ESL Teachers Ask: How Do I Know Iím Good at Teaching ESL?

ESL Teachers Ask: How Do I Know Iím Good at Teaching ESL?

"I teach English to pupils aged between 11 and 14 in a middle school in France. Teaching has been part of my life and a true vocation for 15 years now. But recently, I have started to wonder if I’m any good at it. It’s getting harder for me to be motivated and sometimes I wonder about my skills and I lose confidence. I know I still want to teach. Sometimes, I don’t know how.*"

Let’s not confuse the ability and talent to teach with a lack of motivation. You may be really good at teaching but have simply lost your groove.

Every ESL teacher has, at some point or another, wondered if he/she is cut out for this ESL teaching gig. Maybe it’s because we’ve had a hard week (or month!); maybe it’s because we’re simply not clicking with a class; maybe it’s because our students are not achieving the results we expected. Whatever the reason may be, let’s not confuse the ability and talent to teach with a lack of motivation. You may be really good at teaching but have simply lost your groove. You’re not feeling it. But we’ll leave the question of how to overcome a lack of motivation and boredom for another article. Here, let’s focus on finding out if you’ve made the right career choice.

8 Ways to Tell You’re Good at Teaching

  1. 1

    You Like to Explain Things

    A student asks, “Why do we say an apple but a banana?”, and your reaction is, “Glad you asked!” Whether it is the difference between a and an, or for and since, or why we use the simple past with ago, if you feel excited about explaining these things and helping your students understand the why, you’re a good teacher. Of course, we don’t have explanations for everything, but a good teacher also knows when to stop explaining and simply start using the language.

  2. 2

    You Have Good Verbal Communication Skills

    Can you speak clearly and in a way that won’t confuse students? Can you give concise instructions? Can you organize your thoughts and verbalize them in a way that really gets the point across? Then, you have nothing to worry about! If on the other hand, you feel shy about speaking to a large class, don’t give up. Practice makes you more confident and improves your communication skills.

  3. 3

    You Are a Good Listener

    Teachers have to speak and explain things, give instructions and correct students. But it is essential for ESL teachers to be good listeners. And not just to be able to provide prompt corrections and feedback. You need to be a good listener to bond with your students, to get to know them and know more about their language learning goals. You need to be a good listener to make any necessary adjustments to a single activity or the entire lesson plan. Does your mind wander while your students speak or carry out an activity? Again, practice really helps.

  4. 4

    You Are Goal-oriented

    ESL students come to class with a goal, even very young learners. You’re not there to babysit, or “complete a level”, or “finish a book”. Good ESL teachers know exactly why their students are taking the class, and they are able to define daily lesson goals. Good ESL teachers are able to work with goals that work for their students. And “finishing a book” is not a good goal.

  5. 5

    You Follow Through

    You tell your class you will correct their homework, and you do. You tell them you will prepare a special lesson for Halloween, and you do. You promise a particular student you'll give him a list of websites he can use to watch videos in English, and you do just that. It doesn’t have to be immediately; it may take a couple of days. But you do what you say you’ll do. Here, it is very important to not make any promises you can’t keep. Can you give your class a list of 50 online resources they can use at home? Or 10? Good teachers know what they can and can’t deliver, but once they commit to something, they follow through.

  6. 6

    You Can Evaluate Their Work

    This is a very tricky point, one that many ESL teachers struggle with. Not all evaluations are clear-cut multiple choice test results. There are plenty of gray areas, like when we evaluate speaking or writing. Good ESL teachers know that students must be evaluated in terms of accuracy, fluency and use of language and vocabulary, among other things. Good teachers know what results are expected for each proficiency level. Good teachers evaluate students in terms of goal achievement. And once again, practice is the key.

  7. 7

    You Create a Friendly, Supportive Atmosphere

    If your students smile during class, laugh out loud and seem to be having a good time, this is a good sign. But it’s not all about the laughs. You need to be able to not only control your emotions (as in the urge to throttle a student!) but also defuse any tense situations that may arise, like a heated argument between students or even a fight. Good ESL teachers use the right level of competition and encouragement, while supporting those students who might need a little extra help.

  8. 8

    You Know When to Stop

    You don’t ramble on and on, and know when to stop speaking. You know when you’re getting too personal and when to stop asking questions. You know when to stop a game that has gotten out of hand. Boundaries are important for your students but for you, too.

You may already be comfortable doing some of these things, or even a real pro.

If you’re not, remember that no ESL teacher just pops into a classroom for the first time knowing all of this. Practice makes all the difference, and teachers do get better in time.

* This question was sent in from a real ESL teacher, just like you! If you have a question you’d like to have answered, share it in the comments below. Or tweet your question to @busyteacher_org with the hashtag #ESLTeachersAsk. Your question might get picked and featured in an article!

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