You’re Going to be an ESL Teacher! Hey, Wait a Minute –Do You Know Anything About Teaching ESL?

Multi-Ethnic Group of Children and English Concept

Your bags are packed. Your passport is ready. You’ve done all the necessary research about the culture of your new home. You even speak a little Tagalog. You’re a champ.

Did you forget something? You betcha.“Hey, that’s right,” you realize as your making your final descent into Narita airport, “I don’t know anything about teaching – never mind teaching ESL!”

If you’re arriving the first day in your chosen ESL teaching country thinking that you’ll have a plethora of time to “learn how to teach” – you could be making a fatal mistake.

I’ve seen many a stalwart ESL teacher pack their bags in frustration because they underestimated one key facet of the ESL teaching abroad experience: learning the basics of teaching in an ESL classroom.

Here’s a quick and dirty guide for teaching – ESL specifically.


  1. Access websites with the key words “ESL teaching advice.”

I’m sure I don’t have to say this – but then again, I’ve given this advice time and again. There are a million sites that deal with the topic of teaching ESL. You can find lesson plans entirely crafted for your use on the fly, general advice about the topic – and plenty of “chatting” and discussion by past and present ESL teachers. The best is part is that most of it is also free.


  1. What grade level are you teaching?

There’s a world of difference between teaching kindergarten – and teaching business English to adults. Make sure you understand what age-level you’ll be imparting vast amounts of lingua franca to.

To give you a better idea, kindergarten (or “kindy” as most schools call it) and elementary English learning relies heavily on a theory called TPR – Total Physical Response. TPR is the science of matching an intuitively-appropriate body gesture along with a verbal cue. Simply, to demonstrate the English word duck – wouldn’t it be great if you quacked like one?


  1. Create lessons ahead of time.

Not only will the school you’re teaching at think you’re the cat’s pajamas, but it will go a long way to relieving your anxiety in the first weeks. (Most ESL teachers don’t know or care to prepare before they step into the classroom. Additionally, many schools themselves are lax about requiring teachers to be prepared – believe it or not! This is a topic for another day however.) Create lesson plans that are easy to execute – you want to focus on building rapport with your students at first and not be overwhelmed by following a complicated lesson guide.

These are three key areas for success in the overseas ESL teaching world. There are tons more considerations – which I’ll be addressing in future articles.

Regardless, if you’re new to ESL teaching or a veteran, the above advice holds true. I always tried to follow through with these steps – whether it was my first school, or my sixth.

By | 2016-12-01T07:03:30+00:00 June 30th, 2014|BLOG|0 Comments

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