How many roles does an ESL teacher serve in the classroom?
Nowadays being a teacher means more than just executing lesson plans while standing up at the front of the class giving explanations; we were used to this type of teacher when the traditional schools were “teacher-centered” so the students assumed a passive and quiet way to access the knowledge. It seemed not worked out well regarding English as a second language learning, and for this reason, most schools adopted a more “student-centered” approach in the classroom.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Aline S.
Student regulates the lesson
The “student-centered” approach occurs when the teacher gives students choice and voice and finds ways to provide a learning environment where the interests of students take place. When teaching English as a second language this approach guides to more confident students, that have a strong desire to experiment with the language and are able to think about their own learning process and errors, which makes them good and autonomous learners.
Between this and that, teachers are now multifaceted, they must serve several roles when teaching, such as observer, manager, organizer, and others. But, with so many roles for teachers, one may ask what is really expected from ESL teachers in the classroom.
ESL teachers are expected to improve productive and receptive skills (speaking, writing, listening and reading) of the students in the English course, that are usually non-native speakers, and sometimes they are living in a country where English is the spoken language, or intent to go overseas for some reason like study or work abroad. ESL teachers also help them to understand English grammar, pronunciation, and phonology. Not only by develop and teach a specific curriculum using the same methods for the entire class but leading the students to integrate that knowledge into their lives for real.
Something in between
As a matter of fact, an ESL teacher fluctuates between “teacher-centered” and “student-centered” roles during different stages of explaining a lesson and it happens accordingly to the type and goal of each activity. Teachers serve many different roles while teaching: controller, organizer, assessor, prompter, participant, tutor, facilitator, role model, and observer.
Teacher stands in front of the class
When the teacher is standing up in front of the class and it looks like a lecture, where every student is listening quietly to some subject this probably is the role of a controller. It takes place when it is necessary to explain some point carefully, to read aloud, to be effectively in charge of the class.
Teacher organizes the students
Occasionally the teacher must organize the students into groups or pairs, give instructions, lead an activity to a close, organize feedback. The role of the organizer is one of the most important roles of an ESL teacher.
Teachers set the tone of their classrooms and build a warm environment while providing the necessary support, evaluating, grading and giving feedback to the students in a sensitive and clear way. The role of the assessor is important because the students always need to find out how their learning process is going and what can they do to improve their skills.
A great deal of sensitivity is also needed when the teacher is a prompter, which is that time when a student doesn’t remember a word to express himself and the teacher must encourage him to finish his speech without using his native language. It is necessary to be patient and careful to not take the initiative away from the student.
It’s important to propose games and activities that encourage students to speak in English and exchange ideas with their colleagues during the class. Sometimes teachers might find an uneven number of students so they can be a participant and be part of the pair work or group activity as an equal. In this case, is necessary to be careful about not dominating the activity and giving space for the students to complete the task decently.
Teacher gives Individual support
At certain stages of the lesson students will work alone and they might need some particular attention and individual support to complete the proposed exercises, this is when the teacher acts as a tutor and help them to understand the task. Tutoring must avoid intruding too much.
Because there are activities that must be completed alone or in pairs, the teacher will give some time to the students to do it, but in the meantime has to be available as a resource in case of the students ask for help with vocabulary, directions to complete the exercise or any kind of doubt related to the lesson. At this time the role the teacher is serving is the facilitator or resource.
Teacher sets up an example
Teachers are the source of English that the students have, for listening and pronunciation improvement they will copy and learn from what the teacher says. As a pronunciation model teachers have the responsibility to speak properly, making good use of English vocabulary, grammar, and phonology. In some cases, the teacher is the only source of English that the students may have, so it is more than important to have a precise speech, as the role model.
Teacher gives a feedback
Finally, but not less important, there is the role of the observer. Monitor and observe the development of the students, taking notes about how are going the activities and how long they take to be completed, listening what students are talking, all these actions fit in the observer role of the ESL teacher. This can do lots of information about the lesson plan - if it is working well - and the contents of the lessons, and also about the level of the students and how to improve or to add some modification on the exercises.
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To summarize there are at least nine main roles that ESL teachers can serve in their classroom. How and when to switch between these roles depends on what that stage of the lesson requires. For instance, some type of activities demands a more leading role and others will ask for a more discreet attitude from the teacher among the students, such as a participant role or the observer one. In conclusion, with time and experience teachers feel
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