Professional Development Journal: Guest Post by Tanya Gunko

As the title suggests, it is a guest post. Tanya and I have known each other for years, and among many aspects of being connected professionally, we both like reflecting on our teaching. We both are a part of the Reflective Practice Group in Dnipro. [There is a more detailed bio blurb at the end of this post] Also, we both like writing: I do it on this blog and Tanya… Over to her!

I came up with the idea of keeping a Professional Development (PD) journal not so long ago. Before that I had taken my notes on my computer, in my diary, in my notebook for lesson plans, on separate pieces of paper, etc. Finally, I realized that keeping all my notes and thoughts in one place would be much more convenient. Of course, now I’m not using it as often as I used to because of my maternity leave but it still helps me to move forward. I have two lovely girls (4-year-old and 7-month-old) who are my main students at the moment.

And there was one more thing that encouraged me to try keeping a journal. At the language school I used to work for we regularly had trainings and workshops which were a great source of new ideas. But I noticed that my colleagues, especially new teachers, quite often felt a bit overwhelmed after them. And I also used to feel like that. After each session I could hear the same questions – When to try this? When to find time to learn more about this? I spend some much time planning my lessons, I don’t want to spend even more. This must be a great idea / resource/ app, but I don’t have time to learn more about it, etc. Once I decided just to write a list of new ideas during our workshop and then at home decided when and with which group to try them. Not to feel overwhelmed I didn’t try a new task every lesson. It took me a few weeks to try all the ideas with different groups. The ideas that didn’t work were forgotten forever, the ideas that worked I kept using, adjusting and soon they started saving my lesson prep time instead of taking more.

At the moment my PD journal is a notebook that I’ve divided into several sections:

Work in progress


It’s a list of absolutely different ideas and tasks that appeal to me and I’d like to try with my Ss. I usually add new ideas after trainings, workshops, when I read something on the Internet, after observations, etc. And I also make some notes next to each idea.)

A few examples:

  • Edpuzzle – to work with authentic videos; as homework (quick checking and follow-up discussion at the lesson); any level (might be more interesting for Intermediate+ group); TRY with my Advanced group (maybe for unit 4)
  • ‘Dictation’ – when Teacher says: ‘I go to the cinema every week‘ and Students write: I never go to the cinema / I seldom go to the cinema, etc.

[Note to self:  cane be used] as a warmer, lead-in followed by quick discussion in pairs; may be focused on target grammar or vocabulary; at any level; TRY with my Elementary group


A list of books I’d like to read and resources I’d like to look through/try

I’d like to learn more about

A list of ideas with some notes, for example:

  • A flip lesson (?) – YouTube
  • Teaching adv Ss (google for some ideas)
  • One-to-one vs teaching a group  
  • A lapbook (?)  – YouTube
  • How to cut video? (ask Alex)
  • Grammar posters (Lisa’s idea – talk to her and try with my Ss this semester)

Ideas for social media

At our school I created a group VKontakte (alternative for LinkedIn) for my colleagues and used to write posts there, which continued on Facebook later, and might migrate to Instagram in the future.

My one-to-one lessons

I always have at least one student taking private classes. In this section I write a few things I want/have to work at with each student.

For example:

Dasha (2 years) Goal – STATE EXAM DONE)))

From Beginner to strong Intermediate

Ø Grammar

Ø Vocab

Ø Writing

Ø Tips for taking the exam

Ø A lot of listening


Vladimir (IT company) Business English, Pre-Intermediate

(Business Result, One-to-One Business, Market Leader)

Ø  Grammar revision

Ø Poor vocab

Ø Speaking, speaking and speaking

Ø Problems with listening

I can also write down certain plan/ideas to work at some point (not shown in the table above) 


This section looks pretty much like the one about my one-to-one students. I have (well, actually used to have as it was Green Forest reality) a list of my junior teachers and a list of things we work at, have to discuss, should try, etc based on my observations and their lesson plans.

This semester

In this section I write my goals for a semester. At Green Forest at the beginning of every semester we had to complete a special form with the following questions:

  • What exactly are you going to work at this semester? (e.g. time management, presenting grammar, drilling, giving clear instructions, etc)
  • What exactly are you going to do to succeed?

