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50 Things Teachers Should Avoid

1. Don’t show up late

Showing up late will get you fired real quick, so beware of traffic jams and sleeping too late in cozy beds!

2. Don’t come without materials

Make sure you remember your lesson plans, books and whatever other materials you want/need. It’s also wise to bring educational games, practices or conversation starters, in case you finish early and need to fill some extra class time.

Bring white board markers, paper and pens/pencils. Not much is worse than getting to class and realizing there are no white board markers, or there are a bunch of them, but they are all dry! Sure, maybe you’re lucky enough to use smartboards, but what if there’s a power-failure? Also, paper is really nice to bring in case students forgot theirs, so you can still encourage them to take notes!

3. Don’t show up unprofessionally dressed or with poor hygiene

Dress professionally. That might even mean a tie and no ear-rings, or covering your tattoos, depending on your employer. And don’t forget to brush your teeth, wash, shave and deodorize. Stinking is not professional.

4. Know how many students you have before class & prepare for them

Knowing this will allow you to bring the right number of copies. Prepare for the maximum number of students, to avoid potential problems. Besides, they will probably need copies later, even if they are absent.

5. Be prepared for absences

For example, if you have a small class and you’re expecting to have a debate and you need at least two people on each team, but only three students show up, realize ahead of time that this might happen, so you have a back-up plan.

Likewise, teachers sometimes give students allotted times for presentations, but if a couple students are irresponsible, have emergencies, or are absent, that may account for 20 minutes of dead-time during your class you will need to fill. Don’t get caught unprepared.

6. Don’t bring internet materials without checking them first

The great thing about the internet is that you can find almost anything, copy it and bring it in to use in class. But remember, some of these practices have been graciously shared by ESL teachers in other countries, whose first language is not English and sometimes they really aren’t really qualified enough to be making practices for students. It’s going to make you look like a pretty bad teacher, if you’re handing out practices with five or six mistakes on them and you don’t know it until your students tell you.

7. Don’t forget to take attendance

Depending on your employer, you may also need to jot down participation grades for all your students. Don’t forget to get in the habit of taking attendance at the start of class. You may think you can do it later, when you have more time, but if you forget and a few days go by, you may not remember with certainty and attendance can be very important to students.

8. Don’t tell them you have never taught before

Students don’t need o know it is your first class, so don’t tell them.If you do, their first reaction will probably be disappointment that they didn’t get a more experienced teacher and then they will be looking for reason to find you lacking.

If instead, you mention your strong educational background, years of experience, or student-centric teaching philosophy, they will be looking for reasons to like and support you.

9. Don’t forget to take notes on each class

Your notes should include attendance, corrections, student questions and ideas for needed subject matter for future classes. These notes can really come in handy later, as important reminders.

If you write corrections down in your class notes, you can also save yourself time and energy later, by using sentences with actual student mistakes as test questions they will see later.

10. Don’t use a lot of yes/no questions

Simple yes/no questions are not conducive to getting students to practice speaking, formulating complex responses or finding ways to share detailed ideas and opinions. So instead of simply asking a question like, “Do you agree with this?” and they say, “Yes.” Instead, ask, “What’s your opinion? Why do you feel that way? Can you explain why you disagree?”

11. Don’t make the class about you

Make sure you are not doing most of the talking.

It’s fun to share your opinions and talk about yourself, but don’t forget, especially in the case of ESL and language classes it’s more important that students speak and share their opinions. In such classes, it’s usually better when the teacher bites their tongue and lets the students talk.

12. Don’t teach a class with no theme

Examples of class themes are usually things like “Going shopping” or “Leading a Business Meeting.” It’s good to have a real-world topic to help students relate to the information they’ll be learning. Without a theme, classes may seem disjointed and parts of the class may seem unrelated or off-topic.

13. Don’t forget to make the class theme & examples relevant to students

Try to cater your themes to your students’ needs and interests whenever possible. Find out what they need to know first. Then found out what they are interested in learning and try to plan your class content and examples accordingly.

