There are teachers who are new to this ESL teaching gig and there are those whove been doing it for years.
But no matter if youre a novice or an old-timer, nobody wants to look unprofessional. You might think only inexperienced teachers risk looking incompetent after all they lack experience, but those who have been teaching for years may make the occasional blunder, too. So, when it comes to looking and acting like a pro, were all in the same boat. Here are the 7 mistakes youll want to avoid, if you wish to be taken seriously as an ESL teacher.
Although there is no such thing as a perfect teacher, commitment to improvement counts.
Avoid 7 Mistakes that Make You Look Unprofessional
Not Being Prepared
This ones fairly obvious and a mistake most teachers try to avoid making. But there are different levels of preparedness. You have a solid lesson plan and the right materials but are you prepared for the unexpected? What will you do if your Internet connection fails, your laptop starts acting up or the website you wanted to see is temporarily unavailable? And thats just in terms of technology, where lots of things can go wrong. But suppose technology is not an issue. Have you really checked the materials youll be using? Is there anything youre not sure about, perhaps a very technical term in the reading or a grammar point youre not confident teaching? Being prepared involves expecting the unexpected (in terms of things that could go wrong) but also anticipating students needs and doubts.
Preparedness and organization go hand in hand, and theres no better way to lose credibility than being in a constant state of disorganization. Do you know where all of your materials are? How do you keep track of assignments or grades? When you want to use a piece of realia, tool or toy, can you get it within a few seconds, or do you need to search through several boxes, closets and drawers? The problem with being disorganized is that it not only makes you look unprofessional, it also wastes precious minutes of your students time.
Taking Things Personally
A student drops out of the course, and you feel devastated. Or theyre not motivated, and they dont participate in class. Every now and then a student may even confess they hate learning English. Do not automatically assume its your fault. Although theres a lot you can do to help students overcome certain barriers to learning, there are things that are simply beyond your control. And their love/hate of the English language is one of them. A real pro offers to help, sets realistic goals for the student and tries to encourage and motivate them. But a real pro cant get emotional over the fact that a student hates English or does not want to continue learning. If you feel confident youve given your best, then just let it go.
Not Delivering What You Promised
This ones a biggie, folks. If you start the school year by promising results, youd better deliver them (and if you promise realistic results that should not be a problem). If you say youll start each class by establishing a learning goal, then thats what you should do. If you say to a group of young learners theyll get stickers for completing an activity, then youd better whip them out at the end of class. If youre in doubt about what youll deliver, dont make any promises. But being inconsistent, i.e. saying youll do one thing and then doing something else, or worse yet, completely forgetting, is very unprofessional.
Confessing Youre a Newbie
Weve all been there. Weve all had a first day on the job. Weve all been newbie teachers. But even if youre a newbie, theres no need to give your class full disclosure. If they ask, dont lie to them. But dont start a class by saying, Im new. In fact, this is the very first lesson I’ll be teaching. Please bear with me if I make some mistakes. In the words of the famous sports brand, just do it. Start teaching and do the best you can. Chances are your students wont notice minor mistakes if you seem to be confident and act like you know what youre doing.
Underestimating Your Students
Quite often we come across students who have more initiative than most. And on the other hand, teachers who underestimate them. Messages like, This is too hard for you, will not only squash their natural curiosity and motivation, it will make you look bad because youre supposed to encourage them and support them in their efforts. It does not mean that you cant give them realistic expectations. Students we most often underestimate are children. Youd be surprised at what they can understand and accomplish. So, resist the urge to make a game, exercise or test easier because theyre just kids. See if theyre up to a challenge instead! Learn the difference between a lazy student who claims something is too hard and a student who is motivated and enjoys the challenge of the concept. Have high expectations, but adjust them accordingly.
Forgetting Important Facts about Your Students
Needless to say, you should learn your students names as fast as you can. But not only that. Getting their professions, nationalities, or personal details mixed up is not cool. You give the impression that youre simply not interested when you should be doing the opposite: you should take the time to get to know them and their interests.
Do’s and Don’ts to Up Your Game
Dont be afraid to make mistakes
Admit when you make mistakes then correct them. Students can see that its OK to make a mistake, but mistakes need to be corrected.
Dont try to cover everything
A curriculum might be extensive, which makes it impossible to cover everything. Rather concentrate on meeting standards.
Dont avoid dealing with parents
An effective teacher communicates not only with parents (they can be of great help as they also want their child to do well) but with other staff members at the school.
Dont wait until students are failing to intervene
Be proactive and take notice of each students performance. Rather intervene while the problem is small.
Do include simple procedures and expectations
For effective classroom management, this is a must.
Do demonstrate commitment by
Encourage your students to be committed by showing you are motivated. One way is to always be on time for class.
Do vary your teaching methods
Find creative ways to present material that is relevant to keep students interested and help them remember what they have learned.
Nobody’s perfect and everybody makes mistakes.
But some are costlier than others. Impressions count, and a great deal of your success as an ESL teacher depends on how professional you seem to be. You can have one year or ten years of experience you should always act like a pro.
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