Conversations with ESL Teachers Part 1


During my work as an ESL teacher I’ve met some outstanding teachers who are genuinely interested in their work and continue to evolve with the profession as well as with the student. These are the individuals who have made a difference to my teaching career. I hope the interviews will give new ESL teachers a chance to:

  • look into those teachers’ individual perspectives and learn what makes an accomplished teacher
  • discover job trends as experienced first-hand by those teachers
  • identify areas for professional growth

The following interview with Elena Baron is part of the ‘Conversations with ESL Teachers’ series.

1. What is your definition of an effective ESL teacher (classroom/online environment)?

I believe a blend of several qualities is needed to create a truly effective teacher, whether he/she works in the classroom or online:

  • Love and passion for teaching. If you do not enjoy your job, you cannot possibly be effective.
  • Ability to inspire students so that they learn more than they ever thought possible. My favourite quotes are:

‘Student is not a container you have to fill but a torch you have to light up’. (Albert Einstein)
‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The
great teacher inspires’. (William Arthur Ward)

  • Ability and willingness to think outside the box. People learn differently. What works for one student does not work for everyone. The teacher has to be creative and adaptive.
  • Lifelong learning. An effective teacher enjoys learning new things. No matter how long you have taught, you should always want to grow as a teacher. Every year there is new research, technology and educational tools that make teaching more effective. The information of today may not be the information of tomorrow. In fact, the information of today may be proved wrong tomorrow. That is why an effective teacher always looks for professional development opportunities. If you have become a teacher, you must never cease to learn.
  • Not only does an effective teacher know and understand the content but also has the ability to explain it clearly at the level appropriate to that of the student’s comprehension.
  • Excellent communication skills are certainly a must.

2. How do you think technology has changed your life and work as an ESL teacher?

  • Professional development has become much easier. I do not use libraries; my self-education is now web-based. What used to take hours in the library to find, I now find instantaneously. As a result, we need to sort through huge amounts of information efficiently. We know how to get and use information. Less time to find information means more time for digesting, thinking, and learning about new information.
  • Technology has provided me with lots of resources and tools to reach the students’ minds.
  • It has made my work more challenging – I have to be more dynamic to catch up with new technology which is constantly changing – there is always a lot to learn.

3. How have you been educating yourself?

It has been 90% web-based self-education plus I have learnt a lot observing my colleagues teach as well as analysing my own teaching experience and learning from own mistakes.

4. Who are your role models and why?

Talking about teaching, my role models are those of my own teachers or colleagues who inspired their students, built up the students’ confidence, were ready to acknowledge their own mistakes and had a good sense of humour. I have been lucky to encounter quite a few. I believe “anti-models” (people you do not want to resemble) have also helped me to become a better teacher.

5. If you had to start over in your profession, what would you do differently?

I would have spent more time on studying IT as it applies to teaching earlier in my career.

6. What challenges do you see for language teaching in the future (let¹s say within the next 10 years)?

The world will continue changing and students will be able to learn much more without teachers, so teachers will have to become learning facilitators rather than “knowledge providers”. However, teachers will never be fully replaced by computers. I strongly agree with David Thornburg that ‘any teacher that can be replaced by a computer deserves to be’.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.