In yet another twist, I was very recently offered, and accepted, a teaching position at the British Council in Seoul. If you’ve read my previous post you know that at the end of my interview with the BC I didn’t feel like I had sold myself to the best of my ability. However, as I’m going to talk about now, I still managed to get myself a job offer out of it.Shortly after receiving the job offer I bumped into my interviewer (it turns out we live on the same street). We got talking, and he mentioned to me that what tipped the job in my favour was that I took to the interview a portfolio of my work, and that they could access my online teaching portfolio to see a video of me teaching and sample materials. In his words, it demonstrated to them my commitment to the profession and my drive to improve as a teacher, as well as giving them something physical to look at when considering my application, compared to the other thirty which were based only on what was said during the interview.This was extremely satisfying to hear as I had invested about 20 hours over the previous weeks creating my online teaching portfolio, with no idea whether anyone would ever actually look at it, but as it turns out it has allowed me to stay in Korea with my fiancée and work for one of the most exciting employers in the industry.So now I’m going to explain a little about how I created my portfolio. I’m going to concentrate on how to create the online portfolio, as the physical portfolio consisted of printed out copies from the materials contained on my online portfolio.What is a Teaching Portfolio?
To put it very simply:
A teaching portfolio “describes and documents multiple aspects of your teaching ability”, in other words, it is a collection of resources that show you at your best.
As well as a means of securing promotions and jobs, teaching portfolios are also an important reflective tool. If you are interested in using a portfolio as a means of reflective practice I highly recommend reading ‘Professional Development for Language Teachers: Strategies for Teacher Learning’ by Thomas Farrell & Jack Richards (Ch.7).
The first thing you’re going to need is a platform for your online portfolio. I tried at least five different platforms, many of which were specifically designed for creating teaching portfolios. However, in my experience, a website creation service called Weebly was able to produce by far the most professional looking portfolio. The basic Weebly service is free, and although the paid for service offers a couple more options, you can do everything you need with the free service.
Weebly will allow you to pick a theme, and from there you simply drag and drop elements such as documents, videos, text and pictures to where you want them to be. When it comes to publishing the site, Weebly will even give you a free domain name, or you can buy a personalised one. I chose to buy one as I believe it looks more professional.
It’s really up to you what you put in your portfolio, and a lot of the things might take several months to collect. The main thing is you are trying to sell yourself as a teacher and show off your accomplishments and your dedication to future development. I’m going to briefly go over a few things I decided to put in my portfolio and how I went about creating them.
1. Statement of Teaching Philosophy (+ Resume)
This was one of the most time consuming components to put together, and to be honest I still don’t think I have got mine quite right. However, I know for a fact that having this was one of the reasons I was offered the job in Saudi Arabia. I used a number of free resources to put together my teaching philosophy:
Alison Boye – Writing Your Teaching Philosophy
Helen Grundman – Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement
Chris O’Neal et al. – Writing a Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search
2. Evidence of Your Competencies and Commitment to Development
The next thing you want to do is show how good you are as a teacher. Hopefully, you collect regular feedback and evaluations from your students. If not, then I recommend starting now. However, the important thing is not the numbers but what you do with the numbers. Try to also have your reflections regarding what you have learnt from the evaluations and feedback.
I also recommend including the feedback from any assessed open classes you have taught. Again, the most important thing is to also document your reflections on these to show how you are developing as a teacher.
3. What You Teach
I would also include evidence of what you teach and why you teach it. I included sample lesson plans, the high school curriculum I have developed, materials for teacher training workshops and presentations I have conducted and samples of the work I have conducted with my students, especially extra-curricular projects that demonstrate my commitment to their development. Although I haven’t yet, I would also include evidence of how you develop your students, such as examples of feedback you have provided students or how you deal with error correction.
4. Evidence of Your Commitment to the Industry
Finally, I would include anything that can document your commitment the EFL/ESL industry. This could be research you have done, papers you have written, articles for blogs or teaching magazines and/or awards you have received.
If you would like to see my (still under construction) teaching portfolio you can do so at www.alexsrwalsh.com
I recommend starting to collate your portfolio as soon as possible. I was very lucky in that I started putting mine together roughly a month before I found out I would have to find a new job. If I had left it until the job hunting process began it wouldn’t have been possible to collect all the information in time, and I would have probably not received the two job offers I did.
Regarding the materials I took to the interview with me, I basically took printouts of my resume, teaching philosophy, sample lesson plan, student feedback (with reflections) and my assessed class feedback.
Other Useful Links:
UCAT – Guide on Creating a Teaching Portfolio
ICALTEFL – What is a Teaching Portfolio?
WHOHUB – Practice Interviews