What your English teacher really thinks

Your English teacher hates it when you…

1. Constantly mess with your cell phone in class.

Unless you are consulting a dictionary app on your phone – which I know 99% of you are not – please keep your cell phone out of sight. That means in your pocket or purse, not in your hand or under the table. When your teacher is carefully giving instructions and you say “What? Can you repeat?” because you were texting your buddies, that is not cool.

2. Interrupt the teacher with questions out of left field.

Acceptable reason to interrupt the teacher – If you don’t understand or have a question on the material.

Unacceptable reason to interrupt the teacher – If you have a burning desire to know the meaning of every single slang word you heard in a movie last night. Ask me after class instead.

3. Don’t talk at all because you’re afraid of making a mistake.

What’s the worst that could happen? Are you imagining that everyone will mock you and the teacher will make you stand in a corner? Get over it – the only way to get better at English is to (try to) use it!

4. Work ahead in the book.

This means that while everyone else is working diligently on the exercises, you’ll be sitting there smugly with nothing to do. Odds are you’ll stare at the teacher with a “come on, entertain me” look on your face… or you’ll just start playing with your cell phone.

5. Don’t care about your own learning.

When the teacher gives you a task to do, you should not sigh loudly, roll your eyes, or get a sour expression on your face. Also you are adults and your teacher should not have to tell you to stop poking your classmates and pay attention. That’s kindergarten crap. Finally, I know you know how to say basic things like “Which page?” in English, so if you keep saying them in Portuguese after over a year of study, I just might slap you.

Your English teacher loves it when you…

1. Invest extra English time outside of class, no matter how little.

That “extra time” could be anything from reading a few paragraphs in English, to listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video, to chatting with English-speaking friends online – it all helps! Your teacher can see the difference; students who invest this extra time tend to progress much faster, not to mention being more enthusiastic and dedicated in general.

2. Ask questions when you genuinely need help.

If something’s not clear to you, it’s probably not clear to others either – so please ask! Better to learn 5 things solidly than rush through 10 things and learn none of them well.

3. Make mistakes.

Speak up and make those mistakes proudly, because when we correct them in a group at the end of class, everyone benefits! Plus, if you’re going to pronounce “pie chart” as “pee chart,” better to do so in English class than in an important business meeting.

4. Describe an English word using English.

Imagine your teacher doesn’t speak Portuguese and invent a creative way to communicate your meaning. You’ll surprise yourself with how much you can do with few words! Like my student who said:

“What is vegetable, is white, when you [makes chopping motion with hand],
you [makes “crying” gestures]?”

It’s an onion… and you get a gold star!

5. Share success stories from outside the classroom.

Your teacher LOVES hearing about how you successfully handled a phone call to London, traveled to New York without a translator, or gave an awesome presentation in English! Heck, we love hearing about your difficulties, too, like the fact that you still can’t understand your colleague from Kentucky. These stories provide glimpses into how our work is making (or will make) a tangible difference in your lives.

  • Humn, a grammar geek. This reminds me of one of my idols: The Grammar Girl.
    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/
    Are you a fan as well?

    Oh, I found the article + recording linked below – regarding teaching techniques – quite useful.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126743261

    Have a nice Friday.

    • Shayna

      Grammar girl is great. Thanks for the NPR link, definitely some food for thought. Right now I’d say my biggest challenge in the classroom is livening up “business English” classes, because the materials I have to teach from are so boring!

  • ain’t that the truth!

  • Tiffany dos Santos

    Not an English teacher, but as a third grade teacher I get most of these. I think teaching adults is harder… kids can be easily swayed into being good by a smile and a high five.

    • Shayna

      I haven’t worked with many kids, but when I have, the biggest challenge for me is their attention spans, which are often short. Feels like every minute of every class has to be super entertaining and awesome in order to keep them focused! How do you do it?

      I confess… I do sometimes motivate my adult students with candy :-p