10 Ways Teaching ESL Will Help You In Life

When I first decided to move to Asia to teach ESL, the impression most of my family and friends had was that I was taking a “year off” or a “break” from real life. I’ll admit, it worried me a little bit, too. 

रेणूWould future potential employers look at a year or two of teaching on my resume and think that I had just been an irresponsible bum for a while?  Would I feel like I’d wasted that time?

It turned out, though, that the years I spent teaching were some of the most beneficial (and fun!) in my life, and ended up taking my life and career in directions I wouldn’t even have imagined before leaving home.  Here are eight ways I found that teaching ESL will help you in life.

It Will Make You More Patient

Patience is a vastly important – and underrated – skill that takes time and practice to develop.  As a teacher, you’ll often find yourself frustrated with students who keep making the same mistakes over and over again, or with the same discipline problems cropping up day after day.

As you learn to understand where these students are coming from and to give them the space and patience that they need, you’ll be developing a skill that will carry over into every aspect of your life.

You Will Understand How To Navigate Cultural Differences

You will find all sorts of cultural differences popping up in the classroom, from the way that your co-teachers treat students to the kinds of snacks your students bring to school.

Some are little differences that are just interesting to notice; others will take some real patience, communication, and understanding to make sense of.

If you treat those moments with an open mind and a willingness to learn and understand, you’ll find that you come away from your teaching experience with a strong ability to find common ground across cultures.

You Will Get Incredibly Good At Communicating Through Language Barriers

Nothing tests your communication skills like standing by yourself in front of a dozen 8-year-olds whose English ability is limited to “Hello, how are you?”

At this point, you have to learn to communicate with every tool in your tool box, from body language to tone of voice to pantomime, and anything else you can come up with.  And you’ll find that the next time you’re traveling in a foreign country, asking where the bathroom is will be a piece of cake.

You’ll Understand Your Own Language And Culture Better

Seeing English through the eyes of students who are just learning it gives you a much deeper grasp of the language’s unique challenges, quirks, and beauty.

As you teach, you will inevitably begin incorporating aspects of your home culture as well – holidays, traditions, folk tales – which will give you a chance to see your own culture and language from a fresh, new perspective.

You Will Become Much Better At Public Speaking

No matter where your journey through life takes you after teaching ESL, chances are that at some point, public speaking will be involved.

It’s a skill that anyone needs in life, and few people have the chance to hone and practice being comfortable in front of a large group. As an ESL teacher, though, your job puts you in that position just about every day.

You’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you will start to feel being in the limelight.

You’ll Learn How To Keep a Cool Head

Most new teachers get flustered or frustrated when things start to go wrong or a class starts to get out of hand.  As your teaching career goes on, though, you’ll learn how to deal with it all without batting an eye – after all, staying calm and in control is one of the most important classroom management skills you can learn.

And that same mentality applies to so many other situations in life, whether you’re about to give a big presentation at work and the file you need won’t load, or you’re traveling through a bustling city when one of your travel-mates’ wallet gets stolen.

It Inspires You To Be Creative

Teaching anything requires an incredible amount of creativity.  Teaching when your students don’t speak the same language as you requires constantly coming up with new ideas of ways to present materials and to communicate complicated ideas.

Sometimes you can plan it out beforehand and figure out a good game or activity to present a concept.  Other times, you realize in the moment that a student is struggling with a concept and are challenged to think of a way to communicate that will make sense to them.

It can get zany and ridiculous, it takes trial and error and not being afraid to have your idea fall flat and meet a bunch of blank stares.  And it bring out your most creative side.

It Will Bring Joy To Your Life

Don’t underestimate the importance of having a job that’s fun.  Once you get your stride in the classroom, you will find that going to work every day doesn’t feel like work at all. Click To Tweet

Sure, you’ll have to grade homework and occasionally deal with discipline issues.  But teachers who open their hearts to their students and put in the work and effort to be at their best leave the classroom every day feeling energized and happy.

Whether you end up going back to school afterwards, or working an office job, or are inspired to pursue a completely unexpected career path, you’ll be doing it with the knowledge that you can have a fulfilling job and feel that joy every day in your work.

Have you been an ESL teacher before? Are you currently an ESL teacher? Let us know how teaching ESL is (or has) improved your life in a comment below.

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C. Venter - 2017 - Teaching in China

Thanks to the help and hard work of my recruiter at Reach To Teach, my journey to China was such a smooth and nearly stress free process. I have now been happily living in China for 6 months. Thanks, guys.


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Reach to Teach is absolutely the best tool to have going into the teaching industry in Asia. I worked with Carrie Kellenberger when going to Taiwan and she managed to give me more than I asked and did frequent check-ups.

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