ESL students DON’T ACTUALLY want to LEARN ENGLISH, they want to LEARN ‘THE TEACHER’!


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An interesting question came up recently in a group of people I was with and we were all talking about how well students learn, what their weak spots were, how they need to try other techniques and so on, all of which was useful and helpful for each of us. But one thing dawned on me, our discussion was all about the student and what the student needs to do, or how the teacher needs to prepare things so that the student can learn this way and that.

Impressive and interesting. But what I also realised was that this in itself is not really the only thing the student gets when they sit in front of a great teacher. The answer really is that the student doesn’t actually ‘learn English’, they ‘learn the teacher’!

Strange I know, but for every amazing teacher that stands in front of the class, it is not just their amazing lesson plan and means by which they deliver the lesson that the students respond to…they respond to the very thing that makes them acquire the language as a totality. They respond to the ‘person’ of the teacher, as they see the teacher as their English speaking role model. If the teacher is an excellent teacher, there will be many aspects to them that the student will wish to acquire way beyond just his/her accent.

So what are the features of this amazing role model? Well, all teachers, as well as ESL teachers as soon as they enter the classroom they bring a host of other qualities that build a whole person, not just a language. These qualities include:

  • A clear understanding of cooperation, collaboration and teamwork
  • Respect for all people irrespective of race, gender, orientation, religion etc
  • Kindness and understanding for those genuine moments in all our lives
  • Compassion for those who are more needy
  • Effort when hard work is necessary they can jump in and delivery
  • Diligence in doing the right thing the right way
  • Organisation to show they can be in control when necessary
  • Humour to show they are human and can connect with others

The truth is that if you have a teacher who understands the ins and outs of grammar, can speak perfect English, can prepare a perfectly paced lesson plan with an IT component etc, though these are important qualities to an excellent lesson, if the person doesn’t possess most of the 8 qualities above, they do not make an excellent teacher.

We are all looking for role models no matter how young or old we are, and the ESL teacher is a living walking talking example every day they show up to class.

So for all you ESL teachers out there. Take time to reflect and realise how amazing you are, that the student is not just there to learn English, they are there to become you! (If possible)

3 thoughts on “ESL students DON’T ACTUALLY want to LEARN ENGLISH, they want to LEARN ‘THE TEACHER’!

  1. Extremely impressed by the quality of your writing style and especially, the consistent quality of your articles’ content. Your advice to English teachers everywhere – challenging us to look beyond the mastery of pedagogy – is invaluable.

    – Dorian (English Parfait)

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