ESL Teacher or Native Speaker: Which one are you?

ESL Teacher or Native Speaker: Which one are you?

Words: 1,621

Reading time: about 5 minutes

Hey y’all!

Yeah, it’s me again! The fun-loving Southern educator of children and lately…adults. I have taken a bit of a reprieve lately and set a nice, relaxing schedule and am trying to stick to it. As if! But really, it’s done a world of good and I’m feeling like I have some stuff to share and it’s bout time to do that.

No, tonight isn’t a rant nor am I runnin’ off at the mouth. I’m not the mouth of the South, my sister and brother actually hold that title. I’m not a mosquito or a flea, I’m rather known as a mouse or doormat around these parts. My sister has always been known to carry my backbone around unless you mess with my family or my kids, then Woa Nelly! Does Moma Bear appear instantly!! I’m a bit old fashioned, a little bit of angel mixed with a bit of devil, but ultimately harmless unless I snap and then boy, heads will roll!

Holy Cow! I have no idea what you just said!

This brings me to my point. Are you a speaker of English or a teacher of English? Most don’t realize there is a difference, but the differences are huge and impact each and everyone you meet and attempt to teach if you don’t know the difference between the two. Most people I meet in China are merely speakers of English. Which is a good thing, but being a teacher is even better. I speak English, as I was born and raised in an English speaking country; however, many people don’t get me nor do they understand anything I say half the time; as evidenced above, but being from an English speaking country doesn’t mean you are qualified to teach.

I ran across this great book “The Ultimate English as a Second Language Teaching Manual” and it was actually a good, quality teaching book. Do you know how many times a day I have to explain the simple term ESL?? If you are a teacher, you know instantly that you are an ESL teacher and you know what this means and what these 3 very simple letters mean. You know that ESL teaching is not something to be taken lightly. There are systems and reasons why we do things we do and why we do things in a certain order.

Speaking is not Teaching.

I think I’ve said that before. Even though I get immensely discouraged at the lack of teachers in China, or at least in the area where I live, I am encouraged every time someone asks good questions or every time someone really wants to learn how to do things right or every time someone asks for help because they have a student who doesn’t seem to be connecting and they realize that this inhibits learning.

Perhaps these people came to China to make money, but they’ve learned along the way that they can and do want to make a difference. They want to do things the right way instead of the easy way. They actually care. These people don’t need to hold a teaching certificate to be a teacher, they just need to learn and apply and care about their students. I applaud these people, because being a Teacher is not easy. These are the people I thought of when I saw this book. I thought I’d take a look at it, like I do the PIRATE series and pull out the good parts and pass them on to you in newsletters.

Why should you be the best?
So you’re thinking about becoming an English teacher. Maybe this is the beginning of a lifelong career or maybe it’s a ticket to a few years of travel and adventure. Whatever your reasons, the experience will be more fun and less stressful if you really know what you are doing.

Teaching is a hugely rewarding profession; students are putting their present and future careers in your hands and their gratitude for clear, well-researched lessons will leave you with a sense of well-being even after the longest days.

Sometimes teaching is like this, but there’s more to it.

Likewise, students pay a lot for their classes and so teachers who try to ‘wing-it’ with only a surface knowledge of the grammar are quickly sniffed out, leading to some red-faced situations when you can’t answer a question.

What does it take to be the best?
Here’s the secret; you don’t need any special equipment, expensive books or piles of worksheets to produce a great class. In fact, often the less you have the better the class is.

Walk around your cluttered classroom and ask yourself…

You are only limited by yourself and your thoughts and imagination. You are only limited by that box that you have been put in by people who don’t understand the art  of true teaching. GET OUT OF THE BOX! No, I’m not yelling, I’m emphasizing. I’m emphasizing that this is the most important quality to find and grow within yourself before you can help students grow.

But Christy, you are always searching and using multiple pieces of stuff. Why?
I do this because this is where ideas come from. Worksheets are great for multiple uses. I often don’t use the worksheet for the value of the worksheet, but for things probably not thought of by the creator of said worksheet. Same with workbooks. Worksheets, workbooks and such are useless, meaningless busy work if used as simply worksheets. What is the purpose? The kids are done with them in 2 minutes, then what do you do with the remaining minutes?

This is often a frustration for those speakers of English or try to be teachers. They have no idea how to actually USE the information. They want a script and they want busy work and they want everything lined out and given to them. What’s the point? What’s the purpose? What’s the end result of this? The person doing the most work is the one doing the most learning. You can’t teach if you don’t know how and you can’t motivate your students if you aren’t first motivated to do your work. You have to learn to teach before you can effectively teach. How can you tell your students to have ideas if you don’t first figure out how to have ideas yourself?

Why is this?
Imagine you have booked a session with a personal trainer at your gym. The trainer is very helpful and carries the mat and all the weights over when you arrive. When it’s time for the step aerobics, he takes the weights from your hands, puts them in the cupboard and brings over the step. The trainer may think he is providing a great service but actually he is impeding your progress. Picking up equipment and putting it back is part of the exercise and his ‘help’ means that you will walk out of the session weaker than if he had not lifted a finger.

The same is true with language learning. I have seen many well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective teachers spend hours on the net looking for verb tables and vocabulary lists to hand to their class. The students may say thank you but this information will never transfer itself to their brains because the teacher has just done all the heavy lifting for them.

Language learning is hard, requiring hours of dedication and repetition. Information handouts deny the student their first step to really understanding the content by writing it out themselves. You need a verb table? Draw one as a class. Don’t volunteer information; make them work for it by answering your questions. If they are wrong, correct them – we learn more from our mistakes than from the things we get right. In this method the conduit for learning is you, the teacher. Your voice, ideas, knowledge and cleverly directed questions together with their hard work is what is going to make this language stick, which is why the best lessons happen with the sparsest resources.

I think I have given you enough to think about and I’ll continue this later. I have to say that just like my PIRATE authors, this book spoke to me when I read the same parts that I have shared with you. It validates that I am still on the right track as a teacher and gives me renewed strength to keep up with my convictions that teaching is not about textbooks or worksheets or flash cards or anything else, it’s about creativity and caring and endless hours of preparation that most likely end up being pushed to another lesson day because we teach to the students needs and they needed something totally off track that day.

We have to be prepared, but we don’t have to be scripted, we have to stay focused, yet we have to be flexible. We have to be teacher oriented, but we still have to know how to step aside and let the students lead.

See y’all again soon!! I promise not to stay away so long next time.

Until then…
Be Kind,
With Love,

SOURCE: Jones, Andromeda. The Ultimate English as a Second Language Teaching Manual: No textbooks, minimal equipment just fantastic lessons anywhere (The Ultimate Teaching ESL Series). Kindle Edition.

Other Great Articles by Teacher Christy:

You’re talking… but is it teaching? (Over 1000 views! Wow!)

The Struggle is Real [Classroom Management】

Order & Chaos [Classroom Management]

How to teach 3-5 year olds?

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