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
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.
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.
Getting TEFL Certified: Life in Front of a Thai Classroom
A Reflection on Teaching in Thailand: Becoming a Better Teacher
About the Author
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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