Do you want to level up your English teaching? I’m sure you do! Then keep on reading for my top 10 ESL teacher mistakes and how to avoid them.
Top 10 ESL Teacher Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Check out this video for some of the classic English teacher mistakes, and some quick tips for how to avoid, or fix them.
#1: Taking Things Personally
Number one is taking things too personally. The solution: just keep in your mind that students always have a million different things going on, your class is maybe the least of their worries. Maybe they had a fight with their boyfriend or their parents, are getting divorce, or just whatever it is. They often have many other things going on, so if students are misbehaved in your class or grumpy or don’t want to participate, it sometimes has something to do with you, but likely not. So just keep that in mind and don’t take it too personally.
#2: Not Using a Lesson Plan
The second ESL teacher mistake is not having a lesson plan. I never go to class without at least a very basic lesson plan, so it can even just be as simple as a warm-up, kind of what language you’re going to teach, the grammar or vocabulary, and then some practice exercises. At least have those three three steps, plus maybe like a review or some homework to assign.
For example, check out this ESL Reading Lesson Plan Template.
#3 ESL Teacher Mistake: Being an Edu-Tainer
The third mistake that ESL teachers make is wanting to be the fun teacher. Everyone wants their students to really love them and think they’re funny and be their friend, but that’s actually quite a difficult road to go down. Once you kind of start having that reputation as that teacher, it’s hard to become a more serious teacher as long as you’re at that school.
And it’s also kind of exhausting, I think, if you always are on stage and just want to have fun and like make your students laugh. It’s fine if you’re having a good day and you’re kind of upbeat and feeling good, but if you’re not feeling great, that’s really tough to do on a consistent basis.
So the solution is to have some fun, but also realize that teaching and learning a language are serious things and it’s okay to be a little bit serious sometimes. So kind of start showing your students that there is a serious side to learning language as well.
#4: Going too Quickly
The fourth ESL teacher mistake is going too quickly. We’ve all been there. We we have an ESL textbook that we are given maybe by the school administration or parents or whoever and they expect us kind of just to power through that book over the course of a semester sometimes way too quickly. The result is students don’t actually learn that much. They learn a little bit of everything, but don’t really know anything deeply.
I try to combat this. I don’t often do every single little exercise on every single page in a textbook, but I’ll pick the highlights and then I’ll really focus on them. I’ll do practice exercises. I’ll do review. I’ll review in the next class and make sure that students know some things very, very well by the time they finish my class.
Some ideas here: ESL Review Activities and Games.
#5: Not Learning Names (or use name-tags)
The fifth teacher mistake that people make is not knowing names. If you don’t teach that many students, make an effort to get to know their names, even if you have to take pictures and kind of match them up with your class list and that kind of thing. If you have a lot of students, I suggest using name tags.
Get students to fold a piece of paper into three and then write their name on that and they can keep that on their desk every single time. It’s so much easier if someone isn’t paying attention, instead of saying, hey you over there, pay attention. You can say, hey Bob or hey Min-Gu, please pay attention and you can ask them a question by their name. It’s so much more effective.
#6 for ESL Teacher Mistakes: Not Remembering the Ultimate Goal
The sixth teacher mistake is not remembering the ultimate goal. Students are in your class for a reason. It could be as simple as their parents make them, or their University makes them take an English class. In that case, do your best, but then students have other goals. Maybe they want to pass an English interview, or they want to be able to understand English movies when they see them, or maybe they want to just have English speaking friends so whatever that is, keep that goal in mind and help your students achieve those goals.
#7: Not Using Graded Language
The seventh mistake that teachers make is not grading their language. If you’re teaching beginners and you’re talking as quickly as I am right now using the grammar and vocabulary that I’m using, your students are not going to understand anything. It’s going to be a little bit of the dear in headlights look.
Grade your language in terms of speed and then also in terms of vocabulary and grammatical structures/ Something I don’t recommend doing is talking baby talk or like doing something like dropping articles. Speak grammatically correct sentences, using the correct vocabulary, but use simpler language and speak more slowly to them.
#8: Not Making Eye Contact with Everyone
The eighth mistake that ESL teachers make is with eye contact. So when I’m teaching a class of say 40 students, the students at the back and to the right, I make eye contact with them all the time. The back left once in a while I’ll make eye contact with them and then there’s some very lonely people in the front left that I never actually make eye contact with.
I didn’t even realize this until I was doing a class on presentations and public speaking and I was talking about eye contact and my students in the front left said, actually Jackie, you never look at us and I said, “What, I had no idea?” I think everyone does that. It’s kind of a natural tendency that you look maybe towards your more dominant hand. If you’re right-handed, you spend more time looking to the right side, so just pay attention to that and try to make eye contact with everybody at least say maybe every like 30 seconds or a minute depending on how big your class is.
#9: Too Teacher-Centred
The ninth mistake that people make is making their class very teacher centered. I know it’s kind of a natural thing. You’re up on stage, everybody’s listening to you, everyone’s laughing at your jokes and you just are talking and you’re telling stories and students are just eating it up and loving it and I know I’ve been there too and it is fun.
However, students are not actually learning that much because the classroom is not that student-centered. Do whatever you can to get the students talking and interacting with each other because that’s how they actually learn a language.
Check out these tips and tricks for making language learning classrooms more student-centred:
#10: Not Following Through
And the 10th teacher mistake that people make is not following through. If you make a threat, if you use your phone, I’m going to take it away for the rest of the class. If you say that and then you see someone using their phone and you don’t take it away for the rest of the class, students will have no respect for you and they’re just going to run wild in your class.
Need More Tips for Teaching English?
Of course you do! You’ll want to check out ESL Teaching For Dummies to level up your teaching game. It’s the ultimate ESL teaching manual:
FAQs about TEFL Teacher Mistakes
Check out some more questions that people have about teaching English.
Is it okay to use only one teaching method consistently in ESL classes?
No, it’s essential to employ a variety of teaching methods to cater to different learning styles and keep students engaged. Learn more about this here: ESL Teaching Methodologies.
Should ESL teachers correct every mistake students make immediately?
No, constant correction can hinder students’ confidence. It’s better to prioritize effective communication and address errors selectively.
Can ESL teachers assume all students have the same language learning pace?
No, students learn at different rates. Teachers should be flexible and provide additional support to those who need it.
Is it advisable for ESL teachers to only focus on grammar rules during lessons?
No, a balanced approach that includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing is crucial. Overemphasizing grammar may lead to a lack of practical communication skills.
Should ESL teachers shy away from technology in the classroom?
No, integrating technology can enhance lessons and make learning more interactive and enjoyable for students. Here are some ideas for this: How to Use Technology in a Language Learning Classroom.
Can ESL teachers neglect professional development?
No, staying updated on language teaching methodologies, resources, and technologies is crucial for continuous improvement in teaching practices.
ESL Teacher Mistakes: Join the Conversation
Do you have any common ESL teacher mistakes and a way to avoid it? Leave a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear from you!