Blogs and Teaching ESL

1. I usually enjoy changes, but I still miss Google Reader. I use Feedly now but get disgruntled with it for several practical reasons.

It doesn’t give the date of a blog post, only the number of days since it’s been posted. Who on earth keeps track of how many days have passed since any number of events?

It doesn’t say how many comments any post has, so I can’t quickly tell how much interaction it inspired.

It doesn’t say how many Feedly subscribers a blog has.

Any practical advice about this acute First-World problem?

2. This week someone emailed me for advice for a beginner ESL teacher. It was fun to think about what my philosophy of teaching is, as I’m not ‘trained’ or ‘schooled.’ I sometimes teach with more passion than knowledge but sometimes when the day is long and the energy is short, the knowledge outweighs the passion. This is not a good thing in the classroom.

So this is most of what I wrote:
To someone just beginning in ESL, I advise them to be comfortable with naming and referring to parts of speech. Know what the difference is between adverbs and adjectives, what past perfect continuous tense, comparatives and superlatives, and a direct object is. This is esp useful if your students have studied at another language school and use those terms.
Most of all, and this is impossible to over-emphasize: never love the lesson more than the student. If you lose the student, the lesson is lost. Walk beside them (figuratively and literally). Look them in the eyes. Read their body language. When you don’t share a common language, you need to tune into the unspoken words they say. If they’re uncomfortable with something but can’t tell you, they won’t learn. Make sure you take them with you at every point in the lesson.
They need to feel safe with you, and need to hear that you believe in them. Correct gently and praise generously. Language usage is very emotional; it’s not only grammar and syntax. Give them reasons to be GLAD to study with you, so they don’t dread it or fear English.  Be excited and enthusiastic. Vary the tones of your voice. Move around the classroom. Touch their shoulders sometimes.  Use objects and photos as much as possible.
These approaches work well for me. Every student learns differently. Every teacher teaches differently. It’s the teacher’s job to meet the student where they are and provide for their learning style they best they can. This is what makes every lesson an adventure!

2 thoughts on “Blogs and Teaching ESL

  1. Forgive me for not having anything to say about your blog trauma, but I loved your paragraph on teaching. You’ve laid your finger on what I LOVE about teaching. In every subject, there are fundamental skills and building blocks (love those, speak about them daily, and put them on the frontlets of your students’ eyes). And the part about loving the student more than the lesson–it’s well put. I’m a bit of an obsessive planner, and I’ve had to learn this the hard way. Fortunately, most new skills in teaching are so much more rewarding than the previous skill level.

  2. I love your emphasis on caring for the student. That is important in any teaching, but TESOL opportunities are usually unique situations where it is especially vital.

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