5 Things Every New ESL Teacher Should Know

The learning curve for a new ESL teacher can be pretty steep.  But don’t get discouraged.  Here are five things that every new ESL teacher should know. 

ae4Master these basic concepts and ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to teaching like a pro and feeling totally comfortable every time you step into the classroom.

Time management is crucial

Time can get away from you much, much quicker than you realize.  It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity and realize that it has taken up 45 minutes and left you with no time for the rest of the lesson.

It’s just as easy to breeze through some activities and find yourself with huge chunks of time to fill on the fly.  Have a clock easily visible in your classroom, wear a watch, and keep a close eye on both.

Plan your lessons carefully and think through how much time each activity will realistically take your students.  When planning, err on the side of giving an activity too much time – rather than trying to squeeze too much into too little time – and be prepared with lots of filler activities,

Time management in the classroom is a skill that you’ll develop over time, as you grow into your teaching style and start to get a sense for your students, but be conscious of it right at the get-go.

Students will try to push your buttons

This is especially true if you are teaching kids, which will be the case for most new ESL teachers.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that kids will want to challenge authority (you), and see what they can get away with.

Remember, they’re just kids being kids.  Be prepared for some discipline issues.  Before you ever step into the classroom on the first day, have a plan for dealing with students who will push your buttons.

Most importantly, keep your cool and remember that discipline problems come with the territory, and once you get a handle on it, you’ll easily be able to shrug it off as part of the job.

You have to reach out to other teachers

As a beginner, there are a lot of things that are going to be a challenge – classroom management, dealing with difficult students, establishing a good working relationship with your co-teachers, finding ways to inspire the students and keep class interesting day after day, and figuring out ways to explain complicated grammar points, to name just a few.

These are things that other teachers, either at your school or friends who teach in the same area, have all been through and learned.  Reach out to them, ask questions, and learn from their advice and experience.

You need a lot of patience

As mentioned earlier, students will push the limits to see what they can get away with.  You’ll need to have a cool head and a lot of patience to handle difficult students without flipping your lid.

It’s not just behavior that you need to be patient with.  Learning a language is incredibly hard.  English is especially difficult, with all of its quirky spellings, random verb conjugation rules, and complex grammar patterns.

You’ll have students who will consistently mispronounce the same words over and over again no matter how hard you work with them, who will conjugate the same verbs wrong time after time, who will misspell the same common words despite your having drilled them for a dozen classes.

Don’t get frustrated, and don’t think less of your students.  Some aspects of learning a language are just incredibly difficult and take months or years to become really ingrained.  All you can do is keep encouraging them and have lots of patience.

Teaching ESL should be fun

If you’re doing your job right, you should look forward to going into the classroom most of the time.  There will be some days that you’ll be stressed out, or that your students will be acting out.

But, in general, an ESL class should be fun for both you and your students. The more fun they are having, the more they will loosen up and use English naturally, the more they will be participating and engaged in lessons, and the more they will look forward to coming to class.

Plan lots of games, don’t take anything too seriously, be yourself, and enjoy being in class with them.

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