Some of us are lucky enough to love what we do. We cherish our time spent with our students, and enjoy all of the energy and enthusiasm they bring into our classroom. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of having achieved a goal – you have taught them what you set out to teach.
Still, there are some ESL teachers who might not be feeling so fortunate. They have no time to enjoy their lessons. They feel stressed out and have a hard time coping with the many difficulties they face on a daily basis.
There are, of course, different types of ESL courses and students. Some might teach Business and E-mail English to private students in high-rise offices, while others may be teaching large groups in a rural area in some remote, foreign location. But no matter what type of course we teach or where, each of us feels a little stressed out at one point or another.
Here, we'll address the most common stressors in ESL teachers and ways in which you can deal with them to live a happier and healthier life.
How You Can Cut Down on Stress
Being in the spotlight
A lot of ESL teachers, particularly beginners, make the mistake of believing they must put on a great show - every time. This means they try to take students from one activity to another seamlessly and with one sole purpose in mind: they must not get bored. This poses several problems. First of all, it’s exhausting! Secondly, everybody needs some quiet time to work, even students, and this includes little ones who may need you to switch activities every ten minutes. If you only propose activities that demand high-energy and a great deal of participation from you, you’ll wear yourself out, and this can’t be good for you or your students.
How to cut down on stress: Remember you’re not a performer who has to put on a show and keep your students entertained for the duration of the class. Set realistic expectations from the start, and make sure students know you won’t be standing in front of the class doing a juggling act. Plan some quiet activities in between more active ones (even young learners who can’t write can draw or complete easy worksheets) and give yourself a breather. Just walk around the classroom checking your students’ progress. Plan as many quiet activities as you can to make your classes and your day more relaxed and enjoyable. Remember: you’re not a one-man/woman show!
Preparing and gathering materials
A lot of ESL teachers are overwhelmed at first by the sheer amount of materials they must prepare for a single group of students, things that include flashcards, worksheets, photocopies, props, games, etc… If you find yourself spending every evening after work simply preparing for the following day's class, you probably feel you have no time for other things, right?
How to cut down on stress: Here at BusyTeacher.org, we've recently published some articles in an effort to help you become more productive. In Top 5 Productivity Tips for ESL Teachers, we recommend that you take at least a couple of hours a week to plan an entire week's worth of lessons AND gather the materials you will need for them. By concentrating all of you efforts into this special planning session, you’ll free up the rest of your week!
Another great way to handle the preparation of materials is to share the burden with other teachers. If you're all preparing for the same holiday celebration, divide the tasks: have one buy the decorations, another teacher make photocopies, or another cut out the flashcards.
Managing your class
If you’re stressed out because you have an unruly group of ill-behaved students, you need to implement some heavy-duty classroom management strategies. Students may not know what’s expected of them in an ESL classroom, so it is your job to set limits, help them come up with rules they agree to foolow, and provide the adequate rewards.
How to cut down on stress: Check out these 9 Cool Classroom Management Tricks and see which ones work best with your students. At BusyTeacher.org we have an entire section devoted to Classroom Management, so be sure to check it out!
Some other useful tips to fight ‘ESL Stress’:
- Don’t rush to finish everything at the last minute. Plan in advance. Leave 15 minutes earlier and get to school with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of coffee or chat with your colleagues before it’s time for class.
- Schedule activities every week for pure enjoyment. Are you a movie buff? Go to the movies once a week either on your own or with a friend. Have an artistic side? Enroll in a pottery or ceramics class. Feel you need to exercise to unwind? Get yourself a membership to the local fitness center.
- Sometimes, it’s better if you just say no. Does the school need volunteers to decorate the cafeteria for a party? Is someone organizing a fundraiser? The drama teacher needs a few extra pair of hands to sew costumes? If you honestly feel you've already got too much on your plate, why add more to it?
If you really want to relieve some of the stress in your life, you will need to commit to some serious reflection on your part. Which are exactly your main stressors? If you're having a hard time coping, try to find a support group or start one with the other teachers at your school. On the other hand, what gives you the greatest pleasure? Try to bring more happiness into your life and the best way to accomplish this is by doing what makes you the happiest: teaching your students with all of the fun and none of the stress!
BusyTeacher.org does its part to help relieve some of the burden! Browse our astounding variety of ready-to-print worksheets and take a load off!