As an EFL/ESL teacher, one thing I’ve noticed is how much easier learning English usually is for those students with high self-esteem. They’re more outgoing, more likely to answer questions, and participate in classroom activities at a much more involved level than students who have low self-esteem. This is why it’s important for every teacher to help improve the self-esteem of all their students, but particularly those who are lacking in it. If you’re an EFL/ESL teacher with students that have low self-esteem, follow these pointers and, over time, you’ll see their self-esteem improve.
Acknowledge Correct Responses – As an EFL teacher who’s always made a point to acknowledge when my students do well, I’m amazed at how many teachers actually don’t. For an EFL or ESL student who has low self-esteem, and even for those with high self-esteem, it’s important to acknowledge when they answer something correctly, complete a task quickly or work well in group activities.
No matter which of my students it is, high self-esteem or low self-esteem, I always make a comment when the student does something well. A quick “Good job” or “Well done” doesn’t cost much but, for some students, they can live off the praise for days. It improves their self-esteem too.
Listen To Your Students – Often how EFL or ESL students behave in class or how well or badly they do their EFL or ESL work doesn’t always tell you what’s important. If you’re a teacher who’s easy to approach however, after only a few classes with some students, you’ll notice they’ll start to come up to you before or after class to talk.
While much of what they say might seem inconsequential, listen more carefully. I’ve learned a lot about my students, why they’re having problems learning English, and even about their home lives from supposedly innocent conversations they’ve had with me after class. Sometimes a student is calling out for help and having a teacher that listens can mean the difference between a student with low self-esteem and one who’s self-esteem is improving.
Give Your Students More Difficult Work – A mistake some EFL teacher’s make is to continue giving work to students that’s easy to complete. Some of this is laziness on the part of the teacher, some is a misguided attempt to make the students happy. Either way, it will backfire.
The best way to improve a student’s self-esteem is to consistently give EFL work that’s challenging. Not something they’re going to find impossible to figure out, but something that, at the very least, they’ll have to think about a little. That way, when they are successful with it (and I’ve learned most of them will be if challenged) then that “Good job” you give them really does mean something, plus achieving a more difficult task rapidly develops their self-esteem.
Don’t Avoid Criticism – EFL and ESL students, particularly those who are children, can tell when you’re avoiding criticizing something they’ve done incorrectly. Instead of avoiding the subject, as you’re worried it will damage their self-esteem, approach it head on, but then finish up by giving a positive comment or two as well.
My rule is two positive comments for every constructive criticism comment. This makes the student want to work harder to get three positive comments instead of the one critical one, and also doesn’t make them feel worthless.
Avoiding the criticism can actually make a student with low self-esteem feel worse, because they know they didn’t do something correctly and wonder why the teacher isn’t saying something.
Like The Student – With every teacher, there are some EFL/ESL students you find difficult to take to. As we’re all human, many teachers will unselfconsciously treat some students differently because they simply don’t like them.
As a teacher, I’ve always believed there’s something to like about everyone, even if you have to dig deeper with some students than with others. Find the thing you like about each student you teach and remember that when you’re commenting on their work. Just by the fact there’s something about them you appreciate, your tone and manner will change and your student will notice it.
Tell The Student What You Like About Them – In a past life, I was in public relations so I’ve always been a bit of a schmoozer. That means though that, as an EFL teacher, I use that skill to ‘schmooze’ my students. I find something I like about them (they’re funny, they’re a good friend, they’re a great artist) and then I make sure I tell them. After all, there’s not much point appreciating something about someone if they don’t know it.
Even the students who I have more difficulties with often become easier to teach after this, and have a higher level of self-esteem. Let’s face it, few people tell us anything nice about ourselves so, when one person does, it has an impact.
Follow these few pointers on how to develop your EFL/ESL students self-esteem and you’ll soon find you have students who learn faster, learn easier and enjoy their EFL/ESL classes so much more.