In this article I will provide tips for teaching “In-Company” Business English courses, which is the largest market segment for ESL classes in Prague.
Understanding Business English Students – TESOL Prague
Assisting Czechs with their English skills encompasses much more than preparing and teaching a good lesson. As the Teaching Business English course offered by Ontesol explains, “In-Company” ESL classes are often required and paid by the employer and many students are not as motivated as those who pay for English lessons themselves.
In my early days, it wasn’t uncommon for students to forget their books at home. They were often late or absent, regardless of the fact that the teacher was there for them. To make things worse, only some students did their homework, while others confessed to setting aside precious little time to study English at home, if any, even considering that they only had 6 hours of English lessons every month. Mostly they wanted to chit-chat and thus it was difficult to structure a lesson, follow it, and notice any progress.
Lack of progress can be very demotivating for teachers and students alike, and I’ve come to realize that a low level of motivation was the main underlying cause for their poor performance. Other common demotivating factors were excessive workloads and family responsibilities, which took an enormous toll on the students; the assumption that at their age – commonly in their 30s, 40s or 50s – learning a language was too onerous a task, unlikely to bear fruit and lead to any significant reward, say, a job promotion; the fact that many were there because their companies were either paying the full tuition or subsidizing the course; and, last but not least, the idea that English teachers didn’t seem to put their best foot forward. I’ve learned that all these reasons are intertwined, often overlapping, and that frequently one leads to another.
Lesson Planning & Motivation – TESOL Prague
If you decide to come to Prague and end up teaching one or more of these ‘In-company’ courses you must be prepared to adapt. The most common criticism I hear from students is that their previous teacher was never prepared and all too often turned their lessons into an impromptu chit-chat. This is wrong, but understandable. When you start, it’s easy to fall into a trap and be carried away by your students, letting them chat the whole lesson and get away with not doing any serious work.
Students in Prague appear to be used to teachers who don’t make much of an effort, so they push new teachers into the same patterns. New teachers, facing such a relaxed and unsupervised environment, do what they believe their students want, and what appears easier for them. Be careful not to make the same mistake!
The best thing you can do from the very beginning is understand your students. Find out what they do, why they need English lessons, their likes and dislikes; also, become familiar with what they expect from your lessons, and let them know what you expect from them. Be friendly and supportive, but professional. If they perceive you as a qualified, dedicated teacher who does your best and really cares about their learning, they will comply and you will soon find out that many problems will disappear. As if by magic, the students will turn up to the lessons more frequently and allocate more time for their homework.
The challenge then is to keep your students engaged as time goes by and you start falling into a routine. Remember that some of them are very busy and stressed from work, and that they see English lessons as a moment to relax and escape from their duties. Some may even use you as a counselor, so to speak, when classes are one-to-one. It’s smart to allow some time for informal chat. Often your lessons are the only opportunity they have to share their anxieties with someone; therefore, be sure to lend a sympathetic ear and show some empathy. Just don’t lose focus of the lesson aims and gently bring the lesson back on track. They will appreciate it.
Sometimes, these informal chat sessions will help you understand your students needs and develop effective activities that relieve their anxieties; for example, role-playing activities about business situations that they encounter on a daily basis are a great way to practice English in context and help them increase their confidence using English at work.
Lessons that follow the Task-Based and Communicative approaches work best. Be creative and use different resources, including authentic audio and video, to make your lessons more appealing and keep interest levels high.
Always find a way to make your students realize that they are, indeed, making progress, little though it may be. Try to record a fluency activity or to have them create a portfolio with their written work: this way they can listen to themselves later, or read previous compositions, and realize their progress. Pay compliments when necessary and be ready to give advice on learning strategies and techniques they may use to improve even further, particularly with more advanced students, where progress is less noticeable.