I know for a lot of people the thought of teaching adults can be really intimidating. I always had a feeling I would like it, but have spent most of my teaching career so far teaching children and teenagers. At my current job, I made the switch to teaching adults with a little hesitation, even though I was excited. I found dealing with children’s behavior frustrating, and it took away from what I wanted to teach. Looking back, I wish I had taken the Oxford Seminars Teaching Business English module before I had my first class with adults. Although I was excited for the new challenge and really wanted it, it is understandably a bit intimidating when first teaching adults, especially in a new context. How will I discipline them? Will they respect me if they know I’m much younger than them, or not that much older? What if I lose control of the class? Some of these questions I asked myself even when teaching kids. The introduction of the module wasted no time assuring me that I indeed already have the necessary skills, and it presented an overview of slight changes I would need to make in my teaching in order to cater to this new group of students. By that time, any kind of hesitation I might have had prior to starting the course was gone.
The specialization module is broken down into four chapters, and it was seamless to work through the chapters one by one. Just like the TEFL course, the readings were followed up by a multiple-choice exam to test what was introduced. Here’s a look into what each chapter includes:
Chapter 1: Understanding Business English
The title says it all! I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what teaching Business English entailed, or that I understood anything about business and the specific language associated, but by the end of this chapter I was feeling like I had a really good grasp of what I was getting myself into. Not only did this chapter provide the reassurance I needed, it also included a lot of helpful information on classroom management with adults, the cognitive attributes of adults, understanding students’ intrinsic motivation, learning intelligences, and more. Something I always liked about my Oxford Seminars TEFL course, which is true for this one as well, is that there are always a lot of hands-on resources presented to you. There are websites for you to use for your own knowledge, to use in your classroom, and that provide classroom activity ideas. By the end of this chapter I felt like I could really visualize my new Business English students, and what they might be like. Now I’m starting to get excited!
Chapter 2: Business English Lessons and Units
This chapter goes over several different case studies to review and reflect on different scenarios that you might face in class, in terms of both lesson plans and curriculum planning. I’m sure that many of us have been in a situation where you’re in the middle of a lesson and you finish significantly earlier than you planned, or the activities you’ve planned are taking longer than expected, and you have to adapt on the spot. This chapter is a helpful, proactive tool to get you thinking about how to problem solve in the classroom.
Chapter 3: Teaching Verbal Communication Skills in Business English
This chapter is full of speaking activities for different levels, as well as different learning styles. What I found particularly helpful about this chapter was learning about the many aspects of verbal communication that tend to prove difficult for learners. As a native speaker, you might not be aware of some of the common and recurring things your students may find difficult. After working through this chapter, you won’t be surprised when such difficulties arise, and you’ll feel well equipped to approach them.
Chapter 4: Teaching Written Communication Skills in Business English
This chapter begins by acknowledging that the skill of writing is often not the focus of many English language classes, for various reasons. It then goes on to address this, by providing some excellent insight on specific and contextualized writing tasks to use with your students, such as emails, letters, filling out forms, etc. This small mind-shift in making lessons ‘context appropriate’ makes all the difference.
What I liked the most overall about this specialization module was that it encouraged me to be a learner as well. The introduction states that you are the English language specialist and your students are the business specialists. Therefore, you don’t have to pretend that you know everything about their business. Rather, you can be your own specialist, and come to class with a curiosity to learn more about their specialty. And who doesn’t love talking and sharing about something they are passionate about?
I appreciated that the module also briefly refreshed my memory on what I learned in my initial TEFL course (thankfully, because I did mine over a year ago!). It was a really nice addition to build upon what I had already learned. It was structured well, and written with excitement. I didn’t feel like I was studying, but rather reading a very informative and engrossing paper.
The most challenging aspect to me was trying to refresh my own memory on things I haven’t done in quite some time, such as essay writing, and in particular teaching essay writing. As a native speaker, there are things we know and do inherently and automatically, and it can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is learning these things for the first time.
My biggest takeaway from this course was a renewed sense of confidence in my teaching abilities, and in the skills and that I have worked to develop. Rather than thinking of this as an intimidating and scary thing, it helped to re-frame Business English as an exciting opportunity to expand my skills.
Amy Randell is an Oxford Seminars graduate with a recent specialization in Teaching Business English. Amy completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Canada, majoring in history, before moving to Germany to work as a teaching assistant. She is currently living and teaching English in beautiful Greece.