Delivering inspirational lessons is what a teacher should always strive to achieve. Being a teacher is about more than just giving lessons, enforcing rules, and grading tests. It’s also about being an example, a role model, and an inspiration.
Striving to make sure that your students have the best English instruction you can give them is important, but there is so much more than grammar patterns and verb conjugations that they can take away from your class.
Here are five completely universal lessons that I hope my ESL students take away from my classes.
Don’t be Afraid of Making Mistakes
So much of the educational culture we work in is based around getting the right answers. Whether it’s to a question asked in class, or on a test, making a mistake can be deeply embarrassing and traumatic to a lot of students, so much so that it’s fairly common to see them give up on trying rather than risk failure or embarrassment.
But mistakes and failures are the lifeblood of creativity, and I hope that my students find in my classroom an environment where they feel safe to risk mistakes.
Language is for Communicating
With all the pressure to learn a new language so that they can get into a good school, have a good career, and make their parents happy, a lot of kids miss that the first, and really the only purpose of learning a language is to communicate with other people.
The score they got on their spelling test, or how well they did on a worksheet, is only secondary; as a teacher, I want my students to see that what matters most is their ability to communicate and connect with someone from a completely different culture, not their English test scores.
Learning can be fun
It’s easy to get stuck thinking that learning is a chore, defined mostly by rote memorization and test taking. But with games, activities, art projects, songs, and all sorts of other interesting and engaging ways to get students speaking English, there is no reason for kids to be spending the whole class bored at their desks.
I hope that my students come away from class with the sense that school and education doesn’t have to feel like a chore or an obligation, and that they can learn while having a great time.
Your grades don’t define you
The emphasis that schools and parents often put on grades leads kids to the feeling that their grades make up a huge part of their identity. From feeling like they need an A to be good enough to feeling that consistently poor grades means they aren’t as capable or valued as other students.
Grades can have a pretty huge impact on a kid’s self-esteem and sense of self. I try to make sure that each student feels valued for who they are as an individual, regardless of what’s written on their report cards.
There is room for all different talents
Schools tend to value a certain set of talents centered around test-taking and memorization. It can be very challenging to incorporate the talents of students who don’t fit into those skill sets, students who are so high-energy that all they want to do is jump up and run around in circles and make loud noises, or who seem only interested in drawing and doodling.
How a teacher handles those students can be a big lesson to everyone. As a teacher, I do my best to plan activities and jobs to make use of their talents, and hope that they come away with the lesson that each one of them can be an individual and be valued for their unique skills without having to conform, and that there is a place within the classroom structure where their uniqueness can shine.
Remember, your students aren’t just learning English. They are learning about themselves, their talents, and their place in the classroom and society. If you are mindful of the bigger lessons that they could learn in your classroom, you can help them gain some valuable perspectives that will stick with them well beyond their ESL classes.