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Whenever you find yourself settling into a routine, or for some of us unfortunates, into a rut, it’s easy to glide along, and half-way do things or otherwise develop mediocre performance. If you find yourself in a rut, you might want to consider smart goal setting for online teachers or self-improvement. The best way to go about doing this is to form a professional development plan which you can share with your colleagues as well. You may already have a list of goals you want to accomplish, but feel overwhelmed with all your responsibilities. The best way to address teacher overload and burnout is by developing a plan that sets aside time for mindfulness or meditation: your key to self-improvement. Before developing your plan, make sure you can pinpoint areas of improvement. This article will examine ten steps to help you in creating a professional development plan to help you realistically achieve your goals and avoid burnout. 

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1. Brush up on your tech skills

The most critical step to developing and/or improving your online teaching skills is to have a well-established grasp of technology. You may think you already know all there is to know about technology, but there is plenty of room for growth. New platforms, social media apps, and software are released to the public every year. Mastering ManyCam is a good place to start. With ManyCam and a green screen, you can change your background to a scene in outer space, a snowy scape (if you have a class about the weather), or a classroom with Pili and Lele as guests. ManyCam also has thousands of effects, including masks, animations, slogans, and pictures to help illustrate and animate your classroom setting and lessons. Or perhaps you would like to branch out beyond ManyCam and work with software that corrects, adjusts or alters the actual image, color, or quality of your camera. There are numerous alternatives. Wideo is an easy-to-use software that allows you to create engaging animations and presentations. YouCam 9 and iGlasses (best to be used by tutors in the offline classroom) are webcam apps that will enable you to alter the color, enhance the lighting, add makeup to your face or add numerous eye-catching effects.

As for organizing class materials, scheduling, and meeting times, Cult of Pedagogy writer and educator, Jennifer Gonzalez, suggests becoming a Google educator which is, “a certification that basically marks you as having a solid foundation in Google’s online tools.”1 By accomplishing a set of free online courses, you are prepared to use Google Apps that are useful for educational purposes such as Google Docs, Google Drive, Calendar, Gmail, and Google Scholar. These tools can help you organize your schedule and keep track of course materials and important dates. Google Scholar gives you access to thousands of research papers, studies, and sources relating to any topic you wish to research.

If you’re looking for inspiration or tips on how to use social media and technology in the classroom, look no further than sites like iSLCollective,, TedEd (a site with lots of inspiration and teaching techniques), GIPHY, and Carbonmade for inspiration on art, photography, and illustrations. If you have your own photography or illustrations specifically designed for your ESL classrooms, you might want to build a portfolio at Carbonmade to keep track of them, especially if you teach in a physical classroom where using illustrations is much easier than online. You can also introduce these tools to your students so that they can learn to use them. The more access and knowledge they have to these tools, the better they will perform in the classroom and the future. You need to familiarize yourself with social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you already feel you have a good grasp, then make sure to attend your local EdCamps or TeachMeets, where you can learn more about technology and interact with other teachers and share ideas and experience. 

2. Practicing mindfulness in the classroom

As you put together your professional development plan, make sure you set aside time for uninterrupted meditation or self-reflection. Ask yourself these questions as you finish a class or before you begin: what are my challenges in the classroom? What is my worst fear? What students do I have a positive interaction with? Which ones do I have a negative interaction with? What can I do to improve? In what areas do I need improvement? Asking yourself these questions can help pin down a problem or teaching skill that needs work. Gonzalez believes that mindfulness is key to improving and accomplishing your goals, “mindset has a powerful impact on how you experience your work and whether or not you continue to grow and thrive.”2 She recommends reading a teacher mindset book, creating a support group with your colleagues (where you can share experiences and successful tips), and building meditation into your daily routine. Pili’s Playhouse and Nani’s Newbies are excellent ALO7 tutor groups on Facebook, where you can interact with other teachers, swap stories, and share teaching tips. You might also try incorporating the “Gut-Level Teacher Reflection”3 by examining different buzz words, your reaction, and creating an action plan for improvement. Remember, the goal is to think in the present moment! Put down your phone, find a quiet space, and focus on the problems that need work. Being mindful will also help you avoid this dreaded illness: teacher burnout.

