Teaching isn’t easy, but when you’ve got that language barrier it’s even more difficult.
So what can be done?
I taught English in China for 5 years. Here are 3 things that helped me improve as an ESL teacher.
They also helped me keep my cool. Remember, part of being a good ESL teacher is not losing it.
The other part is teaching effectively.
Here are some tips for both.
John flipped through the teacher book yet again. This time it took him a good ten seconds to find the answer.
“Yep, that’s what it is – past progressive.”
The students wrote it down in their notebooks…though I expected most would forget that.
Another question was called out, and again, John didn’t know the answer, or was at least unsure. He started flipping through the teacher’s book again.
I saw this when I was training teachers, watching them teach early classes.
Don’t worry about making mistakes!
You know English.
You don’t need to flip through the book all the time, you don’t need to go with all the fancy jargon.
Teach students how to talk, not how to make a grammatically correct sentence. If they can start talking and gain confidence, that grammar can come. It won’t come if they don’t start using the language.
So don’t worry about finding the right answer all the time, and don’t worry about saying “I don’t know.”
Try to move on, try to get them talking.
#2 Stopping to Check
Kristen stared down at her notebook, began to chew her thumb.
I looked around and noticed the students start to fidget, shuffle about, get bored.
Kristen was making one of the biggest mistakes I’d seen teachers make when I was training them – she was stopping to check.
Alright, alright – you can argue she was just trying to remember where she was.
That’s what she was doing, after all…staring down at her lesson plan to see what the correct answer was.
The problem is that she disrupted the class, brought things to a standstill.
Don’t slow things down so you can look at your lesson plan or figure out the right answer. Keep things moving so students don’t get bored.
#3 Getting Annoyed, or Worse, Angry
That damn Tim.
That’s the thought I had as I stared out at Tim sitting there, that smile on his face.
He always acted up, always forgot his book, and always gave me a headache in class.
One day, I’d show him.
You know what…I never did. What I did do was run up my blood pressure needlessly while causing myself undue stress.
Who the hell gives a shit what an 11-year old thinks!
You’re going to have little bastards in your classes, students that just don’t care about English.
Shrug it off – don’t get annoyed.
And please don’t get angry.
Don’t try to force them into working, or doing extra homework. Just shrug and let them sit in ignorance.
Not everyone is going to learn English. The sooner you realize this the more time you can spend on the students that do care.
Spend less time on those that don’t. Most of the time they just want attention or laughs from classmates.
Ignore them and cut them off. They’ll either get their act together or drop out of your class. If it’s public school the regular teachers will eventually talk with their parents.
Mainly, don’t lose sleep over the students that don’t want to learn. It’s not worth the anxiety.
I hope these ideas help you or give you a new way of looking at things.
Try to keep your cool and learn from mistakes. That’s what teaching ESL is all about.