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.
Lately, I have been struggling with shifting my professional aspirations from social media and digital marketing to English as a second language education. I have been aggressively sending resumes to ESL schools, and was mostly called in to discuss my talent in the marketing sphere. Consequently, I have developed the idea of a curriculum for students that would also optimize and enhance an ESL school’s online presence. The core idea is that students, while learning about social media and the social power of the Internet, would also have the opportunity to spread their affiliation to the school and boost online content for the school.
Here is a sample of lessons from the Digitally Yours module:
- About pages, profiles, and bios best practices (About.me, and company website)
- Social Media part 1– Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Social Media part 2– Pinterest, Quora, and more
- Blogging 101– Your website (Tumblr, WordPress, and intro to SEO)
- Email 101– (Efficiency: Less is more, and signature)
- Digital newsletter project
This module implies extensive vocabulary and writing practices. It will also be an outlet for students to interact with the American culture in a way that is becoming traditional. Social media literacy will also boost targeted reading and writing on the students’ part. Simultaneously, the school will benefit from raw content from the students who show their affiliation to the school.
ESL schools have an amazing marketing model because of a clientele that is so present in the company, students are in class all day and give countless feedback and testimony. I believe that this model is a win (student learn real life skills) win (the school receives organic Internet exposure) win (I get to teach ESL, share my expertise, and help others).
What are you thoughts about this idea? Win? Loss?
I was an ESL student in five different schools and programs in the United States, and learned English under six different teachers back in Belgium. I started my college career as an ESL student, and was awarded a TESOL certificate upon graduating. Throughout college, I tutored French, Italian, and ESL. This summer I taught at the fifth grade level at the 2012 Gonzaga University Summer Institute Language Camp for refugees. Since then, I haven’t taught due to a myriad of reasons including a desire to learn more about online marketing and the fact that most ESL job postings seek native English speakers.
These are five reasons why selected non-native speakers deserve a chance to teach ESL:
1. Cultural Shock and Frustration
Studying ESL is mainly about language acquisition, but there is a cultural aspect to the language that cannot be neglected. Cultural sensitivity and awareness are two indispensable qualities for ESL instructors. Having moved to the United States at nineteen years old, I remember the culture shocks, and can relate to ESL students when it comes to confusing idiomatic expressions, or when facing issues such as accent discrimination. In my personal experience as an ESL student, I have always had terrific experiences with English teachers, coincidentally all of them had some type of diverse cultural exposure–minor or major in foreign language or studies, study/teach abroad, immigration, and such.
2. Conjugating and Grammacating
Native speakers, can you conjugate a given verb at the present present perfect?
Learning a language is a field of study, it is a skillful art, a passion that only a few have. Trilingual in French, Italian, and English, I am currently learning Portuguese, and I simply cannot get enough. Since I love words so much, and was exposed to many languages at a young age, I fairly enjoy grammar rules, conjugation tables, vocabulary, syntax, and sentence structure. This may be weird to most people, but again, most people are not meant to be language teachers, and that’s alright. In my TESOL class, last year, during grammar and conjugation sessions, although I was a non-native speaker, I was one of the most current when it came to tenses, parts of speech, and sentence format.
3. Brave New Vocabulary
I remember learning the word “obvious”, and nothing is obvious about that word except for its definition. It all ties into this concept of remembering the learning experience, and thus being able to relate and pass it on in a genuine way. Again, I do not mean to say that L1s aren’t genuine in their teaching, and maybe there is some research out there about ESL teacher having learned another language than their own, and therefore rocking their jobs.
4. The Learning Journey
All in all, language acquisition and education is not about having the perfect vocabulary and pronunciation, it is about understanding the journey of learning a new language (and culture). I cherish my extensive knowledge of English because I am able to remember the struggle that building one sentence once was. I remember what worked for me, and I know that understanding structures takes a learner further than memorizing grammar and conjugation tables.
Being resourceful takes a student a long way, and the fact that I am still (and will always be) a student allows me to share my experience and tricks to my fellow students. I feel alive when I teach or tutor a language. Although French is my native language, I feel more confident teaching English. When I tutor or teach French, there are questions that I cannot answer, and concepts that I cannot articulate, because they feel innate to me. To stay on the resource topic, I don’t remember looking up basic French conjugaison or grammar, and I believe that it has made me a less articulate French as a Second Language educator.
This applies to a very small portion of non-native speakers, in no way am I in favor of ESL teachers with poor English skills and knowledge. I do believe in immersion in the classroom (L2 to L2).
Thesaurus has tremendously expanded my vocabulary. It took a certain level of English proficiency for me to use it instinctively, but once I did, my writing improved drastically. Therefore, writing papers got much easier, and professors started to acknowledge my arguments. Unlike a translator, Thesaurus makes you discover English through English, which allows a richer diversity in your vocabulary.
Words I have looked up on Thesaurus.com:
Speaking of translators, WordReference was my translating tool of choice. However, there are many out there, and I trust that you will find the one that is just right for you, and your first language. I found myself using a French-English translator for very precise words difficult to draw, act out, or briefly describe.
Words I have looked up on WordReference.com:
- To shuck
As a foreign student for one year of high school and four years of college, I have experienced my share of awkward misunderstandings and miscommunications. It hurts! Your social life can be greatly affected from not understanding basic slang, idioms and expressions. UrbanDictionary was able to break that barrier. I have used it to solve and translate many acronyms, and jokes that I did not think were funny.
Words I have looked up on UrbanDictionary.com:
- White Trash
- Tea bag
- (My Name)
All in all, I am thankful the Internet at large for being such an amazing resource for my English acquisition.
Join this Kumbuya online tribe, and feel free to post anything you have found useful as a foreigner across the world.