Through my journey I've come to realize that teaching is an art that must be learned and perfected over time. In order to improve myself, I’ve taken note of the characteristics I feel are most vital for being an effective ESL Teacher in China.
Teachers who genuinely care about their students have a higher impact on their learning. They can feel that you are teaching them because you want them to do well, not just because you’re performing a job. The more you inspire your students, the more apt they’ll be to complete assignments on time and participate in class activities. Generally speaking, I was able to get more out of students that I had a better relationship with. Plus, a classroom full of students who genuinely like and respect their is much more manageable. Some of the best teachers I have ever seen had a great relationship with their students—the students knew when it was time to be friendly and when it was time to be a student.
Encourage English in Daily Use
Take the time and effort to talk to your students outside of class, or just before and after you teach them. Talk about something else besides class content, and use that time to get to know them better. Not only will their English improve, but so will the relationship between you, thereby accomplishing two important objectives.
Be Culturally Aware
Learning about the student’s ideas, and what they do before and after school can also help you plan for your classes better. For example, it helps to know that your student is tired not because he or she is bored—rather, it’s because they already had four hours of class this morning, and they had no time to break for lunch.
Go 100% or Go Home
Those teachers are the ones who win their students’ hearts and really make an impact with their classes. Passionate teachers will prepare lessons diligently, come in early to set-up, and aim to constantly improve their skills. Believe it or not, students know very well if you’re well-prepared of if you’re just going through the motions. Unfortunately, while there are many skilled and passionate teachers in China, there are many who are just here for fun, and view teaching as a minor inconvenience between trips to the pub.
For example, If you have students who cannot stay in their seat, use their energy to your advantage. I always have these kids pass out papers to other students, or come up and erase the board. Have students who won’t stop talking? Organize a debate. Have a student who isn’t doing their homework? Talk to their parents, and find a suitable solution together.
Also, understanding your students better can help you understand why they act the way they do. Is it because they are bored, because they do not want to learn, or simply because they do not understand the lesson? Try and think before you’re too harsh with discipline, because you may be surprised if you discover the root of the problem they’re having in class.
All of these things are characteristics I’ve noticed in some of the best ESL teachers in China. They’re all somehow related, and if I had to sum it all up in just a single sentence it would be this: Get to know your student and his/her background. It will profoundly change the way you think, the way you teach, and it’ll enhance the performance of the students.