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Why Students Liking Their ESL Teacher Does Matter

WORLDWIDE | Tuesday, 26 July 2011 | Views [5389] | Comments [1]

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, by goldendragon

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, by goldendragon

What happens if you and your ESL students don't get along?

That's a good question, and I believe it is a topic that should be analyzed a bit further because – although teaching is still teaching – there are generally a few more negatives to when students do not like their ESL teachers in particular.

ESL Teachers vs. Normal School Teachers

We all had those teachers during our formative years that no one seemed to enjoy, but they still continued to teach at the same school and have stories and exaggerated tales being told of them throughout the generations of students.  It doesn't matter how much a student dislikes the teachers; for the most part, as long as the school thinks the teacher is out there following the curriculum, he remains in his position.  And, since general schooling is mandatory, the students will keep coming over the years.

This is the main difference between normal school teachers and ESL teachers.  Going to ESL classes is generally not part of a set curriculum, and, therefore, both the students and parents of said students have more control over who they ultimately choose as a teacher.

Why Students Liking the ESL Teacher Matters

You Get More Work

When students like their ESL teacher, they let people know.  Not only do they tend to request further lessons with the same teacher, but their friends and acquaintances start requesting lessons as well.  If you're in a tight community in another country, you just might find that your normal classroom lessons (depending on your teaching setup) become packed with students, and your private tutoring schedule fills up, too.

You Keep Your Job

Obviously, all ESL teaching setups will vary, but happy students generally mean a happy school.  Your employers will enjoy that you are building a positive reputation for their curriculum and want to keep you on board as long as possible.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, a teacher that no students enjoy will potentially push students to other language schools in the area, and that could mean no contract renewal, or even a lost job, for the teacher.

Your Students Pay Attention

If you go back to your own personal schooling days and think about the courses that you learned and/or enjoyed the most, chances are that the teacher was someone you respected or simply liked.  They probably made the material into something the student (you at the time) could relate to, and this is a key factor in the ESL classroom as well.  If you can get your students to actually pay attention, they will simply learn more English!

Getting Students to Like You, the Teacher

All teachers and students are created differently, so while you can't please them all, you can at least do a few things to ensure you please most.  I can say from experience that this is difficult with some unruly students, but the more you reach out, the more you can help to change the experience for the better.

Show an Interest in Their Lives

When a student talks about his or her extracurricular activities, family and friends, try to remember the details (maybe jot down notes) and ask him or her about them periodically throughout your teaching experience.  It will just give that extra bit more to make the student feel like you, the teacher, thinks of him as more than just another number.

Involve Everyone in the Class

Leaving someone out of the conversation or the activities will make them feel even more distanced from the class and the teacher.  When a student has no connection with a class, they will most likely stop paying attention and also have no incentive in even staying your student in particular.

Use References They Can Relate To

Relevant examples can mean the difference between understanding and remembering or just forgetting immediately after a lesson.   As a teacher, your job is to provide the best learning environment possible, and even if you are a wealth of knowledge, not being able to share that in a way the students can relate to is just like wasting time.  When your students learn more, they feel more excited about coming to your classes because it actually pays off.

Don't Show Your Frustration

Teaching, ESL or not, is not easy.  There will be times that you feel frustrated with your students or the progress they are making.  However, you must never, ever let that frustration truly show in class.  One of the quickest ways to push students away is to make them feel even more distanced by your anger and like they aren't learning anything.

Final Thoughts

For working holiday makers or backpackers taking up jobs in foreign countries in order to save some extra travel money, they must both understand that the business of ESL teaching is a little different than the business of becoming a long-term school teacher in your home country.  As an ESL teacher, the act of getting your students to like you will be one that helps them learn the most and you to keep working more and longer.

Related Articles:

Getting TEFL Certified: Life in Front of a Thai Classroom

A Reflection on Teaching in Thailand: Becoming a Better Teacher

About the Author

Brooke Schoenman is a world traveler, brief archaeologist, foreign language learner, and former ESL teacher turned Australia expat. She writes for both her own world travel blog and an Australia travel guide, and you can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook for travel inspiration.

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Tags: education, esl, teaching abroad, travel, work and holiday



I agree with all these points. Another reason it's important for your students to like you is that they learn more when they are interested and comfortable (in TESOL terms, when their "affective filter is lowered"). It's also important to be yourself and to remember that the students are the most important person in the classroom!

  Jenna Jul 27, 2011 7:15 AM

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