5 Life Skills Gained From Teaching ESL

5 Life Skills Gained From Teaching ESL

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So, you’re wondering what to put on your resume after a year or more of teaching ESL – especially if the career you’re looking to move into is completely unrelated to teaching. 

teacherWell, good news: teaching ESL gives you so many useful experiences and skills that apply to just about any situation you may find yourself in.  Here are five examples of life skills you’ll learn as an ESL teacher that will carry over into whatever you do next in life.


As an English teacher, you’re literally a pro at communicating and connecting with people.  Think about how many times you’ll find yourself standing in front of a group of kids with very little common language, and with all the responsibility for teaching and keeping them engaged for an hour or more.

Communication is more than just knowing how to creatively express your thoughts, too.  It’s understanding how to express things diplomatically and tactfully, without offending or upsetting anyone – and you’re guaranteed to get plenty of practice with that in the classroom, as well.

No matter what work environment you end up in next, your ability to communicate will be a strong asset.


Teachers are more than just people standing in front of the classroom writing on the whiteboard and giving lectures.  You are a leader in your class in every sense of the word.

Teachers have to know how to inspire their students, how to manage difficult students, how to keep individuals and the entire class on track to complete a task on time, and how to keep their cool when things are getting a little out of hand.

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So, if you move on from your teaching career and find yourself heading up a team on a tight deadline, or dealing with team members who don’t get along, you’ll know you’ve got those skills in your pocket.

Time Management

After a while in the classroom, you’ll find that your time management skills become almost supernatural. Click To Tweet You’ll hardly have to look at the clock to sense that it’s time to start wrapping up, and you’ll know intuitively when you need to extend an activity to make sure that students really get the full benefit from it.

This heightened awareness of time spills over to any other projects or activities or work that you take on.  If you are giving a presentation or a speech, or trying to finish up a project before the end of the work day, you’ll have the time management skills you learned in the classroom to help keep you on track with it.


Nothing will teach you patience like working with kids.  They will test your patience on every level; In the short-term day to day of managing behaviors and keeping a cool head in the face of general kid craziness; and your patience will be tested long-term, too, as you find yourself correcting the same mistakes again and again, and dealing with the same behaviors and disruptions for months on end.

But you’ll also see the way that the more patience you have, the more it pays off in the long-run.  The rewards of seeing a concept finally click after months of working with a student on it will be valuable.

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Seeing a shy student start to come out of her shell halfway through the year, after trying many tactics, will only drive home how important and rewarding it is to be patient with people – because not only will it pay off in the long-run, it will let you move through your workday and week with much, much less stress.

A Sense of Humor

Alright, it might not be something to put at the top of your resume, but it’s one of those things that will help to get you through life in every way.  No one makes it through a year of teaching without the ability to laugh at themselves.

A lot.

Working with kids, you’ll have to develop a thick skin, and find the ability to inject humor into situations.  If there’s one take-home skill from teaching ESL, it’s your ability to laugh at yourself, to laugh at a ridiculous situation, and to use humor to keep things in perspective.

Have you been an ESL teacher or are you currently teaching? What skills have you picked up a long the way that will help you out in life? We want to hear about them, let us know in the comments section below. 

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