Ten things an ESL teacher should try to avoid doing

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you will soon learn that in teaching there are certain required standards of professionalism that have to be maintained. Apart from the obvious prohibitions against drunkenness, drug-taking, dating students, criminality, and profanity, the novice ESL teacher should also avoid doing the following ten things.

1. The ESL teacher should never disparage, belittle, or gossip about another member of the staff. If you are one of those teachers who have a propensity for gossip, you would be well advised to choose your ‘interlocutors’ carefully: and under no circumstances should a teacher gossip with students about other members of the staff.

2. Don’t be fickle. Establish a set of rules for classroom conduct and adhere to it. There is nothing worse than an inconsistent teacher, for example, there is little point in admonishing students who submit their homework after a deadline if you have been inconsistent in enforcing the deadline.

3. Treat all your students equally: don’t have favourites. As incredible as it may seem: some ESL teachers have favourites. This can cause feelings of resentment and envy among the other students, and it could lead to some students openly expressing hostility towards the teacher.

4. Never yell or scream. Yelling and screaming is indicative of a teacher who is losing or has lost control of a situation: raise your voice if necessary – but never yell or scream.

5. Never humiliate or belittle students in front of their peers. Teachers who embark on this course of action may be opening the way for a full-blown confrontation as well as causing a strong feeling of resentment in the rest of the class.

6. Don’t post compromising material on your social website (e.g. ‘Facebook’) that could possibly bring your integrity into question: avoid posting pictures of a sexual or violent nature and avoid making extreme comments on political, religious, or social issues.

7. Don’t consciously try to be popular. The novice ESL teacher should always be firm, but fair: with a new ESL class, it is far better to start off as a strict teacher and then gently ease up after you have the class fully under your control.

8. Avoid the use of irony and sarcasm: students detest this.

9. Don’t conduct yourself like a student. Your student days are over: trying to be ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ will not endear you to the students. They will never accept you as one of them, and if they do – you may effectively lose control of your class.

10. ‘Don’t rest on your laurels. TEFL is a continuously developing field, and novice ESL teachers must keep abreast of the latest developments in teaching and education theories.

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