Teaching ESL also has its pitfalls, however. I can’t begin to tell you how many noisy, headache-producing classes of young brats and devils I’ve had, their only goal and desire seeming to be to make your day a complete nightmare. This is a problem that nearly all new ESL teachers face, and the main culprit is behavior. Some teachers just let the students walk all over them. It’s important to remember that you can be their friend, but you’re still the boss.
I’ll often throw a book down on the floor with a loud smack to get instant quiet. I’ll get into a student’s face if they start giving me lip when I tell them to move. And I’ve been known to pull a desk toward the door if a student won’t get up when I tell them to go home. That really gets people back on the straight and narrow, at least for 5 minutes.
When you’re teaching ESL to a book, you have a lot more options than someone who has to come up with their own material each day or week, but you also have limitations. If you have a 1-hour class and you need to use the book for 45 minutes of that, well, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for other activities, now does it? Conversely, if you’re forced to make up your own activities and games week-after-week, you might relish the routine that bookwork gives you. It’s therefore essential to find some kind of balance between the two.
That’s why when I’m teaching ESL classes, I always break them up into little blocks of time. Let’s say you have a 1-hour class. Spend the first 10 minutes doing a quick game-like activity that gets the kids used to using English again. These are called warm-up activities, or ice-breakers. After that, hit your book or pre-arranged activities for 30 minutes or so. Try to make something from the book into a quick game to break up the monotony. And use those last 20 minutes for a really fun game that all the students enjoy. This will have them leaving your class happy, and looking forward to the next day or week.
When the students like you and your class, you’ll be doing great at teaching ESL. Keeping their happy attitudes in check, however, is critical to maintaining discipline and reducing behavioral problems. When they start to get too rowdy, and they will, settle them down, or even punish. Remember, you’re the boss in this culture, so act like it!