Many ESL teachers that are native English speakers have little to no teaching experience before being placed in a classroom.
This may be true for recent graduates who have degrees in education too. For these beginning teachers there are a lot of things that may come as a surprise. Teachers with more training are less likely to have these misconceptions but some may still apply.
Misconceptions and What to Do about Them
ESL Misconception 1: Teaching is easy
How this idea ever got started is unclear. Teaching is a very challenging career choice. Teachers are responsible for planning, teaching and grading possibly hundreds of students a week, often participate in at least one extra curricular activity, and may act as private tutor or counselor to students who seek or need more individual attention. The number of hours in the classroom does not even come close to representing how many hours a teacher works. Teachers, especially those just starting out, will find themselves planning lessons or thinking about classes even outside of school. It can be difficult to separate your work and personal lives when you devote so much time and energy to helping your students.
Misconception 2: If you speak English, you can teach English
While native English speakers bring a lot to ESL classrooms, especially when it comes to pronunciation, they often cannot explain grammar rules clearly. Native English speakers can often tell when something is wrong based on how it sounds rather than on what rules are being broken. Without any experience in the classroom, these teachers can struggle with classroom management and lesson planning too. It takes more than just a handle on the material to be an efficient teacher. With experience, research, and training, you can succeed in ESL classrooms and having some good resource materials on hand will definitely help.
Misconception 3: You don’t have to speak another language
If you have students with different native languages in the same class, knowing one other language is not going to be especially useful; however, if you are teaching a class in Korea with only Korean students, knowing some Korean can only help you. Knowing simple commands and encouraging phrases can help build a rapport with the students. They will appreciate your efforts and may be eager to help you improve your vocabulary. On the other hand, learning the language fluently may hurt you because once students know that you can communicate with them in another language, it may become more difficult to get them to use English.
Misconception 4: Students want to learn English
This really depends on what kind of school you teach at and who your students are. Most likely your students will have different reasons for learning English and it is almost never for the love of the language itself. Not all students are self motivated or well behaved so giving encouragement, providing positive feedback, and classroom management become as important as being able to plan and give lessons effectively. Students who feel that they will never have the opportunity to speak English are often challenging to motivate so try to provide them with some real life experiences where their knowledge of English will be useful. When teaching directions for instance, tell students that if you were an Australian tourist visiting their city, you might ask them for directions and it would be so great if they could help you.
Misconception 5: If students perform poorly, it is their fault
In most places teachers are held accountable for the performance of their students. The thinking is that if a teacher develops good lessons and motivates students to work hard in class, students will do well. This means that you should be prepared to devote extra time and energy to helping students who struggle in your classes. Be sure to plan activities that appeal to different types of learners. How much students study on their own time will impact their scores but if the majority of your students are struggling, you should probably reevaluate your teaching methods.
These are just some of the misconceptions teachers might have.
Knowing the truth can help you determine whether or not ESL education is right for you and adjust your image of being a teacher to match reality. It will help you be more prepared for stepping into the classroom.
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