For example, if a student needs to know how to answer the phone for work, then teach that as the first topic. When you’re practicing grammar and vocabulary, try to use topical examples, like practice past for receiving phone calls: “Did you call before?”

14. Don’t forget to put student corrections on the board

If you only correct students verbally, they only get your correction once. If you give them the correction verbally, then they see it on the board, then they copy it and practice it at home, they get it four or more times.

People learn best through repetition, so who do you think will learn better…the student who gets a correction once and has no notes to study from, or the student who gets the correction four times and has the option of studying it later?

15. Don’t sit the entire class

An easy mistake for teachers to make, especially when they’re tired, is to sit for the entire class, but if you sit the entire class, you drain energy not only from yourself, but also from the class itself. Moving around keeps you loose and energized and having you in different parts of the classroom and in closer proximity to students helps keep them focus.

16. Don’t teach every class in the same way

There are really two trains of thought. First, repetition is good and it can be an advantage when students come into class knowing what to expect and what the processes are going to be. At the same time, changing the order and exercises in a class can keep things fresh and interesting for students by offering more variety and adaptation.

17. Don’t only teach from the book

Try to liven up classes by doing more than just teaching from the book all the time. Try to add your own interesting activities and bonus information to enhance students’ experiences. Create your own practices and games once in a while.

18. Don’t forget to keep the focus on conversation

It’s easy to focus on writing and grammar, but don’t forget that for most students it’s more important that they practice lots of speaking and fluency. It can be hard to come up with ideas to spark interesting conversations, but that’s why students have a teacher, to do the hard parts, so their part is easy.

19. Don’t correct students so frequently that you inhibit fluency

It’s very important to give students lots of corrections, however, during speaking exercises, when students are striving for fluency, it’s better to write down mistakes during the exercise and then give students corrections after they’ve had a chance to finish speaking.

20. Don’t scold students for trying

Make sure you give constructive criticism and encouragement. Do not make fun of students for wrong answers. Even saying things like “No” and “That’s wrong,” are a bit harsh. Instead, try to give more encouraging corrections, like “Good guess,” “Nice try” or “That’s almost right.”

21. Check movies and videos before sharing them with your class

Unless you’ve just recently watched the entire movie or video, make sure you check it before sharing it with your class. You may have forgotten there’s a sex scene, very graphic violence, or a dirty joke that will be highly inappropriate for your class and that has the potential to get you in serious trouble with your school. You might even get fired.

22. Don’t just watch movies the entire class

Watching movies can be a valuable learning tool, especially to spark conversation and deeper practices, but if you spend entire classes just watching movies, students will start to wonder if they couldn’t be doing this at home alone. They will start to wonder what you are getting paid for.

Instead of showing the whole movie, you can show segments of movies to spark conversations, but still maintain a good portion of class for practicing. If you really want/need to show an entire movie, watch the movie in segments, breaking it down into two or three classes, so there can be at least a half-hour of movie-inspired practice after each viewing.

23. Don’t spend all your time on grammar

One of the problems with traditional stand up and lecture teaching is that a lot of students learn the structures and rules of language, but gain little or no experience and confidence speaking. The result is learners who understand the language, but can’t speak. For most learners, it’s more important that they’re able to speak and understand, than to write.

24. Don’t be afraid to get up and change your surroundings

One of the best class exercises for ESL business is to ask your student to give you a tour of their business and explain what their company does in various areas. This is a real-world practice that gets them up out of their chair and keeps things interesting. Likewise, teachers with young classroom learners may consider taking them outside for a class, or even take them on a field trip.

25. Don’t forget to make your materials level appropriate

When selecting exercises and materials, don’t forget to make them both level and age appropriate. You can look online for tips on how to check to make sure things like authentic literature are appropriate for your students.

26. Don’t make jokes and comments that might offend someone

You might even want to avoid discussion about politics, religion and abortion. Really, it depends on your students, but it’s usually better not to take chances.