Most of colleagues at the language school hate these questions (young/new teachers just say that they have to work at everything and absolutely underestimate these questions; experienced teachers think that they’re already pretty good at everything and as it’s their 10th semester at GF they already don’t know what else to write there J). I also used to dislike these questions 7 years ago. But now I understand that they’re extremely helpful and teach my junior colleagues how to use these questions.

So, in this section I write my goals (big and small) and my main steps that I think must help me to achieve them. That’s the time when I look through all my sections (ideas, books/resources, new things to learn more about / try) and make a plan for the semester.

[Note to Zhenya: I think that I use the table you advised me to use while working on my Personal PD Plan]

Goal Steps When Notes/Feedback


Besides the table above I write down a list/lists of things I want to try with my students (for different groups/levels these lists can be different) and then during the semester while lesson planning I regularly return to these lists to see if I can do sth at the lesson. For example, I had a list of vocabulary tasks/games for my Advanced group that I could use as a warmer, vocabulary review/revision, short break/last 5 minute task and while planning a certain lesson I could return to this list and choose sth good for that very lesson. Or one more example, at the beginning of the semester I knew I wanted to try creating grammar posters with my students and I also wanted to do with them a writing project (fast forward: they created leaflets, it was a great task and we all enjoyed it) and I wanted to use more digital tools. But as I had a new group of students and we worked with a new course book I didn’t know when exactly I could try all these tasks. Later when I got to know my new students and our new course book better I knew when to try these ideas. If I hadn’t had this list I could have forgotten about some or all of them. The more groups I had to teach, the worse my memory seemed to be. I usually remembered that I wanted to try sth new but sometimes couldn’t remember what exactly, or remembered about it too late.

Well, in general, at the moment my PD journal has several sections that look like lists of ideas and a few sections with certain goals and steps where I put all these ideas together.

It turned out to be a pretty long description 🙂 I hope you could get the idea. I don’t want to make it even longer now but will be happy to answer your readers’ questions.

About Tanya:

Yes, that’s the notebook! 🙂

I am an English teacher who is absolutely obsessed with my job. Having done my SIT TESOL course in 2008, I started teaching adults and that is what I am still doing. I have had ten interesting years of teaching different levels, attending various trainings and workshops, applying new knowledge at my lessons, sharing my experience with colleagues and constantly developing my teaching skills. Most of this time I worked at Green Forest Dnipro language school where I started as a junior teacher and left as a senior teacher and a mentor, and even tried my hand at being a teacher trainer.  Being an enthusiastic teacher and a loving wife and mum I’m trying hard to keep a balance between my family and work and therefore I can’t do without time management and planning my professional development. Teaching younger language learners might be the next step in my career.

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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7 Responses to Professional Development Journal: Guest Post by Tanya Gunko

  1. Hey there, how you doing!? I just went through your blog and its totally fab, keep up this effort love and have a nice day! ❤
    Looking forward to reading from your blog more 🙂
    You have a new follower 😉


  2. David Donaldson says:

    Very interesting. The range of headings is really useful and thought-provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yulya says:

    Hi! It seems to be a great practice to keep a PD journal! I also write down some of my plans or ideas but they are not as organised as yours. Should improve it 🙂
    The work and family balance is a rather tough issue so I wish you good luck and lots of energy and patience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandy Millin says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Tanya, and for hosting it Zhenya. I’ve heard so much about the idea of using journals for professional development, but in 11 years this is the first time I’ve ever seen a real example of how someone has used one! I’ve tried a couple of times, but never really knew what or how I could use a notebook in this way. I’m definitely going to be sharing this with our teachers in the future.
    I hope you don’t mind me doing a little cheeky advertising: I’ve written ELT Playbook 1 (for new teachers) and ELT Playbook Teacher Training to provide prompts for reflection which could feed into journals like this. Each has 30 tasks followed by reflection questions and four possible follow-up tasks, including one idea for a private teaching journal in each case. All of the details are at
    Good luck with all of your development ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zhenya says:

    Thank you for your comments, Yulia, Sandy, David. I am writing on behalf of Tanya, and this is what she says:
    ‘I’d just like to say thank you to all the people who left their comments. I’m really happy that you found the post thought provoking. And I hope that my ideas can help some more people to move forward and enjoy their Professional Development :-)’


  6. Pingback: A Class Journal | Wednesday Seminars

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