How to improve your teaching with ESL Teaching Tips - Understanding your profession / your students.
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How to improve your teaching with ESL Teaching Tips - Understanding your profession / your students.


Being an ESL teacher is sometimes confused with being an entertainer. This confusion is largely driven by the private sector in countries such as Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Being private, profit driven businesses means keeping students happy. Many school directors ask their teachers to be more outgoing, fun and interesting, and less, every ESL teachers most dreaded word, "BORING."

Many inexperienced teachers can misunderstand this (for good reason in many cases due to the limited English and / or lack of effective communication skills on the part of the director) and believe that they are being asked to entertain, babysit, become a comedian, a clown or something other than a professional (aka - boring) teacher.

In actuality, language teaching is a developing profession which, with each passing year, is becoming more professional, organized and thus more scrutiny placed on education and training specific to the profession. TESL Canada, for example will not qualify any teachers who did not take an approved teaching English course which includes the minimum number of hours of instruction in theory and an observed practicum.

Language teaching is a specific profession which is related to, but not the same as teaching a different subject to first language speakers, or very high level speakers / users of the language of instruction (such as a history or economics course in high school / university, etc in Canada). A language teacher is teaching a new language to learners who may be functioning at a child's level of that language.

The language teacher must employ different techniques in order to reach the goals of his or her lesson. This means that it is not as easy as merely saying, "go to page 42 and complete the exercise, page 43-46 for homework, any questions?" No, the language teacher must work with the students, the good teacher will take the responsibility to ensure that the students can understand the lesson, practise what they have just learned, retain it and continue to use it. This is NOT an easy task.

If students can not understand, they will get bored, tune out and not learn nor retain anything. The teacher must keep his or her speech / lesson / instruction at a level and tone that ensures maximum intake / understanding by all students. - ie Use easy to understand English which is appropriate for the level of the students (assuming that the students are separated by level). As a teacher if you can be tuned in to your students you are well on the way to success.

Get your message across to your students. This may mean body language, overacting, dancing, drawing pictures, etc. Some teachers see this as an insult to his/herself because of the, " I am a teacher, not a clown, comedian or entertainer," attitude. Well, yes you are a teacher, a second language teacher, not a geography or math professor. To relate this point more clearly, think of a time when you arrived in a new country / were in a situation where you didn't know the local language used and no one spoke your language (if you didn't experience, just imagine it). How did you try to get your message across to people? Aside from shouting your words louder, did you use body language, overacting, dancing, drawing pictures or something else? You were not entertaining, you were trying to communicate your message in any way you could combining both verbal and non-verbal communication. If you did this well, you were probably successful in your communication. This same technique employed in the classroom will both get your message across to the students and teach them how to get by without having to with codes back to their first language, thus having far greater language learning benefits, and instills confidence and independence as a new language user.

So sum up, Acting crazy, weird or off the wall may be the creative way you employ to deliver your lesson and instruction. You are not degrading yourself, you are showing what a good teacher you are who is smart enough to understand through and through, your profession and your clients. This will please your boss, he will receive good comments from his clients / your students. They will continue to enrol, you will be well known as a good teacher, the reputation of the school will sky rocket and you will be in a position to ask for a raise, or negotiate a better contract the next time around. You are in control of your future a a language teacher and remember if you will be working in the private sector, your boss needs profit to keep the school open and you working. Do well for him (keep the students in the school and telling others good things about the school) and he/she will reward you.



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