It All Begins with Hello: Great ESL Teaching

Hello everyone,

My name is Justin, and I am an ESL teacher. Welcome to Drunken ESL. I have been teaching for almost 10 years, and in all that time I’ve never heard “Drunken” and “Teaching” in a positive light. Any teacher who is worth their pay would never show up drunk to class. Let’s be clear: I am not advocating showing up to class wasted. Instead, I want to show a different way of teaching. I want to introduce you an ultra-flexible method of teaching.

Think back to your language classes in school: Long drawn-out explanations about concepts that never made sense. Even the teacher felt bored most of the time. I remember sitting in University classes, listening to a teacher teach me Spanish. The only problem is: She wasn’t a native speaker. She was from Poland. While her Spanish wasn’t bad, she didn’t understand it well enough to teach it effectively. When I became a language teacher, I swore I would be different. I knew I had to start from scratch.

I made it a point, even in my early classes, to bring life to my classes. No matter what the subject was, I worked hard to make sure my classes were engaging. No matter what the topic is, I made sure to find something in it that I could get excited about. Excitement is contagious. I’m not talking about faux excitement, shallow smiles and wavy hands. I’m talking about genuine “This is why I get out of bed” enjoyment of a job. If you feel this way about teaching, it’s only a matter of time before your students do as well.

ESL Teaching: Not quite as seen on TV

Have you ever considered why you teach ESL? On TV, Teaching ESL is a punchline to a bad joke. In some of my favorite shows, ESL is a second-tier job. In a few classic tv shows, ESL teachers are the people who couldn’t make it in their chosen field. I mean, you speak English, so of course you can teach it. That is Top-Of-The-Line Bullshit. Not everyone can do what you’re doing. Just because you speak English doesn’t mean you can teach others to. You’re not drilling them on verb tables, you’re opening doors. You’re not teaching them how to speak, your showing them a new way to live. It isn’t pronunciation, it’s making sure their message is as clear as possible.

Think about what your students are going through:

  • They moved to a new country
  • Most have left the culture they know
  • Some students may be alone
  • Their norms and habits might not fit
  • They are completely uncomfortable.

You’re not just a teacher: You’re a diplomat, liaison, Cultural touchpoint, counselor, advisor, and yes, occasionally you have to pull an answer out of thin air. You have as much responsibility as you can handle. Are you scared yet? Maybe a drink wouldn’t be a bad plan after all… (Only if it’s legal, of course.)

What is  “Drunken ESL”?

I decided on the name “Drunken ESL,” because I love a good double entendre. Any teacher, new or old, will tell you at the end of a rough day, a glass of your choice helps. But I wanted more than “It’s all bad.” Cause it’s not. I chose Drunken ESL because of Daoist “Zuey Quan” The Drunken Fist fighting style. While I am not an expert in the style, I have sparred against a “Drunken” fighter or two. Drunken fighters are loose, flexible, and relaxed. This means that even if you make contact, they won’t be hurt significantly.

Your teaching style needs to be similar. Whatever comes your way, you need to absorb it, and be ready to respond. Hopefully you won’t need to fight anyone in your classroom, but you need to be ready for anything. Being flexible isn’t enough. Flexible teachers don’t make it past the first year. Flexible teachers fall into routines and fall out of sync with their students. You cannot settle, you cannot be flexible, it simply isn’t enough.

Come sit at my table. Make yourself at home

Drunken ESL isn’t about one person. It’s a place where teachers gather teachers together. It’s a place where teachers, old and new, can exchange ideas, tell stories, laugh a lot, and cry a little.

If you are new to the field of ESL and want a safe place to ask questions, send me a message. Maybe you’re a veteran like me, and have advice you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me share your story. There may be a topic you want me to research and get back to you, let me know! If that sounds like fun, come sit at my table and let’s share stories, ideas, and raise a glass.

Welcome to Drunken ESL

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