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What Incentives Work With ESL Students?

What Incentives Work With ESL Students? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

I have been a teacher my whole life. First, I coached volleyball to a group of eleven-year-olds. Afterward, I became (and still am) a yoga teacher currently looking to extend my teaching qualifications towards teaching English to kids online. Through all this experience I have come to know that the true power of a teacher revolves around his/her ability to involve and motivate students; to inspire and elevate them. That alone can bring about faster development than any amount of grammar exercises and drills ever would on their own.

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

My Personal Experience

Before I began coaching I was a professional volleyball player for twelve years. During that time I saw, from the inside, that each one of the girls on the team was motivated and inspired differently. Each one had a unique character and therefore required an individual approach to accomplish the best possible results. I also noticed that most coaches/teachers rarely had the sensitivity and openness to establish that connection with each individual and the results were therefore not optimal. They had neither the interest nor the understanding of human psychology necessary to grab the attention and interest of those individuals and to get the best out of them. A teacher should be an inspiration to his/her pupils and should be the leader of their strive for development.

Also Read: The Top Hiring Seasons for Teaching English Abroad

Who Can be a Teacher?

In my opinion, not everyone is suitable to be a teacher. In their superior manifestation, those are not particularly skills that we ‘acquire’, more so they are traits of character; a call to connect and uplift, to bring knowledge and even evolution, if you will. A call to share your knowledge and worldview, to spread freedom and happiness. My experience shows that as students sense these vibrations they open up to and trust the teacher naturally. When they like the teacher in this way they are much more willing to come to class, participate actively, and do the work required to ‘please’ their teacher.

Student-Teacher Rapport

It seems to me that the most important thing in the classroom is for the teacher to establish a connection with his/her students that is human, that is built on understanding and that at all times both the students and the teacher feel that the space they share is safe and conducive to learning. I would like my students to feel that there is an arm outstretched providing help and support when needed; to have fun, share jokes, laugh, and be joyful as they gather language knowledge. It is my firm belief that this strategy is the one that provides the best results when learning something new and is in general the best way to live life.

Also Read: The 5 Most Common Types of EFL Students And How To Deal With Them


A few years ago I took a one-month intensive suggestopedia course in Spanish. During the course, I didn't feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of new information that flooded me. I didn't even think I learned much because it was so stress-free, so leisure time, so lite, that it almost didn't seem serious. Only a few months later, when I moved to live in Spain and started actively using the language did I understand how much knowledge and vocabulary I have acquired for just one month of laid back song-singing, Spanish jokes, and laughter. Ever since then, I have been a strong believer that a lite and fun atmosphere in the classroom and a positive, uplifting vibration from the teacher are the most important factors that will influence the learning curve of the students.

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It might not be possible to connect to every single student that sits across from me, but that will never discourage me from trying and from bringing my best self out for them regardless.

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