4 Tips on How to Be a Better ELL Teacher

Some of my best teachers when I was a kid were the strictest.

They ran their classes with clear expectations and clear consequences. Everyone knew where the lines were and few dared to cross them. The classes were, as a result, quite efficient and also, surprisingly, a lot of fun because those great teachers used the boundaries like those of a soccer field or basketball court rather than those of a cage.

I also remember teachers who were pushovers.

In their classrooms, there were no boundaries at all, or at least none that were enforced.

They were afraid to follow through with the students.

They warned.

They threatened.

They sometimes yelled.

But it almost always ended there. Until they had “had it up to here” and exploded. These teachers generally made themselves, as well as their students, miserable.

If you ask me, a strict teacher certainly has the advantage. Better to have your students marching uniform than running roughshod.

Still, teachers can take things a bit too far.

They end up ruling childhood out of the classroom.

They forget what it’s like to be a kid.

If you are too strict, you run the risk of distancing yourself and destroying any connection you have with the students. If the teacher is too distant and has no connection with the students, the students interpret strictness as dislike. They end up misbehaving out of spite as much as out of being bored. They misbehave just to rebel, just to get back at you, just to get even.

If they feel like you don’t like them, they will try to show you how much they dislike you back. You will get nasty looks and muttered comments. You will get defiant students who drag their feet and sabotage your lessons.

Kids will be kids, whether we like it or not. The question is whether we are working with the tide of their enthusiasm, or against it.Here are some ideas to help you avoid ruling the childhood out of your classrooms:

1. Let Loose a Little

Sometimes you just have to do it, even if you feel like it is not your personality.

When a student makes a joke, it is OK to laugh.

It is OK to laugh when you make a mistake.

It is OK to sing something when you could have spoken it.

It’s OK to play silly games just for the fun of it.

Somewhere, deep down inside every teacher, there is the memory of childhood. Try to connect with that part of you from time to time.

2. Let Them Get Something Out of Their Systems

If they are making a stupid sound and giggling about it, give everyone one minute to make the sound as much as they want before cracking down on it.

If a child does a silly dance and everyone laughs, let him do in the front of the class for 10 seconds before cracking down on him.

You can make it very clear that if you hear the sound or see the dance again afterward, you will give one warning and then the whole class will have to write something extra for homework. 

3. Connect

Instead of yelling or nagging at students when they misbehave, try walking over, getting down on their level and talking to them.

If you are teaching and a student isn’t listening, don’t stop talking, just go over, put your hand on the student’s shoulder and keep teaching.

Within reason, be patient and enjoy a student’s story about something funny that happened. Give your students high fives. Look them in the eyes and tell them you like them.

Connect with your kids.

4. Don’t Get Angry

If you get angry, you’ve lost.

Over time, you will have to get angrier, louder, and meaner to have the same effect. If you have to use anger to keep a class in line, you will be miserable and so will your students.

You can follow through with students without getting angry and yelling.

Think back to the most common times in class when you get angry and try to plan better ways to avoid those problems into your lesson plans.

Let me know your comments and questions in the comments section below! 

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