In this post I want to give some advice to people who are new to ESL teaching or interested in starting; however this information is still useful for teachers who are currently practicing, and especially teachers who are unhappy with their current position. I will be discussing the importance of teaching philosophy and how it may contribute to your performance as an ESL instructor. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, you will feel more comfortable teaching at an institution that holds the same values as you. Secondly, this will make you aware of your role as a teacher in a classroom and help you approach your class from many different angles. Understanding which perspective fits you best, as well as the students, will maximize your potential as a teacher.
The first thing is to consider your personal teaching philosophy and how it aligns with the values of the school or academy you work for/wish to work for. Ask yourself some questions like:
What is the purpose of teaching?
Why do I want to teach?
What are my values?
How do my values contribute to my thinking and behaviors?
What do I want students to gain from me?
Once you have answered these questions you should have a better understanding of what you want for yourself and for your students.
Next, you should find out the values held by the institution at which you wish to teach. This can be done by researching the school through their website or through forums that share information about ESL institutions. Additionally, you should ask your interviewer about their mission. Most schools will have a mission statement which espouses their teaching philosophy. For example, some educational institutions wish to mold model citizens out of their students, while others see school as an environment for exploration.
You will likely encounter many ESL institutions that are subject-centered and simply want their students to memorize the content and perform well on tests. This is fine since there are other considerations to keep in mind. In this situation, you should be aware of your options in the classroom and align your planning and instruction with your personal philosophy. By planning I mean the activities in which you engage your students, and by instruction I mean how you will actually teach the content. Even if there are incongruities between your educational ideals and the institution’s, you should modify how the class is structured to improve the alignment between your values and the classroom structure.
For example, let’s say you have a learner-centered perspective (focus on the experience of the student and less on the content being delivered) but you work for a TOEFL academy which only cares how the students are performing on their assessments. Therefore they probably aren’t concerned with how the class is designed, as long as the students are studying for the TOEFL exam. If there is leniency in how you design the class then you can modify the classroom activities. Partner work can be introduced where weaker students are paired with stronger students so that the weaker students feel supported. In addition, the stronger students will be challenged and be given some purpose. The content can also be delivered in a fun way. Doing well on the TOEFL requires a high level of vocabulary. There are plenty of vocabulary activities that can be restructured like game shows to incentivize vocabulary building.
To summarize, it’s important to consider your educational philosophy before searching for an educational institution and if it is difficult to find one that aligns with your values, find ways to modify your class structure in order to include your values into your lessons. This way you will feel comfortable teaching for an institution that shares the same ideas as you and you will better understand your role as a teacher in the classroom.
You should not feel trapped in your own classroom. Be creative with your classroom and start discussions with other teachers about how they add themselves to their classes.
I would encourage anyone to contribute to the discussion below with feedback, comments, or questions.
Thank you for your time.