What I wish I had known on my first day teaching ESL | TEFL Jobs London

What I wish I had known on my first day teaching ESL

By Kori Czuy
TEFL Teacher for 8 years

The moment I took for myself in the washroom before entering my first classroom seemed like an eternity. Checking my watch every seven seconds, counting down until I had no choice but to un-rattle my knees, remove the frog that had temporarily checked into my throat, and ‘act’ like a teacher. Although honestly, the second I saw the eager-to-learn students, intrigued to meet their new teacher, my nerves exited through stage left. But, I was still inexperienced, confused, and completely oblivious to the teachings of ESL.

At 21, with only a Bachelors degree and a 35 hr rush ESL course under my belt, I was thrown into the teaching world. Now, after 8 years of experience, I look back on that traumatizing first day; reflecting on all the amazing things I have been able to do with the skills and knowledge I have acquired during this time –skills and knowledge I have learned myself and with the help of mentors I still idolize.

teaching resources* Adapt your resources and materials according to your students’ needs and interests.
I remember trying to always create my own resources, (yes, often resulting in an excess of caffeine, overflowing with stress). There are so many great resources out there now, there is no need to do this on a regular basis, but remember to adapt them according to your students. Everyone learns best when interested in the topic, and its related to their lives.


* Elicit Answers.
We all want our students to get the correct answer, but how can they learn if the teacher is always supplying it. Regardless of how much the students love it, and think it’s best for them, they will forget that point…oh, a good 10 seconds later. Ok, give them 2 minutes! Instead, give them a hint, a synonym, mouth the pronunciation instead of saying it, draw a picture (its English class, not art class – the more horrendous the picture, the more memorable it will be!), or even act it out. Even better, have another student explain the answer (in English), as this allows more than one student to benefit from the question.

* It’s ok to be wrong or not know the answer.
Advanced English Grammar….the mere mention of it sends students and teachers alike scattering like felines in a rainstorm. If you haven’t studied this specifically, chances are your students have or will stump you in class with a grammar mind-bender. Don’t worry, its happened to the best of us. When this first happened to me, I immediately let my inexperience and younger ego take over, and I made up the best answer possible, changed the subject and forgot about it. Oops! Be honest, say you are not sure, it’s a great question, and you will get back to them next class. This is an opportunity to get the correct information both for the students and for your grammar knowledge bank.

* Immediately create an environment of trust and confidence.
A classroom without trust and confidence (your confidence in your students, the students’ confidence in the teacher, and, more importantly, in themselves) leaves a classroom struggling for success. Allow the students to be confident with their mistakes, we all make them (see point above), but we also learn the best from them. Students must have the confidence to make that mistake, but also have the trust in both the teacher and in the classroom environment to do so.

What I wish I had known before I metaphorically swallowed that frog and jumped into my first ESL classroom….


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