In his Kotesol presentation, Ralph Cousins talked about the 4 stages of teaching.
1. Fantasy. You think you can teach English by playing hangman and just talking to the students all class.
2. Survival. You have some strategies for teaching, but they are ineffective. You write on the board too much or use too many videos. You add up your hours and money and worry about all that stuff.
3. Mastery. You use effective strategies and engage in professional development.
4. Impact. Students actually want to learn English because of you.
When I first came to Korea, and started teaching I was clueless and stuck in Stage 1 for the first year or so. My second year, I progressed into stage 2, as I stopped playing so many games and "filling-time" and got more into the student-based thing. Like getting them talking and practicing the grammar point in a variety of ways. And the class not being all about me. And I did see a lot of improvement in my students, because (or in spite of?!) me.
Finally, it was when I got a job at a university, which entailed much more responsibility that I moved into stage 3. I started reading and blogging and talking to colleagues about how to teach ESL. I went to conferences and watched videos and learned the major schools of thought for how to do it. I started keeping a list of games and activities and things that I could do in class. I kept track of my lessons and would evaluate how they went and what I could improve on.
And stage 4? I've seen in some classes when I see the students on a more frequent basis (like 4 days a week, or everyday for 3 weeks in a camp setting) that I have impacted some students on a deeper level. But, those times are minimal. However, I don't see myself falling back into stage 2 very often and I never go back to stage 1. But how to spend more time in stage 4? That's the challenge I guess.