Saying Goodbye to a Student You Like: Advice for ESL Teachers

I hate having to say goodbye, but here are some tips on how to stop teaching a student you really liked.
a pastel illustration of a crying cat

As an ESL teacher, you may encounter a situation where you must stop teaching a student you have grown attached to. This is probably the hardest part of teaching online for me. I really enjoy all my students and hate having to say goodbye, even if a much better-paid opportunity has come along. However, sometimes it is necessary. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation:

Stop teaching a student you loved: a step by step guide

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and recognize that it’s normal to feel sad or disappointed when saying goodbye to a student you’ve grown attached to. Take some time to reflect on the positive experiences you’ve shared with the student, and remind yourself that you’ve made a positive impact on their language learning journey.

2. Keep Professionalism at the Forefront

While it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, it’s also important to maintain professionalism throughout the process. Keep in mind that you are there to provide a service to the student, and your decision to stop teaching a student should be based on what’s best for both parties. Approach the situation with honesty, empathy, and a clear explanation for why you have made the decision.

3. Offer Resources and Recommendations

As an ESL teacher, you may have access to a network of colleagues and resources that can help the student continue their language learning journey. Offer to provide recommendations for other teachers, language schools, or resources that may be a better fit for the student’s needs. This can help to soften the blow of the news, and show that you are still invested in their success even if you had to stop teaching them.

Students can teach English online as a part-time job

4. End on a Positive Note

When saying goodbye to a student, it’s important to end on a positive note. This can include expressing your appreciation for the time you spent together, wishing them the best of luck in their language learning journey, and offering to keep in touch. It’s important to remember that even though you may no longer be teaching the student, you can still be a positive influence in their life.

Being forced to stop teaching a student you like can be a difficult experience, but it’s important to remember that you are a professional providing a service. By acknowledging your feelings, maintaining professionalism, scheduling a meeting, offering resources and recommendations, and ending on a positive note, you can make the process as smooth and positive as possible. Remember, as an ESL teacher, your ultimate goal is to help your students succeed, and sometimes that means knowing when to say goodbye.

Of course, it can be even harder to carry out, but if you have a student you…don’t like working with. That can be difficult in its own way. I have some tips for that, too.

Knowing When to Say Goodbye: Advice for ESL Teachers on Stopping Work with a Student

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Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.