3. Avoiding Burnout in the Classroom 

Teacher burnout occurs wherever there is too much work, stress, exhaustion, and too little rest and leisure. If you’re like me, you can probably name the things that cause you to burn out the quickest. Perhaps you are fully booked and spend five hours in the morning or at night working straight through. Or you might be like me where you get up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. I have found that multitaskers are often at the root of my burnouts. Multitaskers are those students who do their homework at the same time you are trying to teach. This can be very frustrating sometimes. You must compete for their attention. Sometimes I find myself repeating a question to them two or three times because they are not attentive. This issue can make a lesson more exhausting than is necessary, but I have a new strategy to swipe their attention. I always reserve the most curious questions for these students, questions that will pique their interests. For example, I might ask, “If you could time travel, where would you like to go?” or “What kind of house would you have if you lived on Mars?” 

Meditation is also an excellent exercise to refresh your mind as well as exercise and plenty of sleep. You also need to set aside time for you: read a book, chat with your friends, or do some other activity that helps you to feel refreshed. You might also weigh all the different activities you do in a day and cut down where you can. An overloaded schedule is a death sentence for a busy teacher. Teaching should be something you look forward to, not an impossible task in an exhaustive schedule. 

4. REAL Smart Goal Setting for Online Teachers: create a troubleshooting network

Having a chat with an experienced ESL tutor is key if you want to have long-lasting relationships with your colleagues and improve your teaching skills. The best thing to do when creating a network with administrators and teachers is to use the REAL method. But what does this exactly mean? First, you must Realize that you need help. Even if you are experienced, you will always find someone else with more experience who can guide you and help you improve. You can still learn new things about yourself by listening to others. Second, Examine and talk to your colleagues about their teaching experiences, struggles, and accomplishments. Third, Ask for help if you are confused or need help learning a new concept, how to handle a challenging student, or integrating tech tools in the online classroom. Lastly, Learn from your mistakes, your colleagues’ insights, and your students. You can learn many things about yourself, your fears, shortcomings, and strengths by watching and interacting with your students. You can also share your concerns or criticisms of software, course materials, and teaching methods and develop a plan to address these issues or raise awareness about better educational policies and outcomes. 

5. Learn and adapt new teaching techniques

I think it’s pretty easy to settle into your old routine favoring the well-established techniques, like an ancient root, over the newer ones because they are comfortable, like an old pair of stretched out shoes. The problem with this is that although you may be happy with your old pair of shoes, your students might think they stink! Gonzalez argues that “pedagogical improvement” should be a recurring goal in your long-term development plan.4 There are numerous books on the topics as well, such as Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel. You can find instructional videos on Youtube and ESL support groups or instructional sites like the iSLCollective. Another great source is, which offers numerous courses on ESL instruction such as accessing language ability, common core and literacy strategies, content-based instruction, fostering resilient leaners, etc.5 These courses can help you improve your teaching strategies while educating you on new techniques. You might attend coaching sessions at your local library or form a group of your own where colleagues prep each other or have mock sessions with local ESL learners. You might try setting in on a friend or coworkers’ class or asking a fellow experienced tutor if you can watch some of their sessions. Your goal as an ESL tutor should be to learn as much as possible and to continue to learn new things and adapt your strategies to achieve the best results.

Images for Smart Goal Setting for Online Teachers: Create Your Own Professional Development Plan, Part 1
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Citations for Smart Goal Setting for Online Teachers: Create Your Own Professional Development Plan, Part 1:
1 Gonzalez, J. (2018, September 24). Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths for Self-Improvement. Retrieved from
2 Gonzalez, J. Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths for Self-Improvement.
3 Gonzalez, J. (2019, April 24). The Gut-Level Teacher Reflection. Retrieved from questions/
4 Gonzalez, J. Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths for Self-Improvement.

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