Be an online English teacher, try to be a student first.

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Jesus.B, Online English Teacher at Acadsoc.

Jesus.B, Online English Teacher at Acadsoc.

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“Your life as a teacher begins the day you realize that you are always a learner.”

– Robert John Meehan

In online teachers’ community and Facebook groups, many of my colleagues are discussing teaching methods and how to improve their class management. I once replied to one query, ‘Where to find more interesting expansions for adult learners?’ There are thousands of stories and news in Forbes, CNN and other famous media every day. If you spare yourself 30 minutes every day, read 2-3 news reports or business stories, I am sure your student will be happy listening to your expansion.

Keep absorbing new and fresh knowledge into ourselves, this should be a basic principle for all teachers, no matter teaching what kind of subjects or facing what kind of students. Teaching English is not to extract something from your knowledge and paste them in students’ mind. Instead, you should be a container and re-distributor. Obtain something from out of your cognition as raw material, reproduce raw material into PPT, games and tiny stories and subsequently, use it as expansion in your class.  Any qualified English teacher should be up-to-date and introduce the latest knowledge in their classes, not rote and mechanical learning from set textbooks.

Many of us ignore the necessity of continuous study, a lifelong study. The world is rapidly changing and new innovations are being introduced every day. Teachers need to better refresh themselves and try to explain what’s going on around the globe.  My friend Taze, who is also an online English teacher at Acadsoc, shared his opinion: Teaching English is always teaching the knowledge in English, not the language itself. What you teach them can be their practical tools to expand the horizon after class. It requires your classes be more than interesting but closer to real-world business, science, nature, culture and recreation.

What should I learn?

Do you need to find your textbooks of university/high school from the utility room? Or look for English exercise books from your dusty bookshelf? No need to do so, you only need access to the internet with a mind willing to learn. Generally speaking, all your experience and discovery in life could be a perfect teaching material!

Firstly, you need to learn a habit-view everything as an educational project. So as parenting when we educate our kids, we use toys, TV shows, music, flowers, pets…almost everything found from our touchable areas and daily life. We are not merely playing with them or having fun, but digging out something from objects to educate our kids. I.e. I taught my boy the colour of red, the taste of sweet or the shape of a sphere by using an apple. Next time when you see a new post on Facebook or receive a newsletter from Forbes, can you view it as ‘an apple’?

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert On Her Rise To The Top, one of the latest news and success story on Forbes, how an online English teacher may use it for teaching BEC? Let’s do an anatomy to separate useful knowledge points. What is the colour(the story mainly about)?-A pregnant mom and once unconfident female struggled to become CEO of Deloitte, an international famous consulting company. How it tastes(Cathy Engelbert’s psychological journey)?-It begins with frustrated and sad, then she saw a light of hope and finally feel grateful to her hardworking and persistence. What is the shape(to conclude her road to success)?-‘Your Career Is Not Linear'(as I quote), one may take a detour when facing difficulties, but don’t give up and be self-denial, you are still on the way to your goal. There are still more angles to find if you want. And now, select any angle you believe it is educational and practical for your students. E.g. To interpret ‘Career is not linear’ for your student: What is the difference between career, job and work? What is the opposed word of linear? Why Engelbert describes her career using ‘linear’ instead of ‘smooth’?…

Teachers should not set limits for themselves because our careers are like artists, creating new things on a blank paper. To make your students’ English learning colourful and beautiful, we need to diversify the pigments from all probable resources-whatever real, sensible, meaningful and fresh could be your educational expansion.

We have to learn and keep an eye on trending words, too. Chinese students are blocked to see the world outside, but we are free to access those social media and news resources.

By introducing the heatest words/movement in English speaking countries such as the USA, Canada and UK, you now play the role of a connector between your students and the world. CCTV(China Central Television) did report campus shooting in Florida, but merely told a part of the story. Most of my students only knew there was another shooting in the US or had no idea at all. I chose not to review the case by every inch as a news report. ”#NeverAgain#, do you know what it means?”, that is my question to raise their attention and curiosity. They know the meaning of ‘never’ and ‘again’, but it contains far more information if combined together. It indicates the anger of US schoolers, voice to ban guns and worry of educators across the entire nation. And it provides my students with a path to better know US education and security. Campus shooting is not an isolated or accidental case, which reveals the dark side of America and interests of different parties. It will make your students feel that learning English is far beyond test-oriented, but a window to understanding the world.

Keep a habit of reading

Take some time to read. Magazines of the things you love are always a good start while novels can be another good option for you because you won’t easily get bored reading them. Books are more challenging for most people when they require readers to concentrate and keep thinking.

Why we have to keep a habit of reading as an online English teacher? Since reading is another source of acquiring new knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you choose books, novels or magazines, eBooks or paper books. Regular reading to our brain is like regular exercise to our body.

Scientific discovery has proved that reading will cause a similar change in your brain like muscle memory. Muscle memory is a memorized action mode obtained by your body after massive practice. I.e. Drive Stroke in Pingpong or Slam Dunk in basketball. It takes a long time to gain such memory or lose it. Keep regular practice with your brain will bring you long-term memories lasting for months or years. When in most cases we only recall the detail of explosive news for few days or a week.

When discussing a news with your students, regular readers can relate what’s happening around with what they have known from books and better figure out the fact in depth. I believe it is the core of thinking in English, not just processing information and messages in English, but critical thinking, system thinking and courage to challenge authorities. Reading is like viral. If a teacher keeps reading and has insight into real-world problems, his/her students are more likely to be that kind of person, too.


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