You walk through the door of your classroom and get everything ready for your lesson. Students begin to come in and find their seats. It’s a familiar routine, but today you notice the differences between each student’s experience of the class. Some are early, neatly arranging notebooks ready to fill with thorough shorthand recording every word you say for the next hour. Others come in right at the last moment and eagerly scribble down the particularly inspiring parts. Still others slip in five minutes late, sit in the back with no notebook at all, and slip out again at the end of the allotted time. You wonder what it is that brings each of them through your classroom door—and that is where you have struck gold as a teacher.
Understanding these motivations takes you from
teaching the content to teaching your students.
The internet has plenty of suggestions on why English can be valuable. Just think of the innumerable lists of Ten Reasons to Learn English Now! But your students already know all that. They are in your class, aren’t they? Let’s take a look at it on a more personal level…
Five Reasons Students Already Want to Learn English
Who doesn’t want to see the world? Travel is inherently exciting. It’s all about experiencing new cultures and seeing amazing feats of nature and human ingenuity on display. For students who want to travel, English is a door to worlds of exploration. English has the third largest number of native speakers globally, and is a popular second language as well. If someone is taking a gamble on communicating through a language barrier, English is a pretty good bet!
“Wait, they’re students…so they already have access to education, right?” Correct, but English speakers may have open doors to even higher levels of education with international options (think study abroad or internships). For students who want to become English teachers themselves, education is also a link to their career.
For some of your students, the motivation for work will not just be a job, but a vocation—a passion or even a calling! For others, it will be a means to an end—to make money to live on, support a family, or to allow them to afford some other passion that cannot easily bring in income on its own. In any case, work will be meaningful and essential to the daily lives of your students, and your teaching can equip them for this.
Most of your students will be motivated, at least partially, by one of the first three big reasons to learn English. But let’s take a moment to give a spotlight to the little guys. Maybe you have students who just love English itself. They may be interested in studying literature, they might think the culture of one English-speaking country or another is especially fascinating, or they just love languages in general…there are any number of ways this interest might manifest.
Let’s not ignore the students who are there simply because they have to be. Your class is required for their degree, but it’s not really their thing. There will always be students in this boat. They may not share your love of the English language, but you can encourage them to see a different perspective of language learning. You can help them to see that they can still succeed and there is still something for them in your class!
And that’s the most important part. The best teachers help their students to gain something of value. Taking the time to understand what brings your students through your classroom door is a huge step toward showing them that you are there for them, not only caring about their test scores, but about them.
So ask them what motivates them! Inspire them to travel, equip them with education, prepare them for work, encourage them to enjoy their passion, and help them find value in unexpected places.
In other words: