Published 19th April 2017

There can be no doubt that being an enthusiastic teacher is an important part of the classroom. Even though there have been major advances in technology, and many people may think learning through artificial intelligence is the future, teachers are still needed to guide our students to learn as best they can. We know that teaching is not the same as learning, and while we can’t make them learn, we can help them learn. We need to make sure our students are dealing with appropriate language for their level, engaging with the relevant learning tools, as well as help them discover the best way they can learn. 

But besides our input in terms of knowledge, we also have a very important job to do when it comes to helping our students want to learn English. Have you ever tried to learn something by yourself? It’s hard, because there isn’t anybody to tell you what your mistakes are, or why you’re making those mistakes, or cheer you up when you keep making them!  

Enthusiastic Teacher

We’re not just making this up to make you feel good. There are a number of theories around learner motivation and success to support this idea. Stephen Krashen is an expert in the field of linguistics, particularly with regards to theories of language acquisition and development. One of the tenets of his Theory of Second Language Acquisition is the Affective Filter Hypothesis. 

According to the  Affective Filter Hypothesis, certain factors in the classroom affect our learners’ ability to learn language. Anxiety, lack of motivation, low self-confidence and a negative attitude towards learning means that the learner’s affective filter is high, which will result in a barrier to learning and actually hinder the language learning process. In contrast, a low affective filter will help the learner take risks and make mistakes, thus promoting language learning.

Read more: What is the Affective Filter in Language Learning?

Even though this may seem like it is up to the students to control, as teachers there are numerous things we can do to help them. So the question is, how can the teacher ensure the learners feel comfortable enough in the learning environment in order to lower the affective filter?

Create a safe classroom environment

Ensuring your students feel comfortable in the classroom and with their teacher and their classmates is the first step. If students are content with the physical learning space and they don’t feel threatened in any way, they will be able to concentrate on learning. Students need to feel comfortable so that they are not distracted. 

From a physical perspective, make sure the classroom is not too hot or too cold. The students’ chairs should be comfortable and there should be enough space for each student to work effectively. On a personal level, students need to feel comfortable with their classmates so that they don’t feel too shy to make mistakes or participate in activities. You can accomplish this be maintaining a light and relaxed atmosphere in the classroom and helping the students get to know one another.

Read more: How to Deal with Personality Conflicts in the EFL Classroom

Be positive

Nobody wants to go to a lesson with a grumpy teacher. The mood of the teacher will dictate the mood of the students; they will pick up on your state of mind. It’s very important to put on a happy face when you walk into the classroom, even on those days when you don’t feel it. Fake it til you make it and you’ll probably find yourself feeling better soon anyway.

As a teacher it is important that you don’t take your personal life into the classroom. As with any job, while it is perfectly acceptable to chat about your home-life, it can make your students uncomfortable if you try to deal with personal stress at work. If you do need to complain about work or friends or family, chat to your colleagues, friends or therapist – but not your students! Make sure you are taking care of your physical and mental health so that you don’t need to offload onto your students. 

enthusiastic teacher
An Enthusiastic Teacher

Have a can-do attitude

Be an enthusiastic teacher. If you are expecting your students to do exercises and activities, you need to show enthusiasm for them yourself. You cannot expect them to want to do something you clearly don’t want to do yourself. Be positive about what’s happening in the classroom and the enthusiasm will rub off on your students.

This extends to the content of your lessons. If your lesson materials are dry and uninteresting, it will be difficult to muster up enthusiasm. Let’s face it, if you’re not looking forward to doing an activity, you can’t expect your learners to. Instead, make sure your materials are relevant and interesting to your students. This means getting to know your students so your lesson materials are appropriate and relevant.

Read more: 3 Factors Affecting Personalised Learning

Have fun

Think about it: would you want to go to a lesson every day that’s boring? Of course not, and your students are no different. Getting to know your students will allow you to relax in your teaching and have fun with them. A light-hearted atmosphere is a definite way to keep your students wanting to come back for more.

It is very clear when a teacher is not enjoying a lesson, and you cannot expect your students to enjoy the lesson when it is obvious you would rather be somewhere else. If you plan your lessons well, you will make sure you look forward to your lessons and your students will mirror your enthusiasm.

At the same time, you need to enjoy your job for your own sanity. You cannot expect yourself to perform in a job that you don’t enjoy, and there really is no reason for you to be doing a job you don’t enjoy! If your lessons are boring you will come to hate teaching, and getting out of bed to do your job will get harder every day. Making sure your lessons are fun and enjoyable is self-care for you too.

As you can see, for many reasons, the enthusiasm of the teacher is an important part of the learning environment. A positive attitude can make a big difference to a class and being an enthusiastic teacher will ensure your learners enjoy their lessons and so are able to learn. Plus it will ensure you enjoy your job and are happy to do it every day. 

We’re not saying you need to dance into your classroom every morning or tattoo your students’ names on your chest or invite your students round to your house every weekend, but we are saying that you need to do your preparation, show up, and give it your best go. Your students’ success depends on it!