27. Don’t forget to keep everyone equally involved

Some students speak and volunteer more than others, but it is often the most confident students who want to speak and volunteer the most, which means the students who need the most help are the ones who are least likely to speak. It’s your job as teacher to try to give everyone equal practice. Try to encourage shier students to answer questions and say more. Consider having students take turns answering questions, instead of just taking volunteers.

28. Don’t be Impatient

If you’re waiting for a student to try to figure out an answer, or give an example, it may seem like they’re taking forever to do something simple, but be patient. The greater part of learning takes place when students are trying to answer a question, not when they’re actually answering it.

29. Don’t forget to start & end with speaking activities whenever possible

If you start with a speaking activity it pulls students in at the start of class and sets a good tone and if you end with a speaking activity, it sends them out from your class more energized and thinking good things about you and your class.

30. Don’t embarrass your students

Don’t joke about your students’ shortcomings and insecurities. Your job as teacher is to build students up, not to tear them down and if you say anything bad about one student, other students may start to wonder what you are saying about them as well, or when you might start.

31. Don’t complain to/about your students, school or other teachers

Negativity is contagious, just like positivity is, but negativity will come back to bite you in the butt. The smart thing is to just avoid it.

And remember, when you are correcting student mistakes, you are not being negative. You are helping them! So make sure you remember that and that your students understand it as well.

32. Don’t forget to make eye contact with your entire class

A public speaking tip that is very relevant to teaching…people tend to read from left to right. It can be very easy to start on the left, but never make your way over to the students on the right.

Also, in a big classroom, you may give more eye-contact and attention to the students in the front. That is another reason why it’s a good idea to move around your classroom, because you can get close to your students in the back once in a while to let them know you’re thinking of them.

33. Don’t forget to walk around

Another public speaking tip…Don’t pace when you’re talking. Constant pacing can distract your students from what you’re actually saying, but occasionally walking around your class to put yourself in different areas helps create energy and helps students stay focused.

Placing yourself near an off-task or problem student can also help correct behavioral problems without even saying a word.

34. Don’t say “uh, um, er” and avoid other distracting behavior

When nervous, people, teachers included, try to fill quiet time with stalling noises. The silence is actually better, especially for teachers, because students assume the teacher knows what they’re doing and are doing something relevant, but if you throw ten or twelve “uuums” into a class, students start to think you lack confidence and don’t know what you’re doing. Also, avoid rocking back and forth.

35. Don’t forget to lead your students instead of giving immediate answers

This is a very important point! When students are wrong, it’s better not to give them the correct answer. It’s better to allow them to figure out what is correct for themselves by using leading questions. This better allows their brains to make the connections to the correct answer.

For example: Your student says, “I was on the restaurant last night,” so you say, “My book is ON the table. My cell phone is IN my pocket. Where were you last night?” If they still don’t get it, try to keep leading them in the right direction. “We are IN this classroom, right now. Were you ON the restaurant last night or were you IN the restaurant?” If that student is too confused to answer the question correctly, perhaps another student can help.

36. Don’t be afraid to let your students have conversations without you

Remember, it’s more important that your students speak. A great way to increase student talk time and decrease teacher talk time, is to have students enjoy speaking practice amongst themselves and leave the teacher out of it. This is also better for the teacher, because it allows them to focus on listening and writing down corrections for their students, which they probably can’t do as effectively, if they’re focusing on participating in the conversation.

This is why pair share is such a great teaching method and group discussions and debates are so wonderful for students!

37. Don’t forget to address student questions

If a student asks a question, answer it. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say you don’t know the answer and that you’ll find out and get back to them about it next class, but then make sure you remember to do it!

Sometimes, due to time constraints, you may also want to defer a question to later in the class, or even spend more time answering a question in a future class, when you’re able to spend more time on it. If that’s the case, then let your students know and make sure you follow up on it later.

38. Don’t forget to include speaking, vocabulary, reading, writing & grammar

Try to teach with a mixture of disciplines. Students need all of these things to be truly fluent and proficient. They are all connected, so focus on speaking and fluency, but don’t forget about the other disciplines they need to practice.

