How to Teach English, the Awesome Way

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How to Teach English

So you Want to be Awesome?

So you want to know how to teach English, the awesome way? I have some good news for you. It’s really not that difficult and actually, teaching English isn’t like rocket-science. While some people may tell you that you need all these qualifications or whatever, in reality, someone with a wee amount of training and a high-school diploma could probably do the job I do easily enough. Sure, they might struggle with some of the more advanced grammar explanations or academic writing classes, but most foreigners in Korea just teach “conversation” which truly is the easiest thing you could ever possibly teach.

Anyway, if you want to know how to teach English, I’ll tell you how to do it the awesome way in 10 simple steps.

Chill Out, Part 1

Chill out and don’t take that crap home with you! There’s never an English teaching emergency where someone will need something before you see them in the next class. So, teach your classes and then just forget about it until you go into work the next day.

Chill out, Part 2

Chill out and don’t waste your time lesson planning. Of course, you really need to plan lessons. But like, once you do a certain minimum amount of it, it’s not going to make your classes any more awesome. See this post where I talk about how the law of diminishing returns proves conclusively that I’m not a terrible person for only spending an average amount of time on lesson planning.

Have a Life Outside of Work

Teaching English isn’t exactly rewarding most days. Students make the same mistakes over, and over, and over again and often seem like they’re not really making that much progress. If you teach very small classes, it’s different but I sometimes teach 40 at a time, so individual gains are impossible to see. This is my reality and not something I let get me down. What I’m saying is that if you put all your self-worth into helping your students improve their English skills, you might be really disappointed when you don’t see that progress. It’s best to have a life outside of work where you can focus your time and energy. A hobby of some kind!

Never Play Favourites

This is especially important if you give out grades to your students. It’s kind of the worst thing you could ever possibly do. Treat everyone the same no matter what and always be compassionate, but fair.

Mix It Up

Use a wide variety of activities in your classes. It makes things interesting for the students if they don’t know what to expect every single minute and it’s also useful when learning a new language. It pushes your students to use their brains and the language in a new way. Check out ESL Speaking for tons of ideas, or this post: 81 ways to make your ESL speaking class awesome.

Remember: Student-Centred is Best!

Your students should always be doing the hard work, not you. Here are tips for making that happen:

Always be Learning

I know I said that teaching English isn’t rocket-science and that a high school graduate could probably do it. Many teachers abroad use this excuse to learn precisely nothing about teaching methodology or practice, even if they’ve been doing it for 5 or 10 years. It’s actually quite shocking to me.

Even though it’s quite easy at the most basic level, there’s always something new to learn. So go to a conference, take a course, read a book, check out a website. It’ll be well worth your time and you’ll be able to incorporate some of that stuff in your classes. Has anyone ever regretted becoming a better teacher?

Give Feedback

I often do surveys at the beginning of the semester where I ask my students what they think my most important job is. They often say giving them feedback on their errors. Be sure to do this-the students will always appreciate it. But, do it kindly and don’t correct every single thing because that’ll be totally demoralizing. See: Giving Feedback in ESL Speaking Classes.

Remember Names

I’m really guilty of not remembering names. My excuse is that I have over 200 students in a single semester, but it’s actually more that I’m really lazy. Students just want to feel like you know who they are and that they have a personal connection with you. Names are one of the best ways to do that.

Don’t Forget Review

Never, ever make the mistake in thinking that if you’ve taught your students something once, they’ve remembered it. They haven’t. You’ll need to tell them again, and again, and again. Review is key to learning a language so help your students out with review activities or games each class. It’s far better that they know a few things really well than a ton of stuff not really at all. Try out this SOS Review Game for ESL Students.

Use a Textbook

Finally, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of great textbooks out there written by really smart people and edited by whole teams of editors. Use their awesome to create some awesome in your classes. It’ll probably go way better for you than doing random stuff, especially if you’re new to the teaching game. Need some ideas? See my ESL Textbook Reviews.

Ready for Awesome?

So, now you know how to teach English, the awesome way. What are you going to do in your classes this week to make them better? Leave a comment below and tell me!

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