1. Be Knowledgeable and Prepared
As an English teacher, you should know more about English and Language Acquisition than the average person. Know you tenses, know you prepositions, and try to have a decent grasp on spelling–always Spell Check! No one can possibly know everything about a language, but make sure that your lack of knowledge doesn’t cost you your students’ respect. Personally, I am no better than anyone, and I always do myself the favor of preparing a solid lesson plan, and reviewing the material before a lesson.
2. Listen to your Students
Open your heart, feel the classroom’s energy, and pay attention to details. Typical me, but it works! As an ESL teacher (any teacher), you cannot allow yourself to be the center of the class, or do things like forget a student’s name or ignore a question. I tend to redirect most of my lessons according to my students’ needs. Having a solid lesson plan is as important as knowing how to depart from it depending on your students’ moods and/or aspirations for the day. This is their class, you are here to serve them with the most precious gifts, knowledge and fluency. Have respect for their eagerness to learn, and understand the daily struggle that learning a new language can be.
3. Have a Good Time
This is a no brainer, and has everything to do with building and responding to the classroom’s energy. In a nutshell, if you are bored, your students will be bored. If you don’t want to be in class, your students won’t either. On the other hand, if you’re a natural entertainer, do that, and throw in a little knowledge once in a while! If you spend an entire class having a good time in English, your students will learn just as much (if not more) as they would have in a typical and overdone rigid/interactive presentation.
I keep referring to them as “students” or “your students,” but I try not to get wrapped up with hierarchy and such social divides. If this is your job, you should spend more time with them than you do with your friends and family members. Treat them as such. My students are my friends, and more often than not, they are my teachers too. I have tremendous respect for them, and this makes for trusted relationships, and a harmonious classroom environment.