The Truth About Teaching ESL (Pros & Pitfalls)

Teaching isn’t the easiest path to choose in life or to take on as a career to travel the world. Here are our truths about teaching ESL and the pros and pitfalls we have faced.

A great way to see parts of the world you would never have considered?! Yes.

Crying on your way home from class because you felt bullied?! Also yes.

Before getting into this job we were aware that teaching young learners would be a challenge.

We have a great rapport with kids in hospitality settings and we’ve worked as au pairs but it’s another thing being a teacher and authority figure.

Teaching isn’t always a walk in the park…

It’s not terrible, but there are times this year we’ve felt victimised and honestly like we were back at school being teased by schoolyard bullies.

Then we realised it’s not just us. It happens to all ESL teachers and it’s also something you have to learn to not take personally to survive in the teaching world.


We said we’d always be honest so here goes. Here are real life examples of what we’ve faced this year.

Classrooms of kids with zero respect and zero enthusiasm equals zero control. The work doesn’t get done and no matter who you talk to sometimes there’s a particular class who just won’t pay you any heed.

When all they want to do is draw…..

Parents who blame you for their kid not achieving the level of English they expect even if it’s just been a few months and they’re a beginner, or they have a long day at school and you’re making them learn in their free time or maybe they’re not a fast learner.

Name-calling and physical pain. In the last year we’ve had kids hit us, throw things at us and call us names to our face or to their classmates. It sounds like child’s play but it is hurtful and when you’re teaching and don’t know the language they really can take advantage of that.


When you get kids who understand you, that’s when teaching young learners is a golden experience.

Sometimes even terrible classes just need time to get to know you and understand what your vibe is. Our strict but laid back when appropriate approach normally helps. Have a way you run things and rewards for good behaviour and achieving certain goals.

When the weekend arrives!!!

When teaching privately you’re going to be around the parents a lot. This can work in your favour. Always give feedback and reports every so often and they love to feel involved with your plans. A lot of heat from parents normally comes when there’s been no progress report or things just aren’t said. Be straight up with parents and earn that respect.

Most of the young learners we’ve had have actually been enthusiastic and even when they’re not they have at least enjoyed the games and more interactive elements of learning English. That’s when it’s a joy to teach!

Do they balance each other out?

You’re not always painted as the cool teacher, sometimes you are demonized, but even that can be worked on. We’ve found being truthful with employers, parents and young learners has really improved and enriched our teaching lives.

Letting of steam is a prerequisite when you’re a teacher!

We still get home and need a glass….or bottle of wine occasionally but we’re still learning ourselves and not at our most confident in front of a class.

For a totally open and honest account of teaching with anxiety, have a look at an article that Jen wrote about her own struggles.

This summer we’ll be teaching and doing more training. There’s always improvement to be made and now we know better what kind of teaching we like (YL, intermediate classes etc) and how to approach certain scenarios.

If you need advice or support follow us on our social media accounts and send us a wee message! X

3 thoughts on “The Truth About Teaching ESL (Pros & Pitfalls)

  1. Thank you so much for your honesty. I can only imagine how it feels like you are back in the schoolyard with all of its bully’s sometimes.


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