"I teach at a language school with several other ESL teachers, but I don’t want to be just another ESL teacher. Private students have the chance to choose which teacher they want to have lessons with. I want to be different, stand out from the rest. We all teach essentially the same things. How can I be different from the others? *"
The person asking this question has hit upon one of the keys to success as an ESL teacher.
A successful ESL teacher is the one who gets jobs, whether they are group lessons at a school or private students online. Now, it’s true that all ESL teachers teach essentially the same things: verb tenses, essential vocabulary, useful phrases, etc. But all ESL teachers are different, and there are those that get the job done, i.e. teach everything that needs to be taught, and there are those that are memorable. So what makes one ESL teacher teaching the Simple Past different from another ESL teacher teaching the Simple Past? What makes an ESL teacher truly memorable and the kind of teacher students want to book their lessons with?
5 Ways to Become a More Memorable Teacher
Think long and hard about things that characterize you, that make you who you are. What do you do in your free time? Are you a vegan, animal rights activist who supports Greenpeace? Are you a musician? Painter? TV junkie? Comic book collector? Whatever it is that you do, whatever you are, don’t keep it from your ESL students. Bring it into the classroom. If you’re a very musical person, why not add some music to your lessons? If you’re artistic, do the same. And if you’re BIG on theatrics, channel the actor/actress in you and add some “characters” to your activities.
Cater to Their Needs
When students look back, the ESL teacher that stands out the most is the one who went the extra mile to personalize and customize the lesson to their needs. While it’s important to have lesson plans and goals, there is no need to “follow the book”. As long as you meet the desired language goal, you can add, modify and eliminate activities from the student book. If the textbook features a role play between two Wall Street investors talking about how they’re swamped with work, and the class is mainly made up of expat housewives, the memorable ESL teacher will replace the otherwise boring dialogue with one his/her students can relate to, for example, a conversation between two women talking about how they’re swamped with housework and chores.
Have a Sense of Humor
Unexpected things happen in language schools and ESL classrooms all the time. The truly memorable ESL teacher will take an otherwise chaotic and inconvenient situation, and make it into something everyone will laugh about later. The language school where I teach used to be in an old building that was, let’s just say, “electrically-challenged”. In winter, the second an extra electric heater was plugged in, all lights went out in the building. This can be extremely inconvenient to ESL students - who happen to be paying good money for their lessons! So I got my hands on a couple of candles and announced we’d continue our lesson in a “change of ambience”. We could not read or write in the candlelight, so we did mostly speaking activities. Other times, I even told spooky ghost stories for listening comprehension. Months later, students still remembered our candlelit ESL lesson.
Which ESL teacher will students most likely remember? The one who taught them lists of words and made them memorize irregular verbs, or the one who taught them how prepare for a job interview in English? That’s right. Students don’t really care about the grammar, the verbs and the chapters they’ve completed in the book. They want to communicate in English! And they will remember the ESL teacher who helped them achieve this.
When you buy a product or service, which do you remember most? Which do you recommend to others? The one that exceeded your expectations. And how do you exceed your ESL students’ expectations? Some students expect to learn to communicate in a variety of situations and scenarios. Others expect to do well on a standardized test. Whatever it is they expect, go above and beyond the call of duty. Have a student who has to give a presentation in English? Help him/her prepare for it! Others who need to write emails in English to their boss? Have them send a few to you! This may require some extra work on your part, but it will be well worth the effort and tremendously gratifying, too.
You can do any number of things to be truly memorable, and I can give you some ideas, as I did above.
But what makes YOU a memorable teacher, one that truly stands out and one that students will consistently recommend to others through word of mouth is not a gimmick. It’s something that makes you truly unique. Something that YOU will have to find out on your own.
Have you already figured it out? What makes YOU a memorable ESL teacher? Share below!