Is ESL Teaching Hard? Here’s What You Need to Know

Is ESL Teaching Hard
Is ESL Teaching Hard? Here’s What You Need to Know –

Many people have never heard of ESL teaching as a career, being that the career isn’t exactly common. But if you talk to several ESL teachers, chances are that at least one of them will say that it’s hard to do. It’s natural to wonder whether there is any validity to that claim.

ESL teaching is not inherently hard, but this does not mean that some won’t find it that way. The difficulty level will be determined by the following factors:

  • Whether you were adequately trained
  • The platform you teach through
  • Your personality
  • The ages of your students

If you want to know more about ESL teaching, how hard it can be, and more, then keep on reading.

Also, see: Why is Scaffolding Important in ESL?

ESL Teaching is Not Hard

While some may find ESL (English as a second language) teaching to be challenging, lots of people find it to be easy. The difficulty of ESL teaching will depend on several factors.

We will examine each of the factors below. 

Training for ESL Teaching

Depending on the company that you teach through, the training could span from in-depth to non-existent. Oftentimes, the larger the ESL company, the more in-depth the training is. The reason for this is that larger, more established companies have the resources to come up with quality training.

Sometimes training for teachers is not a high-priority issue for some ESL companies. This could be due to a lack of resources or because of poor management. In situations like these, new ESL teachers are thrown into the classroom without adequate training. This could lead some ESL teachers to feel like ESL teaching is hard when it could be much easier if they were actually trained.

The Platform/Lesson Plan You Use

For ESL teachers that utilize online programs, the digital platform used to administer lessons has a lot to do with an ESL teacher’s overall experience. If the platform is glitchy and doesn’t work well, the class will be frustrating.

Also, for virtual ESL teachers who have to do everything online, like communicate with parents and book classes, a low-quality platform can be a pain in the neck.

Many ESL teachers who work as part of a company must use company-provided lesson plans. Sometimes these lesson plans are strict and cannot be deviated from. When this is the case, certain students can be left behind, and this is difficult for many ESL teachers to deal with. Your Personality Makes a Difference

Teaching English as a second language can be challenging if your personality is not a good fit for the position. ESL teaching will be difficult for you if you:

  • Don’t adapt well to change. Not every session will go according to plan. In fact, more often than not, things may go left when you try your best to make them go right. When things are not going right, you should be able to come up with ways to get the class back on track.
  • Are not stern when needed. There will be times when you will need to regain control of a class that has gone off the rails. So, you shouldn’t be afraid to put a bit of sternness in your voice and get the class back on track. If you don’t have the ability to be stern, you’ll find ESL teaching to be tough.
  • Have no interest in foreign culturesWhen you teach people about a foreign culture, you will have to consider their cultural differences. This will help you connect with your students on a deep level and will make it easier to help them grasp hard concepts. If you aren’t able to connect with your students, you may have trouble teaching them.
  • Don’t like people. If you don’t enjoy getting to know people and communicating with new people, you will hate being an ESL teacher and may perceive it as difficult.

If any of the above traits describe you, you may feel like ESL teaching is hard.

Also see: This is Why Role Playing is Important in ESL

Is ESL Teaching Hard
Is ESL Teaching Hard? Here’s What You Need to Know –

The Age of Your Students

People of all ages seek to learn English, and that means that ESL teachers are teaching people of all ages. One teacher may be teaching English to adults and teens, while another may be teaching school-age kids.

Teaching ESL to Kids

In some ways, teaching children English can be considerably more difficult than teaching adults. While children’s brains are generally more receptive to new knowledge, they can be challenging to teach, given their relatively short attention spans.

In addition, children will need teachers to be animated to hold their attention. If you are not an animated person or are unable to act that way during class, then you may feel like ESL teaching is impossible.

Teaching ESL to Adults

While you won’t have to try to get an adult to sit down or listen attentively, older adults just aren’t able to hold onto language concepts as well as younger students. This may lead to teachers having to repeat lessons or concepts over and over again until they are ingrained into memory.

As you may have gathered, each age group comes with its own learning obstacles, and it is the job of the teacher to wade through those difficulties and teach English in spite of them.

If you are not very patient, no matter what age group your students belong to, ESL teaching will be hard for you.

The ESL Teaching Learning Curve

There is a definite learning curve when it comes to ESL teaching. When you first start, it could be hard to find your footing. Young students may be controlling the classroom, and it may seem like none of your pupils are picking up any English.

However, over time, you will find out how to meet your students where they are and help them learn English without having a difficult time.

Is ESL Teaching Hard
Is ESL Teaching Hard? Here’s What You Need to Know –

Top Mistakes that Make ESL Teaching Hard

There are several mistakes that new ESL teachers make when starting out. Each of the following mistakes can make ESL teaching hard.

  • Not allowing students to talk. Learning a new language becomes easier the more you speak the language, and allowing your students to talk will allow you to gauge their understanding of the language correctly. When you talk more than your students, they won’t have enough opportunities to talk about themselves and may not reach their learning goals.
  • Not using the lesson plans. Without structure, an ESL class cannot be successful. So, it’s essential to use those lesson plans. At the same time, you shouldn’t be afraid to deviate from the predetermined lesson when necessary.
  • Never giving feedback. You should provide feedback to students at every chance, as this will help them develop the skills necessary to learn the language you teach. You will also have the opportunity to correct errors in pronunciation and word usage. Giving frequent feedback will help your students reach their learning objectives quicker.
  • Treating your students like they are your friends. While it may be tempting to do, you should never treat your students like they are your friends. You should be friendly with your students, but there should be no question that you are their authority figure and not their friend.

It can be really easy to make the above mistakes, but knowing about them can reduce your chances of making them.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that ESL teaching is not necessarily hard. The difficulty level depends on your personality, the company you work for, the age group you teach, and more.

Regardless of anyone else’s opinion, you may find that ESL teaching it’s the easiest job you’ve ever had.


Hello friends, I am Altiné. I am SO excited you are here! I am the guy behind Project English Mastery. I am from Toronto, Canada. I graduated with a Master in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. After working a few years in the banking industry and completing my 120 TEFL from the University Of Toronto, I decided to teach English in China. Project English Mastery is a blog that provides helpful resources for English Teachers and Learners: vocabulary and grammar, exercises, and class activities ideas and tips.

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