Whether this is your first year teaching or you are a twenty-year veteran, some days just do not go as planned. When those times come, it is important to know that everyone has those kinds of days, and you just need to pick yourself up and continue.
For the days that make you want to turn around and get back under the covers, look to these survival tactics for a push in the right direction.
TOP 10 Survival Tactics Every Teacher (Including You) Should Know
Talk to People Who Know
Those of us who teach in a language our students may or may not understand know that teaching ESL is a challenge. Even when other teachers offer sympathy, a hearty “How can you do that?” sometimes does more to discourage us from a daunting teaching task than to encourage us toward it. When you find yourself getting down and out in the world of English as a second language, look to others who have had the same experience you have. Talk with other ESL teachers, and make use of chat rooms designated for others with similar teaching goals. When you look to people who know and who have been where you are now, you can find encouragement and motivation to keep at the most important job you know, yours.
I Don’t Know
Sometimes, you have to say it. After all, just because you are a native speaker does not mean you know the answer to every grammar question your students ask. When you just cannot put your finger on the explanation to a question one of your students has, admit it but promise to get back to him or her with an answer, and then do just that.
To get that answer you will probably have to ask someone who has experience and knowledge beyond your own. Do it. No teacher should be offended or annoyed by another who is trying to provide her students with an accurate answer. Simply look to those with more experience for the answer to your grammatical conundrum and pay attention to it. Then pass that answer along to your student who asked the question in the first place.
No man is an island, and no teacher works in a vacuum. The sooner you can foster and develop relationships with other teachers, be they teachers at your school or others you meet in chat rooms or online, the sooner you will have a support network in place for those tougher than most days. Look to these relationships for encouragement and knowledge and even an idea or two when you are feeling down, and do the same for your fellow teachers on their less than ideal days.
Do Not Reinvent the Wheel
There is no need to put yourself through personal torture to recreate what others have already done and done well. With this in mind, use the resources offered by Busy Teacher and other ESL web sites. You can find worksheets, online tools and teaching plans for countless subjects all from experienced and knowledgeable teachers. Use that expertise to alleviate some stress from yourself!
Try, Try Again
Who says you cannot teach the same material on more than one day? Sometimes when we have the most frustrating moments as teachers, it is time to step back and figure out another way to approach the subject. When you use a different strategy to teach a concept that may not have gone over as well as you had hoped the first time through, your students will benefit from the change in teaching style and content even in the concept behind it may not be new.
Get Out and About
There is great benefit from watching experienced teachers at work. Whenever you are presented with the opportunity, visit other classrooms and watch professionals at work. As a teacher, you should always be open to learning. Watching others with more experience in the field can be an encouragement and a resource for improving your own teaching skills. Do not be afraid to ask a fellow teacher if you can observe his class, but make sure you offer the same courtesy to anyone who may ask to observe your class.
It’s Okay to Show the Movie
The popular stigma is that teachers use movies and other non-traditional types of activities when they are trying to fill time, but that is not how ESL teachers should view these activities. Exposing your students to every facet of English is important and even essential. This means that listening activities (like movies) and speaking activities (like class discussion) are highly valuable for language learners. Where a native speaker may find those types of class activities disengaging, they will be the opposite for your students. After all, the goal of language learning is to speak the language. Getting all of your material from a book just does not cut it. So do not let the stigma turn you away from communicative activities. They are far more valuable to your students than many other possibilities.
Bring in a Guest Speaker
Likewise, your students will benefit greatly from what a guest speaker has to offer. Especially guests who are not accustomed to speaking with nonnative speakers can challenge your students in their listening skills. Different pronunciation, different stress and intonation and even accent all contribute to a nonnative speaker’s comprehension. Exposing your students to a greater variety of speech patterns and tones will help further their language skills and make them better speakers of English.
Take an Honest Look at Yourself
Teaching is a challenge. If you think you have learned everything there is to learn about being an effective and successful teacher, you have missed the mark. Though sobering, it is beneficial to your teaching career in the long run to take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Once you know where you need to improve yourself, you can take steps to become a better teacher in those areas. No one is perfect, and by accepting that about ourselves and then taking measures to make changes we end up better teachers than we were to begin with.
Every teacher has those not so great days, so do not let them get you down. Simply take a look at where you are and where you need to go, make changes and adjustments keeping a positive attitude and everything is sure to work out just fine.
Overall, just hang in there. Tomorrow will be a better day!