Anyone who gets into English Language Teaching doesn’t do it for the money. There are lots of jobs out there that pay a lot, lot more. So why do we do it? For a lot of instructors, teaching ESL students isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation, a calling.
We’re not just getting students ready for a class or for an exam, we’re getting them ready for life. If we’re really serious about putting our best foot forward in make a positive difference in our students’ lives, it’s very important to set personal teaching goals.
Keeping goals in the forefront of our minds is the way to ensure that we’re the finest TESOL teachers that we can be – the optimum version of ourselves. And as we achieve our teaching goals, we can maximise our impact in supporting students to achieve their goals.
Below, I have outlined some of the most important macro goals that you should set for yourself, based on thirty plus years in the classroom.
Goal 1 Make your class student-centric
Student-centred learning should be the number one goal of all English Language Teachers. After all, you’re not the one whose English needs to improve.
Therefore, to be a good teacher, you should keep teacher-talk to an absolute minimum to allow your ESL students as much classroom time as possible to practice and improve their English.
This can be difficult for a lot of TESOL teachers to do, especially for instructors who don’t have a lot of experience. It can feel safer and more comfortable to maintain a traditional classroom setting, where the status quo is that teachers speak and students listen.
This is the way that teachers can maintain control of their class. To give up some of that control, even in the worthwhile pursuit of better student outcomes, can be a scary proposition.
This leads us to goal number 2.
Goal 2 Entrench yourself as the class authority
Making your ESL class student-centric and giving the students some control over how the lesson progresses doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set boundaries.
Boundaries give security to students who are not inclined to ‘cross over the line’ and provide discipline for those that are.
Good classroom management involves maintaining the right balance of teacher and student input. But you as the TESOL teacher decide what that balance is.
Setting and enforcing boundaries gives you the authority to create an organised environment, the type of environment that effectively engages students in learning.
Goal 3 Make language practical
The role of an English Language Teacher is not just for you to provide words, phrases, clauses and other utterances for your students to copy or mimic. You also need to provide information that allows them to use the language they have used in context.
Give words a context by discussing when, where, how and why they can be used, with example sentences and scenarios. By connecting new information with what your ESL students already know, you provide meaning.
Meaningfulness leads to better comprehension and is also a key component of storing words in long term memories.
Goal 4 Set your students up for success
There are a multitude of reasons why an ESL student may not do well in your classroom. One common reason is that some individuals are just not so good at learning a language – just like some can’t run fast or find it hard to play a musical instrument.
Other reasons, especially for older students, include: other responsibilities or habits impeding progress; study burnout; and a lack of funds to pay for classes.
Whatever the issues hindering a student’s progress, it’s up to you as their English Language Teacher to inspire them – because the inspiration you provide impacts on their success.
So, how can you inspire them? ESL Students will develop more of an urge to study if you look passionate about what you do as a teacher. Even when I’m tired or feel depressed about something, I walk into my classroom with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, determined to be enthusiastic and encourage enthusiasm.
The other key component of student inspiration in a TESOL classroom is to look for opportunities to give every student the chance to do something well.
For students who aren’t good speakers, give praise for remembering a grammar rule in their writing. For students who aren’t good writers, say ‘Well done’ when they provide a good response in a conversation.
Goal 5 Professional Development
The first four goals are all about what you can do right now. But what happens if what you are doing right now isn’t the best way forward 5 years from now? A wise English Language Teacher prepares for today AND for tomorrow.
TESOL methodology is not a static field of endeavour – it’s dynamic, with new concepts being added to it all the time. So, you should develop your own professional development program, apart from anything mandated by the school where you are employed.
You don’t need to attend any fancy expensive conferences. You can read online journals, buy methodology texts, and even have discussions with your fellow teachers about good ways to teach a certain subject or activity.
Whatever you decide to do, keep yourself updated and informed about best teaching practice – so that you can always be in a position to achieve your teaching goals.