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Reasons Why ESL Students Stress Out in the Classroom

Reasons Why ESL Students Stress Out in the Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Attempting to learn a new language is a very challenging undertaking. An ESL student will face many obstacles and difficulties not only when they are a beginner but also throughout their entire English education. There are so many unique rules and intricacies to the English language that it can be very daunting to remember everything. Issues ranging from grammar to spelling to pronunciation; can add to a student’s stress level. That is why it is so vital for teachers to be aware of this when working with students. How a teacher speaks, acts, the actual words used, and many other things can impact students in either a positive way that helps with their learning or in a negative way that only adds to the stress.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Shawn De L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Motivation Origin

A student’s initial decision to learn English is stressful. It can also be joyful and exciting, but taking on such a challenge is intimidating. There may be excellent reasons a student decides to study English. They may choose to do so for work, school, or build better relationships with friends and family. But, taking that first step is a stressful situation on its own. This is why it is essential for teachers to create an excellent first impression and to also welcome students with a festive first day in class. If an ESL student who has recently decided to learn English has an overwhelming introduction to the study, their stress level will be very high. So much so that they may choose to quit before they have even begun.

Participating in Group Activities

Having to practice English in front of others may add to a student’s stress level as well. Depending on their skill level, it may be difficult for them to form correct sentences or think of the right vocabulary. It can be easy to get lost in the details of English grammar, and doing so in front of a group of peers can be extremely stressful. Public speaking is a great fear for a large number of people in this world. Teachers need to be able to guide students through these situations and to offer help when needed. Otherwise, students may never want to use the language skills they are learning outside of the classroom.


Tests and exams are a source of stress for ESL students. Just the thought of having to take a test is stressful for some ESL students. All of the studying and anxiety from what is unknown creates stress. The act of taking the test or exam itself is stressful. And if a student’s results are low, they will become even more stressed. Preparing students correctly and responding compassionately to less than desirable results is essential. This will help lower the stress levels going into an exam and help mitigate stress after a destructive test.

Relationships With The Teacher

One of the worst ways an ESL student could experience a stressful situation is caused by the teacher. If a teacher misbehaves or is not conscientious of individual cultural differences, it would dramatically increase stress levels. Not just for one student in the classroom, but all of the students in the school. Correcting every mistake students make will create a tense learning environment where no students want to participate. Yelling or shouting will cause any student to feel stress. Acting in ways that are counter to the local culture will cause anxiety, but it may be very disrespectful. All teachers must be very aware of how their actions and their words may affect the classroom.

Are you ready to teach English abroad or online?

Even though there are many examples of when a student may experience a stressful situation in the classroom, a good teacher can navigate away from these most of the time. With a good awareness and a focus on a healthy classroom environment, all teachers can provide a positive learning space for their students.

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