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How’s it going, ESL teachers?

Excited? Tired? A combination of the above?

We hope you are doing well! After all, you have a legion of students who look up to you for guidance in learning English! That’s no small task! 

Today, we want to tell you about mistakes that ESL teachers often make. 

Listen, mistakes do happen! We are all humans after all! 

But identifying and understanding potential mishaps can help us be more mindful about our actions and therefore we’re less likely to make these mistakes. 

So, without further do, let’s start! 

Mistakes made by English teachers

1. You say things that are not necessary 

So, you’re going to teach a class of fourth graders. Today, you planned to give them an exercise on house-related vocabulary. But, the copy machine ran out of colour inks and you can only give them black and white copies. 

Frustrated, you say, 

“Hello everyone! So today, we are going to do an exercise on things around your home! But you see, as it turns out, the copy machine has run out of ink and now I can only give you black and white copies. But that’s okay! We just need to adapt and adjust, you see here, maybe the picture is a bit unclear but….” 

Okay, so, there’s a problem with the copy machine. Whatever. We’ve all been there. 

However, DON’T dump this on your students. They are here to learn and not to hear you blabber. It also reflects poorly on your professionalism and gives your institution bad rep. 

Also, your students might not even understand half of what you say if you blabber, especially if they are at an elementary level of English. 

2. You ask them if they understand 

Say what now? 

Of course we want to make sure that our students understand the lesson! 

But think back to your schooling days, chances are you have encountered a teacher (or five!) who looked at you directly in the eyes and asked, “do you understand?” 

Now, if you are anything like me, you probably felt pressured to say yes.

Now imagine how your students feel when you ask them that!

There are other ways to make sure your students understand the lesson without putting them on the spot and directly asking them if they understand.

Simply ask them questions related to the lesson to make sure they’ve understood. 

3. Under challenging your students 

If you don’t adequately challenge your students, they’ll lose their curiosity and motivation. 

Of course, I am not saying that you should give your students really difficult exercises, that would kill their curiosity and motivation too! 

Your task is to find just the balance of challenge so your students are always learning new things but not too hard that they get discouraged. 

With that said, a lot of teachers fall into the trap of under challenging their students. This is especially prevalent in teachers of children. Don’t fall into the trap of modifying the games, exercises or tests to be easier just because they are children and you feel like they wouldn’t be able to understand.

You’d be surprised how much they are able to learn and accomplish! In fact, children are probably the quickest learners when it comes to languages! 

4. All group work or all individual work 

Students need both! 

You can assign projects as group work. For example, you can ask them to make flyers or posters together. You can also assign group works to make some sort of plays or acting activity where each student in a group is assigned to different roles. 

Group projects are very valuable to teach our students how to be collaborative. It teaches them to be assertive yet mindful of other people’s voices as well. 

On the other hand, you can assign worksheets and writing practices as individual assignments to ensure your students understand all the learning materials. 

Sure, some students work better alone and others thrive in group settings and like having friends to bounce ideas off. However, you should give your students a chance to experience both settings. 

5. Hardcore textbook follower 

What do we mean by this? 

It means that you follow EVERYTHING in the textbook. The textbook is at the heart of the learning experience. 

Not only is this boring, but you are also doing a disservice to your students.

Remember that first and foremost your goal should be to help your students learn and be confident in English. 

So, if an activity derived from the textbook is not helpful to that goal, by any means, modify it, change it around! 

Remember, your classroom should be student-centred not text-book centred!


So, do you find yourself doing one of these things?

If so, that’s okay! It’s not the end of the world. 

We are constantly learning and improving, and part of our job is to be committed to professional development so we can always be the best version of ourselves. 

One thing that you need to remember is that your goal should always be to help your students develop and grow. This must be your guiding anchor in determining all your classroom activities. 

Do you want to develop yourself as an educator?

At IELC, we give you the opportunity to join a great team, develop yourself, and make a difference to Indonesia’s future by teaching English the right way to the next generation of English learners. 

You will also get access to continuous training and professional development and get to meet fantastic, like-minded colleagues and team members. 

Take the first step to enjoy a supportive and fun working environment, develop yourself, and get a rewarding job with IELC.


Anthony McCormick 

IELC Managing Director