It’s common for new ESL teachers to be overwhelmed and even surprised when they step in front of their first class. While there is no disputing the fact that teaching can be difficult, there are things that can make your first experiences with both your students and lessons a bit easier.
While this list was created for anyone considering a career in ESL teaching, there is plenty of great advice for current teachers as well!
ESL Teaching Tips
- You’ll be responsible for lesson planning, teaching, grading, marking books and tests, as well as documenting your work. ESL teachers also participate in extracurricular activities and may act as private tutors for students who need more individual attention. That’s why it is essential that you prioritize your tasks, make lesson plans in advance, think through projects, and get assistance from experienced colleagues. Reward your efforts with rest.
- When teaching English as a second language (ESL), the most common problem is that your students will try to use their first language instead of English. In this situation, you should let them know you understand that it’s not easy for them to speak a new language but they can’t learn English by speaking something else.
- There is no guarantee that you will be free of students that are time consuming, frustrating, and/or worrisome to teach. The best way to resolve such issue is to talk to problem students after classes to understand why they are behaving badly. Open the conversation with appreciation and concern. No judgment. You could try practicing the conversation beforehand to determine what needs to be said.
- Some students never do homework. This is often the case with adults who juggle work and family responsibilities while pursuing their education.
- Some students always come too late to class. You need to have an effective strategy for handling these incidences as they can create a variety of problems.
- Students get bored easily. If you find yourself in this position you can always try these fun and engaging energizer activities to clear their minds and motivate them to stay focused for the next hour.
- As an ESL teacher, you need to be willing to constantly adapt to your students’ needs. Not all students are motivated by the same needs, values, desires, or wants.
- The feedback students provide about your teaching can be quite humbling and perhaps even devastating. But it’s important to treat it as a golden opportunity to improve and refine your teaching.
- Sometimes students will act up because they have personal issues or due to some uncontrollable external reasons such as windy weather outside. Showing students that you care about them and their problems will help you earn their respect and establish rapport.
- You’ll have limited class time for practicing skills and deepening understanding. In order to avoid this problem, carefully prepare your lessons beforehand to fit within the allotted schedule.
- If you’re teaching abroad, there will always be triggers that make you realize how far from home you truly are, and how long it will be before you can get back. Here’s how you can cope with homesickness: Experience the culture of your destination. Get to know people. Try the local cuisine and get to know your way around. Make a list of local places or activities and challenge yourself to do or see all of them within a month. Make the most of your experience!
- According to the experience of other novice ESL teachers, your first year on the job will be a series of ups and downs, smiles and frowns. Remember there is no problem that cannot be solved with the right combination of technology, patience, persistence and clear thinking.
Now that you know what you are getting into, the question is, “Do you still want to become an ESL teacher?” If so, you should know a few more things:
- Learning, not only teaching, is part of the job.
- You cannot leave anything to chance. Have a plan and stick to it.
- You should challenge your students but do not push them too far beyond their capabilities.
- Always do what you believe to be best for your students.
- You need rules to help you prevent chaos. Be consistent in what you let them say and do.
- Be interesting. Excite your students about learning, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehending English.
Remember, even though teaching can be a challenging and exhausting job with long hours, most teachers ultimately experience great joy and satisfaction from their profession. Just don’t give up when it gets hard. After all, if you do not at least try to do something worthwhile in your life, what’s the point of it at all?