How to Become Your Students’ Favorite Teacher

Recently, in an elementary school in the small Asian city where I live, the students were being orally tested on some basic sentence patterns. One of these involved the pattern, “My favorite…”, with the students being quizzed about their favorite food, favorite place, favorite singer, favorite teacher, etc.

After finishing this test, the teacher who administered the test came up to my girlfriend, who is a native English teacher in the school. “I have to tell you something,” he started. She just looked back at him. “When I asked the students who their favorite teacher was, all of them said your name!”

Some of those who said her name were kids whom she had never even taught, because her reputation had spread around the school like wildfire. So how was she able to forge such a deep connection and respectful relationship with the students?

Perhaps the most important thing, in her words, is sharing information about her own life with her students, and trying to teach them more than just English. An animal lover, my girlfriend often talks with the kids about her pets and teaches them to respect all animals. This is very important in a culture where pets are often discarded on the streets after they outlive their cuteness.

In addition, she treats the kids with respect and talks to them like people. This contrasts with many teachers, who draw strict lines between the students and the authority figure and foster a relationship based on fear and punishment.

Getting your students to actually like you and respect you as a teacher can reap incredible benefits in the classroom. In ESL classes, much of which involve simply conversing and sharing ideas, there is a unique opportunity to interact and communicate spontaneously with students – an opportunity that may not exist in many other classes, such as science or math classes. Your students will actually want to learn from you, and they will treat you as a role model, following the advice you give on any number of topics. This, after all, is the essence of teaching, and it is important that ESL teachers look at themselves as the potentially inspiring, even revolutionary forces that they can be in their students’ lives.

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