As ESL teachers, we are faced with hectic schedules, lesson planning, teacher meetings, and helping our students learn English. It can be both a stressful and rewarding experience. Throughout this process, we encourage our students to keep practicing their English, and to try their best. Yet, how do we stay encouraged?
Avoiding burn out
We will experience this at least one time in our teaching career. Burn out is when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out. It can cause you to dislike or make you not want to continue teaching. This is when encouragement helps. If you are working with a staff of teachers, it’s important to encourage each other. Saying things like, “Keep up the good work,” or “You got this,” can be a boost to a teacher’s morale. Sometimes offering assistance or advice can also be impactful.
For example, there’s always that one thing we stumble on whether it’s explaining a grammar point, creating an in-class activity, or assigning homework. If you are a new teacher, this can be quite intimidating. Experienced teachers understand and can assist their new colleague. However, experienced teachers have the same challenges. Offering a helping hand really assures the struggling teacher that he/she can do well (even if they don’t know what they are doing)!
At most work sites, supervisors will have staff meetings. These meetings tend to be formal. However, teachers can have their own meetings where they discuss their accomplishments and frustrations. It’s informal and a way teachers can offer encouragement to each other. The best part of these informal meetings is they can happen over coffee or a place outside of work.
Always be honest. Teaching is hard work. It is okay to be honest about your hardship in the classroom. If you feel comfortable confining in a colleague about a problem, that’s okay. Trust is important. You want to share your difficult moments with someone who is non-judgmental and expresses empathy. You never want to pretend how you feel. There are ways to express your frustrations without being unprofessional. You may be surprised that you are not alone.
Ask your students for feedback about your teaching style. This may feel uncomfortable, but there are ways to get feedback from students without feeling embarrassed. Turn it into a lesson. For example, suppose you are talking about workplace issues and you are the supervisor. You may give a scenario where students are the employees and they must share their thoughts on a specific issue. In doing that, you can turn it around and ask, “So, just like you gave feedback to a supervisor, how would you give feedback to me as your teacher?”
This works if you are comfortable turning it into a discussion. If you don’t want to do that, you can assign students to write about their experience. This will allow you to not only check their writing skills, but learn how they feel about you and your teaching style. If you don’t receive positive feedback, try not to feel bad. You can use that to improve. I used to ask my students, “What can I do to make your learning experience better?” Students liked this question, because they told me what they wanted and in turn I learned how to improve my teaching style. This is encouraging for both the teacher and students.
When we tell our students to try their best, apply that to yourself as a teacher. Stay encouraged and know that you ARE making a difference.