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Classroom Management in ESL Through Student Well Being

“It’s important to make your students feel welcome, to make them feel connected and included within the school environment. Teachers have the power to do that every single day. In turn, that really builds their resilience, so when they do face challenges in life, outside of school, you played a part in helping them overcome them, just by listening and showing care.”

Teaching ESL can be challenging, especially for those who have never taught before. Classroom management in ESL can be one of the hardest things for new teachers to master. In this interview, Kaitlyn, who taught in Thailand before gaining an Graduate Degree in Education, details how the little things that even experienced teachers often forget to do can make a huge difference in your classroom.

What made you interested in researching student well being?

“I wasn’t actually aware of the term ‘student wellbeing’ before I went back to study for my Masters degree, but it was something I found that was really important. When I was teaching here in Thailand, I saw that there was a very high turnover of teachers and I was really curious as to why, but what I found most interesting was the impact that this had on students and how important the roles of teachers are. Student wellbeing is about asking, “how can we create a better community within the school so that students feel welcomed and connected to the school?” It can be the smallest things we do as educators that contributes to creating this environment. Everything can play a part in improving your classroom management in ESL or any other class. It can result in greater student achievement as well.”

What little things can teachers do in their classrooms to make their students feel included?

“I think it’s just in the everyday relationships teachers build with their students. That comes in a myriad of different forms, such as just getting to know your students names once you begin a new year with them. When you’re coming into a new class, make sure you’re getting to know their names, getting to know them more in depth. Not just as a student, but as a person. Have those daily interactions. Ask them what they’re doing and what they like to do; learn their passions and interests. It’s also, you know, showing empathy. Listening to students when they want to talk. Try to become someone your students can trust, that they can confide in.

Even the small actions you take in your classroom can make the biggest difference. Kaitlyn talks about how having an awareness of student well being can lead to better classroom management in ESL.

“It starts to build the trust and opens lines of communication and the better you know them, the easier it is to plan lessons, create activities; it will help boost engagement as well [as well being].”

Getting active with your stduents can be great for classroom management in ESL.

How can the seating arrangement and the space in the classroom contribute to children’s learning?

“I think a lot of western countries are moving past the teacher centered classrooms- where the teacher is at the front and the students are all sitting in rows. Now, a lot of schools are pushing for students to gain critical thinking skills and be more collaborative in their learning. So, one of the ways of changing the classroom seating arrangement is by putting them in clusters, putting them in pairs or putting them in groups of four, so they’re not in those straight rows. What that says when the students walk in is that this environment is collaborative, we’re going to be doing more group work. It kind of allows them to get a more group-orientated learning environment and feel, and it changes the dynamic of the classroom. Sometimes if you have classes that maybe you struggle with classroom management, changing the seating arrangement can change the dynamic of the class itself.”

Related to that, what would you advise someone who has a class that are very difficult to control?

“That’s a hard question as everyone is different and classroom management is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. I think it comes down to- if you have the time, resources, and support- getting to know your students. Get to the root of the problem and find out why the class is so rambunctious, looking at the bigger picture. Is it because they are sitting for 3 hours in a row and they need to get out and release some energy? Is it because the activities aren’t very engaging? If so, how can we make them more engaging and design activities around what they like? How can we take what we’re learning and put it in a different context? How can we take the students out of the classroom, do something more interactive, and then get them back in? So, I think it’s about really getting to know your students, taking that time, and of course that can get in the way of teaching the content of the lesson, but I think in the end it helps.”

How do you think the language the teacher uses in the classroom impacts the students?

“So, one thing is that it’s really easy to praise students based on their intelligence or innate characteristics, like “you’re very smart! You’re such a bright student!” That can relay into a fixed mindset, so they think they can never improve. As teachers, you want to promote a growth mindset because learning is dynamic and it’s always moving. When you only praise students on how smart they are, you’re essentially telling them that it’s all that they are.

The way that you praise students can really have an impact on how they learn.

“So, when they do face challenges, they become really discouraged because they think ‘I’m really smart, but I’m not getting this, so I can’t do any better’. It’s really important to encourage students that ‘you will get better and you will get it’.”

Do you think it’s more difficult to apply this kind of classroom management in ESL classrooms?

Kaitlyn's research into student well being showed that learning about your students can be the key to discipling them and implementing management strategies.

“No, whatever you’re teaching, it’s important to make your students feel welcome, to make them feel connected and included within the school environment. Teachers have the power to do that every single day. In turn, that really builds the students’ resilience, so when they do face challenges in life, outside of school, you played a part in helping them overcome them, just by listening and showing care.”

Thank you to Kaitlyn for sharing her classroom management in ESL advice with us! Want to try teaching and make connections with your students? Consider becoming an ESL teacher in Thailand, where you can uplift students and communities by sharing your English skills. Teaching is also a great way to learn and gain transferable skills that can also impact YOUR future. Contact us today to find out more!

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Blog contributors: Kaitlyn DeLuca interviewed by Roxie Wong.

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