teacher


January 1, 2012 by Willy Cardoso


ONE – Don’t stick with one mindset of what is best practice without testing it often. If you’re using a textbook, teach without one. If you are not, do it. Same with technology; same with common sense.  Notice the difference in learning and teaching; report it on a blogpost or something like that in which you can invite comments.

TWOExplore a field you’re not familiar with and its influence in your profession. E.g Neurolinguistics.

THREEExperiment with classroom layout and try alternative locations, like a lesson at a park, or at a shopping mall.

FOUR – Swap! Teach someone else’s lesson. Invite someone else to teach yours. Make it even better by inviting someone who’s not an English teacher to teach your English lesson, observe and learn.

FIVE – Swap 2! Send a student to observe another teacher’s lesson for an hour, then come back and report to class.

SIX – Bring food to class. Notice the difference in learning and teaching when everyone’s eating. [I once worked with a teacher who strongly believed in this practice]


SEVENInclude “Teach something moments” in the syllabus. I started this more systematically last year and it was awesome, can’t wait to see more of it. Each learner had 5-10min scheduled in the week’s program to teach anything they wanted.

EIGHTTalk about teaching and learning with learners. Do you have a favorite theory or methodology? Have you studied motivation or language acquisition? Share it with your learners and see what they think.

NINEExpand the scope of the previous idea and have the class create a document: How We Learn

TENPõe a mão na massa! This is an expression in Portuguese that says put your hands in the dough, meaning DO it. Give learners opportunities to create videos, posters, radio shows, illustrations, reading and listening texts, etc.

ELEVENImprove the quality of staff room conversation.

TWELVEBlur boundaries, embrace complexity, promote interdisciplinarity, cherish unpredictability, and share responsibility.


And an overarching thought: There’s no teaching without philosophy.


This is a list of what I want to do in order to seek professional development and to improve the quality of my teaching and the experience of those who learn with me. Somehow, I wrote the list in an imperative form, like Do This. It may be because of my level of confidence in these things and also because I should really do them, so I’m kind of talking to myself more assertively as though I was a soldier under my own command. In the end, there may be some ideas here that will inspire you to create your own list. If you do, share with me. If you do any of the things I mention, please share with me.

Enjoy the ride — Happy New Year!


28 thoughts on “12 inspirations for a New Year’s Teacher

  1. Deirdre says:

    Thanks Willy! I’m going to keep all of those points in mind. Put you on my blog roll. Love what you write about! Happy New year!!!

  2. Luke Meddings says:

    Thanks for this Willy – print-out-and-keep once again – I was gonna pick a couple of favourites but all 12 are good to go 🙂

  3. beatriz garcia says:

    What is a new year’s teacher? one who teaches on new year’s eve?

  4. Roy Bicknell says:

    Hi Willy
    Wld agree on all of these points. Just doing one or two would change dynamic introducing more reflection for teacher & students.
    Love the Poe a mão na massa, that’s so true…

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Oli says:

    Wonderful stuff. I notice the running theme of handing over control to the learners. This is something I hope to learn a lot more about this year. Tudo de bom!

    • Thanks, Oli!
      This has been a recurrent theme in my stuff lately. At times I like to think “hand back” control, but can’t fully explain why ‘back’.
      Well, stay tuned for expansions of points in the list, I’ll surely refer back to them as they’re pu in practice.

  6. Josette says:

    “There’s no teaching without philosophy.” Absolutely. A great way to recap your list. I admire your devotion to exploration. Thank you for sharing your philosophy with us. Truly inspiring and gave me a lot to think about. I’m particularly fond of blurring the boundaries.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Josette!!

      I’m often caught in deep thoughts and “excavations” after the (or a) philosophy of teaching. There’s so much to explore, it’s hard to choose where to start, so a quick brainstorm in form of list seemed like a good start.

  7. Certainly inspiring suggestions!
    Number 11 (staff room convo) stumps me completely though. The general attitude is: I’ve been teaching all day, am certainly not going to talk about anything educational over breaks! Sigh. If it weren’t for blogoshpere, where COULD I discuss this stuff?!!
    Thanks for another great post!

    • Hi Naomi
      You know what, I think it’s fine not to talk about teaching in the staff room; I mean, I like it, but I respect teachers who are just too tired and just want a quiet break.
      What bothers me though, and that’s why I wrote that in the list, is that some teachers kind of mock students, you know? like their mistakes, cultural differences, social status (that’s often higher than the teachers’), and all that.

      • That’s true – teachers gossip about the students and students gossip about the teachers. Perhaps a strong “head” can keep that to a minimum – haven’t seen that happen yet.
        I guess I should be more understanding of teachers that don’t want to discuss work during breaks but until I discovered blogosphere it wasn’t happening much anywhere else!

  8. Kathy F. says:

    Love these ideas, especially the one about sending a student to visit another class! Thanks, Willy. Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      I’ve never done this, and am looking forward to.

