07 November 2014 / by Radmila Gurkova

7 Questions for ESL Teachers to Change ESL Education

My name is Liz Ward. I am an Australian teacher with over 30 years experience teaching students from age 5 yrs. to 12 yrs. I have worked in both public and private schools and spent 4 yrs. at an International School in Malaysia. I have also worked at an English Language Academy in Vientiane, Laos. I have experience in EAL (English as an additional language, one term within ESL) and working with students with Special Needs.

OxbridgeTEFL: What is English language teaching about according to Liz Ward?

Liz Ward: To me, English Language Teaching requires a specific teaching methodology and this is dependent upon objectives and outcomes of the individual lessons. We must always ensure that we are fulfilling the individual needs of our students. Approaches need to be tailored to suit the requirements of the language course e.g. the communicative approach may work for students who require English for everyday interactions, but students who need English in the academic field would require a more intensive approach where writing, speaking, listening & grammar are all targeted. The most important thing is to engage the students and empower them to take control of their own learning through positive language experiences. A skilled teacher continually adapts and modifies to accommodate individual student needs.

OxTEFL: Is ESL education in Spain sick or in good health?

L.W.: I do not have a great deal of knowledge regarding ESL education in Spain, but it appears to me that there is a wide variety of Language Schools offering varied approaches to language learning.

Students are also able to access ESL classes at school. I would consider Spain to be in the midst of an ESL boom with schools springing up all over Spain. There possibly needs to be some consolidation of the system.

OxTEFL: What is the English teacher's biggest challenge in the classroom?

L.W.: The teacher’s biggest challenge is to engage all students in the class and ensure lessons are relevant, effective and appropriate to the students needs. I feel the greatest challenge lies in teaching students who are attending lessons at someone else's request and not from their own desire to learn another language.

OxTEFL: What would your solution be to improve ESL education in Spain?

I would not even begin to assume I have enough knowledge of the system in Spain to answer this. I do think consistency in methodology and professional training are always an important part of any system.

OxTEFL: What do ESL teachers need to give the best of themselves as professionals?

L.W.: Teachers need to have a genuine love for their profession, to be engaging, creative and sensitive.

Learning is a life-long process and I believe that it is a partnership between teacher and student.

Teachers open the gate and the student walks through... We teach students how to learn so they can continue on through this life-long process. Teachers also need to continue to update their skills, knowledge and expertise.

OxTEFL: A memorable moment from your ESL experience?

L.W.: When I was teaching at a language school in Laos, I had a group of 25 doctors from a local hospital. When I asked what they really needed they answered that they needed to be able to communicate with English speaking patients, colleagues and present at conferences etc. We worked together to develop lessons and it was a delight to see these highly skilled and educated adults (mostly 40+yrs) enjoy learning through games, charades and even singing "Stand by Me".

It was a wonderful learning experience for us all.

OxTEFL: Your advice to new teachers or people considering becoming such.

L.W.: I feel teaching is a wonderful career and is an ever-changing landscape of growing and learning. To me, being organized is the key to being an effective teacher and you owe it to your students to always be prepared. I would also advise new teachers to 'go with the flow' when a teaching opportunity presents that may differ to the lesson you planned. Some of the best learning experiences come from diverging a little (as long as you achieve your objective) listen and observe your students, look for what engages and excites them.

OxTEFL: Best of luck in your ESL career!


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