Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

The things nobody teaches you

It’s observation season at IH Bydgoszcz at the moment. Some of the advice I’ve given has made me think of skills that are really useful to have as a teacher, but which we are very rarely taught, or have to pick up as we go along.

Here are my examples:

  1. Reading upside-down: really useful for monitoring to see which answers students have.
  2. Picking out individual student’s voices from the general noise (or the Cocktail party effect): key for both monitoring and assessment, if you’re assessing speaking while the whole class is working. Also, tuning in and out of multiple conversations smoothly.
  3. All the many functions of a photocopier.
  4. Sitting down, standing up, and when and why it’s useful to switch positions.


  1. I’m a fast reader anyway, and think that this was something I may have been able to do before I became a teacher, but I’ve definitely honed this over time. I hadn’t realised that many people found it challenging until recently!
  2. Another skill I kind of had but am now much better at. The flipside of this is that I find it very hard to tune out of conversations when I’m not in a classroom, so I can join in with staffroom conversations even when I’m sitting in my office 10m away 😉 I also sometimes find it hard to focus on conversations in restaurants etc. if there’s another interesting conversation going on nearby, or I’ll flit between the two conversations. Apologies to anyone I’ve done that too!
  3. I think most people are probably shown one or two ‘magic’ things their local copier can do, but there are so many other functions that generally remain a mystery!
  4. I’m mostly thinking about small groups here, up to about 16 students. I know some schools have rules about sitting/standing, but it’s often not addressed on training courses.

‘Teacher’s enemy’ by @pysproblem81, taken from ELTpics (but maybe our friend if we really understood it!)

So (how) did you learn these skills? How can you help other people to learn them? What else would you add to the list?

Comments on: "The things nobody teaches you" (9)

  1. Hi Sandy,
    Just last week my student pointed out I could read upside down – I hadn’t noticed myself. I’d add the ability to quickly sketch pretty much anything, and wiping the WB a hundred times per lesson.
    Fun post, thanks 🙂


  2. Hi Sandy,

    The photocopier – yes, it’s so useful to know your way around one. I used to know ours at school really well – could resolve all paper jams, copy A3 pages to A4 size paper (and all other size conversions) and other stuff – can’t remember what exactly. Then I didn’t use one for a couple of years. Now I use it often in the office, but feel a little inadequate, as if I haven’t yet got to know it properly. I tried to fix a paper jam the other day and, even though I thought I’d looked everywhere, it still kept flashing “paper jam” at me. Plus I haven’t had to change the toner yet. I think I need photocopier training! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sandy,

    Great observations! Just the other day I thought about no.2. It was an exam preparation class and my 8 students worked in pairs, while I walked around trying to focus on their individual voices to later offer some feedback. It could be quite an interesting assignment during CELTA courses 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sandy and thank you for the interesting post!

    1. Reading upside-down
    I somehow learned it way before I became a teacher. I can also read the ‘mirrored’ text (or whatever it’s called when they put the letters together to print it on the paper)
    2. Picking out individual student’s voices from the general noise
    This skill is also not very difficult (in my experience, of course). Being a musical kid I have good hearing, and this helps a lot! I can easily listen to two conversations at the same time (thanks to my current job where I have to teach discussion classes). 3 conversations are a bit tricky though, and I still miss a lot of things. However, if you seat somewhere in between all 3 tables and concentrate in a special way, it gets better!
    3. All the many functions of a photocopier.
    Can anyone teach me, please? 😦
    4. Sitting down, standing up, and when and why it’s useful to switch positions.
    Actually, I learned a lot about it from my CELTA course! Especially about sitting down.


  5. […] Inspired by Sandy Millin’s blog post of almost the same name: […]


  6. […] post is inspired by Sandy Millin’s and Mark’s posts here and here on the same […]


  7. I started adding time in during the first few days on CELTA courses for some “photocopier training” sessions…but this after a few years of letting it go in the “things nobody teaches you” column! 😛


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