      I’ve just taken a look at your blog, and saw that you mention ‘mindfulness’ as a springboard and goal for educational practice. That’s a word I have never used in my writings but one that resonates well. I’ll try and learn more about it. Thanks!

  9. Great post Willy, Thanks
    I also like having edible lessons from time to time and they help a lot.
    Have a fantastic Year


  10. Good suggestions, Willy. I’ve already suggested to colleagues that we swap classes from time to time – not only to give students and teachers some experience in different contexts and styles, but also as a checkpoint for maintaining a certain level of standardisation in a course where there are no levels and all 100 students in 6 different sections are being supported by us for a content-based course. Swapping a student here and there hadn’t occurred to me before.

  11. Mel says:

    Wow! Thanks for the great advice!

  12. DaveDodgson says:

    #6 works really well – at least that’s what I have discovered so far this year. It helps create a more relaxed atmosphere and can help give an energy boost to those students who are flagging a little after 2 hours of physical education. 🙂

    I’m also keen to try getting my students to prepare a mini lesson or presentation to teach to their classmates. I’m thinking of doing it with chapters in one of the books we will read. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • At another school we used to do #6 with evening business lessons. After 12 hours of work pizza was always a good choice 🙂

      It should work fine with books. I don’t teach with readers as support or main material, I kind of think I’m missing something not doing it, even though the types of courses I teach at the moment are too short to read a book.

      The ‘teach *anything* moment’ brought some interesting surprises last year, like a girl who taught the class how to make caipirinha, and she brought all the props!

  13. Hi Willy and Happy New Teaching Year

    A lot of what you are saying here (but not everything, of course) profiles teachers who are open to challenge and change and are ready to go beyond their comfort zone. It promotes the idea of a teacher-as-researcher, constantly trialling and reflecting, evaluating and improving their instructional design and classroom skills..

    It’s great to see your ideas of how this can be implemented, too, because the urge to go beyond the perennial comfort zone is frequently heard but infrequently mapped out in any sort of practical way.

    Another nice thing about your list is that it can be very useful in the hands of an inspired school leader who can use it to instigate continuous professional development in their teachers. I hope some of those leaders read your post.

    In fact, this what really worries me: that the teachers who will in fact read your post are part of a a highly voluble but numerically tiny minority.

    We need a movement here, Willy. Let’s put our thinking caps on!


    • I agree, Marisa. It’s easy to make a list. And then what?

      I’ve recently tried, more than ever, to map out what I’ve been doing in practice. An example was the talk I gave in TESOL France, which had the theoretical element but also examples of my own teaching.

      I’ll certainly do the same with, and blog about, the ideas I listed here.

      Re: leadership; ohh, it’s a hard nut to crack, isn’t it? And definitely, those who read blogs are the minority, but if it’s any consolation to us, it’s often minorities who make changes, right? For worse, as we see in politics, and hopefully for better in our field, so let’s keep the ball rolling and make this a bigger team.

  14. Cristina says:

    You’ve been quite absent from Twitter so I haven’t checked your blog since summer – my bad!

    THIS is a great list and I am happy to realize I already do some of the things you suggest. I am particularly challenged by swapping classes as many teachers are reluctant to this idea – for some reason, there is an undeground fear that their students might “like” you better or your students might not find them interesting a teacher. (As a side note, I started this year to invite other teachers for a Mystery Reader Day – when they would read-aloud to my students – and it worked smoothly so far). I have advocated for learning from and with teachers AND students from the same school but it seems a long-term “battle”.

    I will definitely try 3 (changing locations) and 9 (kids making the document on How We Learn) – the rest we do already.

    Thanks for sharing, Willy!

  15. alexandria says:

    Hi Willy,
    Thanks for your inspirational tips on teaching. I think the key to keeping the students’ attention is to shake it up each day, to make it “blurry” as you say, and to do anything they are not expecting to spark their interest and to get the neurons firing.

    I am very new to blogging and if fact, this is my first blog comment!! I am trying to increase more technology in my teaching practices. What do you do tech-wise in the class and what do your students like best?

    I was actually thinking of attending the technology teacher’s lesson, to see what and how the students are learning. I teach a research based project class, requiring students to research a topic of their own interest, so in this way, I get to explore all sorts of topics I am not familiar with, like constructing a robot. Of course, the requirements of the report: providing evidence and analysis are the same for each student, and my role is to ensure they meet all requirements. I learn a lot through my students.

    thanks again, Alexi

    • Hi Alexi!
      Blogging is great, you’ll see, it opens many doors.

      Tech-wise I use YouTube, a lot. And Google Documents with my writing groups. Not much, but enough.

      I like research-based lessons like you said, also because I learn a lot too. The analytical process is very rich for students and once they have to present it, learning potential increases enormously, I think.

      Thank you for commenting!

  16. alexandria says:

    thanks for replying Willy. I agree, I seem to be using Youtube more and more, and it is especially useful for showing examples of sports in action to introduce a new sport topic.

    Have a creative day 🙂

  17. So thoughtful…yet simple…and powerful. Thanks so much. Very inspiring

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