Congratulations! You’ve chosen to become an ESL teacher, and it’s one of the most rewarding professions around. Yet, you must be warned – though tremendously satisfying on a personal level, it may not be as financially rewarding as other careers.
Success, for an ESL teacher, is not determined by how much you make a year – the gains are not precisely material in nature. So what is success for an ESL teacher? And what makes an ESL teacher more successful than others?
What is success for an ESL teacher?
In my opinion, a successful ESL teacher is one that is able to make a good living doing what he or she enjoys doing or does best: teach English as a second language. The phrase “make a good living” cannot be emphasized enough. No, ESL teachers don’t buy luxury cars or live in expensive penthouses, but we can most certainly make enough to not only pay the bills and buy groceries, but also go somewhere nice at the end of the school year. ESL teacher salaries vary greatly from country to country, and there are some excellent opportunities abroad. But no matter how much you are paid or where you teach, there are things that will help you get more or better teaching gigs, and have greater success at teaching English as a second language.
The Recipe for Success
Memorable ESL teachers are often successful teachers. They usually obtain more classes or private students through word of mouth and recommendations from former students. So how do you become memorable? You are memorable when you’re different and unlike any other teacher a student has had before. And how do you accomplish that? If you let your inner personality shine through, you will be different – guaranteed. Don’t be a robot that spews lists of verbs and explanations on when to use each tense. Be yourself and let your students get to know you and what makes you different from other teachers.
Don’t Lose Sight of Your Mission
We’ve already established that as a teacher you’re not out to make loads of money…so, what is your mission as an ESL teacher? To help your students achieve their language learning goals, whether it is to speak, write or understand English better. Don’t lose sight of this, and you will help them succeed, which in turn will make you successful as well.
Successful teachers go above and beyond their expected tasks. They recommend materials for extra practice. They provide information students request. They do research on an examination a student might want to take. Does this take up more of your time? Of course it does! But your students’ deepest appreciation is absolutely priceless.
Successful ESL teachers deliver results that can be easily seen and measured by students, and not just by means of exam grades. Always review with your students the goals they have achieved in the semester and at the end of the year. More than a number on a test, they need to see exactly what they learned and compare it to what they didn’t know in the past.
More than just meeting goals, a truly successful teacher exceeds students’ expectations. You can tell students they will be able to handle basic social situations by the end of the course, but what if they are also ready for a job interview in English?
Successful ESL teachers teach everything with passion, even things that are less than interesting like Reported Speech or the Subjunctive Mood. Passion is contagious when transmitted properly, and passionate students learn more.
Did you find a really cool website, game or worksheet that you know your students will love? Successful ESL teachers don’t keep useful tools to themselves. They share it with other teachers, so that they, and their students, can reap the benefits or have fun, too.
Know When to Take Responsibility
Are your lessons boring? You are responsible for making them engaging. Are your students unclear about what they have learned or achieved? You are responsible for communicating this clearly.
But on the other hand, successful teachers must also know when it is the students’ turn to take responsibility. Why did your student fail the class? Is it because you neglected to provide the right support and guidance, or because he or she never did any homework and showed zero interest during class?
Successful ESL teachers make sure they obtain the necessary training, TEFL or TESOL certification. Any native English speaker can teach English, but you will not be a successful teacher unless you receive proper training.
Empower Your Students
Successful ESL teachers don’t coddle their students. They don’t translate words into students’ native language. They don’t finish sentences for them. They don’t complete their homework exercises for them. And they don’t tell them how to do all of these things. They show them how to do it and provide the necessary tools.
Earlier I mentioned that what ESL teachers obtain is not material gain. What do we gain, then? Simply put, we gain personal satisfaction at a job well done, but also learn a great deal from students.
For us, success is not measured by how much we’ve gained, but by how much we’ve given.
The more we give, the more our students succeed at learning English. The more our students succeed, the more successful we become as ESL teachers.
Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Sound off in the comments below!