39. Don’t forget to give a demonstration followed by a practice

A great system for teaching is to give a presentation of new information, then do a controlled practice, during which the teacher monitors each student for errors. Afterward, a less controlled practice like pair-share can be used to increase student practice time and the teacher can do spot-checks for student errors.
40. Don’t plan to arrive on time. Plan to arrive early.

Problems always arise. Traffic, for example, can be terrible and an accident on a highway can delay people in unforeseen ways, so always plan to arrive to your classes early. That way if there are delays, you’ll arrive on time. If you plan to arrive on time and there are delays, you’ll be late and teachers should never be late for their classes.

41. Don’t forget to memorize and use student’s names

Students will appreciate that you took the time to really get to know them. It shows you care and helps forge a more personal bond with your students, so the sooner you can learn their names, the better off you are.

42. Don’t forget to sing your praises the first class

There are plenty of times to be modest. Your first class with a new group is not one of them. After you have students tell you about themselves, tell them about yourself and be sure to include any positive teaching related experience.

“I have a Master’s Degree from the United States. I’ve been teaching for six-years and I won ‘Teacher of the Year’ at Berlitz in 2011.”

By singing your own praises in the first class, you are increasing your perceived value to your students and also increasing your authority. If you are just some guy, they’re less likely to obey your instruction, but if they believe you’re a knowledgeable, well-trained and time-tested teacher, they’re going to be more likely to trust your judgment and obey you.

43. Don’t forget there are different types of learners

Remember people learn in different ways. Some learn better by listening and repeating, others by reading and writing, still others by endless repetition. There are five senses: Sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Try to find occasions to incorporate all five senses into your teaching.

A learner who is really struggling might actually make a great learning connection by connecting information to a smell their brain will remember, or a taste. Try to find new ways to make connections in your students’ minds.

44. Don’t forget to have your students do pair share, while you correct

Pair-share, where two students partner to have a discussion is a very valuable teaching exercise for students and teacher alike. Group conversations and debates are also excellent ways to increase the fun and enhance student talk time.

45. Don’t forget to write your topic on the board at the start of class

This is a small detail, but it is helpful. To prepare the expectations of students, you can just write something like, “Talking about vacations” on the board at the start of class. Try to make your topics active instead of passive, like writing “Talking about vacations,” instead of just “Vacations.”

46. Don’t forget part of your job as teacher is to encourage and motivate

Stay positive. Understand that people struggle with different things, so something that might be easy for most, might be very difficult for some and they will benefit from additional patience, motivation and support.

Use plenty of verbal encouragement like “great job, excellent, great answer, perfect, that’s a great question, that’s a wonderful point, thanks for sharing that, thank you for adding that,” etc.

Physical encouragement can and should also be used. Clap, give them a high-five, shake their hand for a great answer, or ask them to give you “a pound.”

47. Don’t forget to encourage students to pay attention, take notes, study & practice outside of class

Some students are extremely motivated and don’t need to be asked. Others, need encouragement to take notes or do homework. If they’re not taking notes, ask them to. If they forget to do their homework, talk to them about how important the extra practice is and encourage them to do it. Keep them on task and paying attention in class. Students need to know they’re not in a bubble where they can do whatever they want. You are in there with them.

48. Choose your colors wisely

When using a whiteboard or smartboard, try to vary your use of colors and choose them wisely. For example, make sentences or questions in black and then use green or blue for answers or student corrections. Red has a negative connotation for many students and seeing too much red marking up their sentences may be intimidating or discouraging to some students. Green and blue are friendlier correction colors.

49. Don’t forget to confirm your classes in advance

For traveling ESL teachers, make sure you confirm your classes in advance. It may be easy as sending a text message, but it may save you hours of travel time. It can be quite inconvenient to travel a long distance through heavy traffic only to find out your student won’t be able to attend class and now you need to make a long trip home.

50. Don’t forget to suggest students can use DuoLingo’s free app for extra practice

Especially for ESL students, DuoLingo is a great free language learning tool that can be uploaded onto a cell phone for quick, easy and convenient practices! And best of all, it’s fun!!! It’s like a videogame!!!

By: Evan Marquisee

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