my time at York English and at other ESL schools I worked with dozens
and dozens of ESL teachers, helping to train them and give guidance on
how to grow as educators. Here I pick out 7 qualities that the best of
those teachers shared.
simply, the teachers who care the most, get the most out of their
students and their students get a better English education. Dedication
in ESL teaching is about putting real thought and effort into every
lesson plan. Some teachers go to amazing lengths when preparing their
classes, putting real thought into what the students will get out of
every activity, squeezing every last drop of language from them and
sequencing their classes so that the students are challenged every step
of the way.
doesn’t just start and end with planning though. One of the most
satisfying feelings you can have as a teacher is helping an
underperforming student achieve their potential. If faced with a weak
student a great teacher will work with them outside of the class for
even just 5 minutes. That one-to-one time can make all the difference by
giving the student the confidence to succeed.
Writing a lesson plan doesn’t guarantee a good class but it’s definitely the first step towards greatness.
class you teach, whether it’s 30 minutes or 2 hours should be planned.
That means knowing what you and the students are going to be doing every
5-10 minutes. For each activity ask yourself, what activity are you
going to do, how long is it going to take, what skills are the students
going to be practicing and where are they going to be- in their chairs,
moving around, in pairs, on the floor. Keeping variety to this will help
your students get more from the class.
teaching can be frustrating sometimes. We’ve all had the odd student
who can make you tear your hair out. Maybe they’re misbehaving
constantly. Maybe they’re really slow to pick things up. Maybe they
don’t listen. 99 times out of a 100 this is down to something the
teacher is doing in the classroom. Behaviour issue: be stricter (see
below), slower student: more help after class, not listening: use a
trigger and make activities shorter to keep their attention span.
greatest teachers know that student behaviour can be changed to
something more positive and they know that big behaviour problems make
their classes less effective so they deal with them quickly and
effectively. Our teacher trainer here at York likes to think of this
like a formula: a perfect class has behaviour issues and the students
get 100% from the class. A class with 5 small behaviour issues may mean
that students only get 95% of what they could from the class. A class
with lots of major behaviour issues means that students only learn 50%
of the material. In short- being the ‘bad guy’ every now and again is
essential to giving students more practice.
in the sense of charity or buying gifts but in the sense of being
concerned for the well-being of your students. In the classroom the
students should be the star. You as the teacher should take the back
seat regularly so the students get the practice they need. Turn and
talks, pairwork, groupwork and mingles are all great at achieving this
and can be done with any age group.
a lighter side is essential when working with younger kids. This
doesn’t mean being a clown, but it absolutely means: smiling, praising
and making jokes. The first step to this is to get to know your
students. Personalising materials to the students can make even the most
boring grammar come to life “What were you doing last night?” “I was
with (student name) playing (video game that student x likes). Of
course, knowing when to draw the line is very important. Too much fun
and those dreaded behaviour problems will resurface.
7. Reflection aka “Evolve or Die”
no glass ceiling on teaching. A class taught 4 weeks into your teaching
career will be immeasurably better than your first one. The same goes
for a class taught 1 year in, compared to 6 months in. As educators we
want our students to learn and learn, but we must remember to learn
ourselves. Teaching gets boring if we do the same activities over and
over again and rehashing ideas isn’t just boring for us it’s boring for
the students too.
each class take a moment to reflect on what went well and what didn’t.
Put a tick next to activities that worked on your lesson plan and notes
next to those that didn’t. How could you change that if you had to teach
still, being able to take feedback from others is essential. That could
be from your teaching assistant, a parent, or the students. Learn to
love observations - remember they are there to help you!