As society becomes more culturally diverse, it is increasingly common for pupils within schools to speak a range of languages.
English is the national language of 53 countries and the third most spoken in the world. Fluency in English gives people more freedom and confidence to travel and seek overseas opportunities. With this in mind, it’s clear to see why there is growing demand to learn English as a second language.
English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers or ESL Teaching Assistants in schools, help non-native pupils understand the English language. An ESL Teaching Assistant may work with an ESL teacher in a small group setting with several ESL pupils. Or with a general education teacher assisting ESL pupils in their class.
ESL Teaching Assistants are driven by helping young people with language barriers succeed and integrate into education. They take their time to ensure the pupils they work with clearly understand each lesson. Enabling them to engage in their learning so they fully benefit from and enjoy their education.
Moving to a new school is daunting for any pupil. But it is especially challenging for those who aren’t fluent in English in an English speaking school. There are several desirable qualities a good ESL Teaching Assistant has that helps to ease this transition.
Understanding Each Pupils Cultural Background
As an ESL Teaching Assistant, you must openly welcome and accept the cultural differences of pupils from many backgrounds. But welcoming and understanding are two different things. A good ESL Teaching Assistant takes time to research and become familiar with traditions and practices in their pupils’ culture.
This helps them to have greater context of their behaviours and how they view the world. With this knowledge, assistants can better adapt the lessons of the teacher in ways their pupil will understand. Not only does this benefit you as an ESL Teaching Assistant, but the pupil will also feel more valued.
This can help them feel accepted into the school environment. Increasing the likelihood of them integrating with others, making friends and having more opportunities to practice and use English.
Recognising the Individual Needs of Pupils
Part of your role is assisting ESL or general education teachers to create ESL programmes in line with each pupils’ capabilities. To do this effectively, you really need to be in tune with their individual needs.
You will often help pupils one-on-one, which gives you a great opportunity to see how they are doing. Initially, you must quickly establish their language proficiency and educational history. This helps the teachers design lessons that work with their current listening, speaking, reading and writing ability.
Long term, you will monitor their progress and help the teacher determine their functional level as it evolves. Being focused on each individual’s needs gives them the best chance of developing their understanding. If one pupil struggles with pronunciation, you can focus on that area while other pupils concentrate their attention elsewhere.
Your ongoing assessment supports daily instruction and targets the areas pupils need help with most. This helps quicken the pace of them acquiring the language and becoming more confident when using it.
Encouraging Interaction and Involvement
Good ESL Teaching Assistants recognise the need for pupils to engage with native-speaking pupils outside of the classroom. Every child should feel welcomed and have the chance to make friends in school. Inclusivity plays such an important part in children’s happiness but it’s also a way to accelerate their language acquisition.
You’re positioned to be one of the first points of contact and support for your pupils. This gives you the chance to help them make these connections as they become more confident speaking the language.
As you get to know them and understand their interests, you can encourage them to join school and community-related activities. The more they are around, befriending and communicating with native speakers, the quicker they will pick things up. It will also help them understand things outside of the school context and find activities they enjoy.
Being Intuitive and Knowing When to Intervene
A Teaching Assistant’s role is to continually multitask in a fast-moving environment. You need to keep pace with the teacher and follow the narrative of their lessons. Stopping when necessary to help your pupils when they get stuck and need things explained in another way.
This is amplified as an ESL Teaching Assistant. Your pupils often can’t explain what they don’t understand. Plus, ESL pupils can be more nervous about asking for help, so in a lot of cases, they won’t. It’s your job to listen to the teacher but keep your eyes on your pupils. Watching their expression and recognising when they become confused.
Then you need to act and intervene, taking the time to explain the concept effectively so they take everything in.
Possessing Excellent Communication Skills
Communication skills are always important in teaching roles, but more so when communicating with people who don’t speak your language. It’s one thing to speak English, but to teach it is another. You must understand the fundamental concepts of the language as well as be able to effectively pass this knowledge on.
To do this you must be a confident communicator who can easily interpret and present teachings clearly and concisely. You also need to make sure you’re speaking sensitively and not in ways that could upset pupils from other upbringings.
You’ll need good listening and questioning skills too since you’ll be trying to understand where your pupils are struggling. Essentially, you must have an all-round passion for language teaching in every form, be it spoken, written or non-verbal.
There are so many qualities that make a good ESL Teaching Assistant. While many jobs list having additional languages as a desirable quality, the ones listed above are also important.
It’s ESL Teaching Assistants who genuinely care about their pupils’ understanding that will have a significant impact on their development. Your positive encouragement will make them feel valued. Which, in turn, makes them more likely to be invested and work harder to learn.
The relationship between you and your pupils is incredibly important to them integrating and becoming an active part of their new environment.
If you’re reading this as an aspiring English as a Second Language Teaching Assistant, you can get qualified online.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is a leading UK distance learning provider. With many online courses to help you realise your teaching assistant ambitions.
Our online Teaching English as a Second Language course can give you the skills needed to effectively teach English to others.
Find out more about the course and how to enrol below.