Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 4th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he’ll let you know how you can start participating!
I’ve been a teacher for many years now. I studied Elementary Education in college, and have worked with students in various ways for over 10 years. Every experience has been very different, especially teaching in Korea. This month’s blog topic is “what I’ve learned in the ESL classroom”. I found it hard to separate what I’ve learned specifically in Korea from my other teaching experience, but being here has definitely allowed me to improve myself as a teacher and a person. Here are two things I’ve learned, and been able to greatly improve while teaching ESL in Korea:
Always be positive & enthusiastic
Everyone has those days where you just aren’t in the mood to interact with anyone. There have been a few days where something has happened in my personal life, and I’ve had to fight back being an emotional mess while working. Sometimes I’m just tired, and I don’t feel like being cheerful during class. I usually have to teach the same lesson between 7-9 times which can get unbelievably boring and repetitive. I’ve learned to leave all those feelings in my office, and to walk into class being excited to see and teach my students. The kids respond to every emotion I show. If I walk in sad and tired, they are bored and don’t want to engage into the lesson. If I go in cheerful, laughing, and smiling, the kids get excited and enjoy the lesson a lot more. One of my favorite ‘sayings’ is “fake it ’til you make it”, and this is especially true for anyone who is a teacher. Even if you’ve told the same joke for the 15th time…laugh with the kids like it’s the first time you said it. Your students deserve the best of you every single day!
Know your students
In the first few weeks of school when you are getting to know each class, it’s hard to distinguish between each one. It’s important to observe and get to know your students during the first few weeks of school so that you can plan your lessons appropriately. I have a few classes who are completely silent and need a lot of coaxing to speak at all. Other classes are outgoing and loud, and I can’t get them to be quiet. Some classes like certain games, and others don’t like games at all. Some classes are too rowdy to handle games so I have to do more small group and whole class activities. Know what works and doesn’t work for each class, and use that to tailor your lessons. It’s so important to know about your students as individuals and how they learn best!
Kids in Korea come from a whole different upbringing than the students I was used to teaching in the States. Most of my kids are exhausted during the school day because they go to private academies after school until 10, and then go home to study until around midnight (these are 10-12 year old kids!). Because of this, I try to keep my classes as easy going and fun as possible. I want them to enjoy learning English, and I want them to have a good time in my class. I let a lot of things go that I wouldn’t usually in the States. Knowing about their home lives, likes and dislikes, and how they learn best helps you build a rapport with them, and being sensitive to their needs will help to make a much better classroom environment.