At ITTT we strongly believe that teaching ESL is one of the best jobs out there, particularly if you want to travel overseas and enjoy life changing experiences. However, as with all jobs, teaching English can have its ups and downs. New teachers are especially likely to have some concerns about what to expect in their classroom role and these concerns are often quite unique to the field of teaching. Below are some of the most common concerns we hear from our TESOL course graduates before they start their first teaching job.
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You might be surprised to hear that this is a common concern of many first-time ESL teachers. Unfortunately, as a classroom teacher you are likely to have a wide range of different personalities in your lessons and you are not always going to get along with them all. Typically there is very little you can do in this situation other than remain professional at all times and refrain from showing your frustrations. You simply have to get on with the job and never show any favoritism to any members of the class.
Depending on where you end up working you could have as many as 30 or more students in your class at any one time, which can sometimes cause friction within the group. In any situation where you find yourself in a large group there is always a strong possibility that you will not get on with everyone and an ESL class is no different. Conflicts can develop over time or individual students with outside issues can sometimes bring their troubles into the classroom. If things get too heated simply separate the students and ensure they are not put together for pair or group work.
Your approach in this situation will largely depend on the type of students you are teaching. If your class is for young learners you will need to have a few rules in place regarding homework and the consequences of not completing it. In contrast, with adult students there is generally little you can do as the decision to complete homework or not is essentially down to them. In both scenarios the best thing you can do is to focus on motivating the students and giving them homework that they will actually want to do, rather than dull exercises straight out of a textbook.
Class sizes are something that vary considerably from one job to the next. In many situations there will be a set maximum number of students, but this is not always the case. Typically, language schools have a maximum of around 10 to 15 students, private schools around 25 to 30, while government schools can have anything up to 50 or even more. The number you are given will be out of your hands and you will need to plan effectively to get the most out of the group. With particularly large groups certain activities will become impossible to manage, so you will need to think ahead.
English students in language schools are usually grouped according to their level of English ability. The most common levels are:
- Level 1 Starter
- Level 2 Elementary
- Level 3 Pre-Intermediate
- Level 4 Intermediate
- Level 5 Upper Intermediate
However, in standard schools each class might contain students at different levels which can cause some issues for the teacher. Some of your class will be much stronger than others so you will need to be prepared with extra worksheets and other exercises for those that are likely to finish their work quickly. You should also be prepared to give extra explanations and guidance to the weaker members of the group.
This is a common concern among new teachers, but one that is unlikely to cause too many problems. The majority of ESL classrooms worldwide operate using immersion theory where nothing other than English is used in the classroom. Teachers who can speak the language of their students often fall into the trap of using translations, which can actually be detrimental to the overall progress of an ESL class. Of course, learning the language as a way of fitting into the local community is a good thing, just donât try to rely on it during your teaching sessions as it can often do more harm than good.
You often will not know the amount of resources available to you until you arrive at your new school. You might be lucky and have all the textbooks and activity resources you need or you might have very little at all to work with. In some cases you might even have to produce the entire curriculum and necessary resources yourself. The best approach is to carry a USB drive with you containing all the resources you have ever used so they are always available no matter what the state of the resources you are given.
Unfortunately, you never really know what each individual job will be like or what kind of students and fellow teachers you will be working with. If you find you are struggling for whatever reason you should first speak to colleagues or management to see if there is any way to change the situation. If things are really bad then it is usually possible to break your contract without too many penalties. However, this should always be a last resort as it is unfair on your students to leave in the middle of a semester.
Also read: What are the best books for ESL teaching?