Challenges Faced by ESL Teachers

Budget restraints, Classroom Materials, Culture Shock, Language Gap

If you are teaching in the U.S., books and materials for ESL tend to be less expensive than if you are teaching ESL abroad. In many countries, students use photocopies of the school’s textbook, or buy one as a class and photocopy that book to share among the class.

You might know that this infringes upon the book publisher’s copyright infringements, but try convincing a classroom of young professionals in Prague to buy a textbook, and they will ask you what could possibly be wrong with the photocopied and nicely bound version of it that their firm’s secretary has specially made for them, and for free? Click for more about teaching English in Prague, the Czech Republic.

You might also hear something like this:

“We have to buy this book for this year, and then next year we have to buy another one, and we’ll never use it again anyways, so it’s better just to copy it.”

In this case, the company was paying for its employees to take mandatory English classes, so the apathy toward learning was a bit steep.

But if you are a responsible, devoted, concerned teacher, your will find a way and you will be able to come up with a creative solution to any budgetary limitations.

With younger classes, materials for arts and crafts and other projects can be taken from almost anywhere you look. Ask at local grocery stores for used boxes and cartons, collect old jars and bottles, use seeds and rocks, ask teacher friends for leftover supplies from their schools, or if you are still in the U.S. and preparing for your year of TESL abroad, ask your employer what materials will be available and bring anything from home to supplement that.

Find out if there is anything especially expensive there that you can bring more cheaply from home.

For example, something as simple as small brown paper bags (of the puppet making variety) are not available in eastern Europe, so be sure to stash a bunch of those in your suitcase if you are going to be working with the little ones.

No doubt, you will have to spend some time, from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on how thorough you care to be, on lesson plans. But also the school or language agency will ask you to regularly assess the students’ progress with a test or evaluation of some kind. It may or may not be up to you as to how this is done, but the results will need to be organized by you. Especially if you work for a school, you will be grading essays and worksheets and exams after class, so plan time at home or at a café for this.

Choosing a coursebook for your students, regardless of whether or not it will be bought or copied by them, is a fundamental challenge. If you are not teaching toward an exam, then see if you can ask other teachers in your school for advice on general books for your students’ level. Go to the local bookstores and see what you can find, do research on the Internet for ideas. Supplement the lessons and exercises in the book you finally do choose with worksheets, projects and games.

Some employers will have materials that you must use. This means you won’t have to worry about researching and selecting the perfect book for your class, but it can be restrictive if you are not excited by the contents and structure of the book. In this case, use your creativity and do some research to find ways to spice up and fatten up the lesson to make it more engaging and useful to your students. You will learn from their reactions very quickly as to which lessons work and which do not.


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