Panel Discussion Part Two: Teaching English as a Second Language

Carrie Kellenberger's picture

Panel Discussion Part Two: Teaching English as a Second Language

Are you thinking of teaching English abroad, but you’re still not quite sure about it? Our special two-part series on Teaching English Abroad answers some basic questions about teaching English as a Second Language.
Our ESL contributors have taught in various destinations around Asia. Read on for a few tips and tricks for first-time ESL teachers. Feel free to drop by any of the following sites for additional information about teaching abroad in Asia.

Our Experts

John Bardos 
John is the author of JetSetCitizen, a popular website offering advice and information on how to redesign your life. John and his wife have lived in Japan for over ten years. They own a small English school in Japan, but they recently left to travel the world. John also publishes You Can Teach English, a web site that offers practical advice for English teachers and information on ESL jobs around the world.  

Nancie Mckinnon 
Canadian expat Nancie Mckinnon has lived in Asia since 2000. Catch up on her Asian travel adventures through her stunning photography and descriptive travel writing on her personal website 
Lady Expat, or stop by on Budget Travelers Sandbox if you're interested in budget travel. Nancie teaches English at a university level in Daejeon, South Korea and she has also co-authored several TOEFL textbooks.  

Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott quit her corporate IT job two years ago and has since traveled to 23 countries. She relocated to Ho Chi Minh City to teach English. In her free time, she blogs about her adventures at Ott's World. Sherry is also an accomplished photographer and the co-founder of Briefcase To Backpack. 

Sasha Peakall
Author of On Your Way Travel, at 21 years of age, Sasha Peakall has already traveled to 23 different countries throughout Europe and Asia. At the moment, she’s in Shaoxing, China, where she is teaching English and saving up to continue her worldwide adventures. 

Carrie Kellenberger
Carrie has lived in Asia since 2003. She works part-time as a private ESL instructor, has co-authored dozens of GEPT and TOEIC textbooks, and works as a freelance writer, editor, and photographer for several print and online publications. Her photography and stories about life in Asia can be found on My Several Worlds. She is also the founder of Taiwan Photographers.




2. What is one thing that a new teacher needs to know about teaching abroad?

John Bardos: You have to enjoy talking and working with people. If you are not an outgoing person then teaching is probably not for you.

Sherry Ott: Be prepared that there will be many ups and downs from a change perspective.  You will have good days, and you will have absolutely HORRIBLE days when you can't seem to get the simplest thing accomplished.  Write those bad days off as 'just a bad day' and try to laugh about it; don't let it affect your ongoing feeling about the place.  If you are a new teacher going to teach ESL for a language school, then be prepared that each location offers a different level of support.  My school didn't really help me find housing, or have a real 'orientation'.  I was sorta on my own to figure things out and it was really confusing in the beginning.  Starting a new job, in a new country can be a real challenge - but if you like challenges, then teaching ESL and living abroad is for you!


Sasha Peakall: Expect things to go wrong! I came over to China with a job lined up thinking that I was all set, nothing could go wrong. When I got here I found that my job had fallen through and suddenly I was in limbo not knowing where I would be living or when I would start work.  It's important to remember that things could go wrong at any time and to have some kind of backup plan so that your not left in a foreign country with no job, no money or accommodation!

Carrie Kellenberger: Be adaptable and be patient.

3. Can you offer a favorite tip or activity for the ESL classroom?

John Bardos: Learning to communicate at a level appropriate to students' ability is the best thing you can do to improve learning opportunities. This is referred to ZPD (zone of proximal development), L+1 (students' current level plus a little more), or CI (comprehensible input). Pay close attention to the exact phrases and words you use with students and you will see students quickly start to use the same language. This is often an overlooked skill.

Sherry Ott: I loved doing fun starters - so that it would encourage kids to show up on time and so that the late-comers wouldn't interrupt the planned lesson.  Often the students feeling about punctuality is very different than our western punctuality. So I would try to have fun activities at the beginning, instead of starting the lesson right away. Inevitably students would come in 15 minutes late and that way I didn't have to 'catch them up' in the lesson. 

Sasha Peakall: Let the students play teacher. I try to give my students the chance to play teacher as often as possible. Letting them lead an activity (under my watchful eye of course) builds their confidence, improves their speaking and gives them a sense of responsibility. With children letting them play teacher as a reward for good work or behavior is a good way to motivate them.

Carrie Kellenberger: I can’t stress the importance of having a lesson plan. I’ve seen too many teachers walk into a classroom without a lesson plan and end up getting off track halfway through class. A lesson plan helps you stay focused.

At the end of class, take a moment to jot down what worked and what didn’t work. Finally, keep your lesson plans. You’ll be able to refer back to them time and time again.



Carrie Kellenberger is the ESL Editor for Wandering Educators