10 Things Your ESL Teacher Wants You To Know!

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As a classroom teacher, I know I tend to be very much about me & what I do on a day-to-day basis. However, one of my absolute best friends in the world is a school library media specialist and has been for over a decade. Having spent years discussing our jobs, I realized one day how very one-sided we (yes, I am including myself), classroom teachers are. We really do forget that there are a lot of other people that help us do our jobs & assist our students each day. To bring more awareness to this & to help bridge the gap between those people and the classroom teacher, I came up with this blog series. I have enlisted the help of some awesome educators that are going to help us, classroom teachers, understand a little bit more about what they do, how they can help us, how they can help our students, & how we can all work together for the sake of the student learning process.

Our Guest Blogger today is: Debbie

 A little bit about Debbie 
I'm an ESL Teacher. I've been working in the field for four years now. I have taught at language schools in Boston as well as at a Japanese college in Boston - a school where Japanese women came to study abroad for a year. I also was the head of the Early Childhood department there briefly before moving on to teach fro home.  I currently teach English online to students all over the world but especially in Brazil and China.  When I"m not working, I love spending time with my fiance, my nieces and nephews and learning about other cultures.  I don't only make ESL products but also Kindergarten products about other cultures.

Connect with her through her TpT Store. Be sure you check out her free product as well!

10 Things Your ESL Teacher Wants You To Know

    1.  I Don’t Get Paid to Talk

        The most common misconception that people have about being an ESL Teacher is that I get paid to talk. People often tell me, I’m in the perfect field because I am very talkative.  However, being an ESL Teacher is more about listening and less about talking.  My job is to get the students to talk.

    2. I Have to Think About Many Different Things When Working with a Student

         Many people think that I listen to a student speak and simply correct their grammar and pronunciation.  There is much more to ESL than teaching grammar and pronunciation.  I have to think in detail about each aspect of language (speaking, listening, reading and writing) so that students gain the skills to be effective communicators.  For example, in speaking, ESL teachers pay attention to tone, inflection, intonation, and word choice/vocabulary.   

Me with three Japanese students and a professional soccer player who plays for New England Revolution. The soccer player is Japanese as well and friends with the girl on his right.

    3.  Being an ESL Teacher is Like Being a Language Teacher.

        Being an ESL Teacher is really not much different than being a French or Spanish teacher.  When I am teaching English in the United States, I am teaching students the language that they are constantly exposed to and need for them to participate in society. 

     4.  I Don’t Fix Every Mistake                                                           

      Have you ever tried to tell a story and been interrupted by someone who fixes your grammar, vocabulary or even the details of the story?  It gets annoying and you don’t want to talk anymore.  That’s exactly how it is for ESL students.  That is why I won’t fix every mistake they make. I may repeat what they said back to them in correct English such as:
    Student: I goed to the park this weekend.

    Me: Oh, you went to the park.  What did you do?

    Student: I went on swings and slide.

    Me: Oh you went on the swings and the slide. Did you like it?

    Student: Yes, I liked

    Me: Oh, you liked IT.  

    Student: I liked it. 

    Or I will find a mistake that they keep making and fix that particular mistake.  For example:

     Student: Yesterday, I go to the store with my mom. 

    Me: Oh. Did you buy anything?

    Student: Yes, I buy a toy.

    Me: Make sure you are using the past tense.  Say, “I went to the store with my mom. I bought a toy.”

   Student: Oh yes.  I went to the store. I bought a toy.

    5.  I Don’t Have To Speak Another Language

       A common question I get is, “Do you speak another language?” I also get, “How many languages do you speak?”  Most ESL Teachers can speak a little bit of at least one other language because many ESL teachers have experience teaching overseas.  Many ESL Teachers got into ESL after working an ESL job overseas, but it is not a requirement to become an ESL teacher in the United States.  Some ESL Teachers can’t speak another language at all.  I am conversational in Spanish and a beginner in Portuguese and Japanese.  I can’t use these languages in class due to school rules.  Some state laws even prevent teachers from using a student’s native language.  At the earliest levels, I use a lot of body language to communicate.

   6.  I Do Know World Affairs

I never knew that much about news outside the United States until I became an ESL Teacher.  However, as an ESL Teacher I have learned world affairs first hand. The day before I taught my very first ESL class, Israel “attacked” Turkey.  I learned this because my first class was made up completely of high-school aged Turks and Israelis. A few years later, I remember when the Saudi prince died.  60% of the school was Saudi, so that day the school was half empty.  Not every world event is somber, though.  World Cup is really fun with students from many countries and diverse backgrounds.  Almost every country other than the United States LOVES soccer and the students become obsessed and so enthusiastic.  I still have my Colombian bracelet from World Cup.  I’d formed a special bond with a few of my students from Colombia, so they made me a bracelet and taught me to cheer, “Vamos, Colombia!” (“Go Colombia!”)

A little blurry, but this was at the school watching World Cup with the Colombians.
  7. I Have to Be Culturally Aware.
         Students from different countries have different approaches to school.  Having students from different cultures makes for an interesting class dynamic. For example, many Brazilian students LOVE to talk.  Their approach to learning is more social.  Most Japanese students are quiet and they will not question the teacher.  When I have these types of students together, I need to make sure Japanese students get a chance to talk.  Also, in Saudi Arabia men and women are kept apart.  It is sometimes uncomfortable for a Saudi man and woman to work together. If I have no other choice, I often throw in a third student from another culture. 

Me with a student at her 20th birthday.  In Japan, the 20th birthday is the birthday where they are coming of age.  This young woman lived with a Latino family who had hear wear a quincieras dress for part of the party and she wore a kimono for the other half. 

     8. We Deal with Homesickness

        For teachers teaching overseas, we can get homesick.  I can remember being 3,000 miles from my family and thinking of all the things I was missing.  But teachers back in their home countries deal with students that are homesick. They miss the things that they are used to and often this comes out in class. I always try to let the students share about their cultures. 

      9.  There are Many Kinds of ESL Teachers

        There are many different kinds of ESL Teachers. I have taught in Korea.  I have taught at a language school in downtown Boston.  I taught at a Japanese college in Boston. It was a school where students from a Japanese university came to study abroad for a year. I currently teach English online.  I will say that some of these atypical school settings don’t pay a lot. I’ve made at little as $12 an hour and as much as $30,000 per year including housing.  There have never been benefits, though Korea had universal healthcare.  I have had to work on Christmas. I’ve also had to work up to three jobs at a time, running all day long from one school to the next.  I would work from 9am to 10pm.  Many of these classes have been with adults, with whom there are fewer behavioral issues and fewer regulations.

    There are of course also ESL jobs in private and public schools at all levels.  The pay is better and the schedule is better. However, there are more behavioral issues and more regulations.

     10. It’s a Rapidly Growing Field

  Currently, 1 in 5 students speaks English as a second language at home. About 10% of students are enrolled in ESL classes. This number is only due to increase in the next few years. 

Thanks so much to Debbie! I so appreciate her insight into what ESL Teachers do! Hopefully this has given you an idea of what your ESL Teacher does and how they can help you and your students to succeed. Remember, we are all in this together! 

Please leave any thoughts, comments, or questions you have for me or Debbie below. We would love to help you with any issue you might be having or answer any questions! 

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