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Attracting Your Perfect ESL Students
by Richard Bienvenu

Is there really such a thing as a perfect ESL student? Of course there is. The thing is "perfect" means different things to different people. So the "perfection" of a student can really only be subjective.

The information given here I got out of the book Attracting Perfect Customers by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez.

These two ladies of business put their heads together and came up with a winning way to increase their consulting services without having to increase their stress level. They decided at one point that they only wanted to deal with customers that were in their view "perfect."

The reason?

Well, perfect customers meant better business, more fun, more creativity and a lot less stress. So they devised four questions that they asked themselves and basically conducted their business out of the results of these four questions.

The cool thing about this, they discovered, is that these four questions can be applied to all areas of life such as the perfect partner, the perfect relationship and, yes, for the ESL teacher, the perfect student.

They call this process Strategic Action Planning and they have discovered that when you know who your perfect customers are strangely enough by some quirky force of nature the perfect customers start to show up and the ones that aren't start to fall away.

Can this work for you as an ESL teacher?

Why not?

You'll find doing this process is very beneficial because it helps you hone in on just what you want and what you don't want in a student.

Does this mean that your not so perfect students will begin to fall away?

Not necessarily but at least you'll know when you and your student are not living up to the ideal.

Oh, yes. I forgot to mention.

A lot of this process is about you, the ESL teacher.


Because who you are is part and parcel of who and what you attract.

The process is very simple. Just answer these four questions:

  1. What qualities do I want my perfect  ESL students to possess and demonstrate?
  2. What makes my perfect students tick?
  3. What do I want my perfect students to expect me to deliver or provide?
  4. What do I need to improve to attract or maintain my relationships with my perfect students?

Get a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and fold it in half horizontally. Turn it on your desk so it looks like a book, This front panel is Side#1. Open it and label the inside panels Side#2 and Side#3 and on the back label it Side#4.

Now on Side#1 at the top of the page write in small letters: "Qualities, Attributes and Characteristics of My Perfect Students." Then just start to list as many as you can think of. Fill the whole page.

Here's some examples:

  • They always come to school on time.
  • They love participating in class.
  • They are diligent studiers.
  • If they don't understand something they immediately ask.
  • They always provide stimulating topics for discussion.
  • They love English.
  • They live with a native English speaker.
  • They are happy and always in good humor
  • They are peaceful, calm and kind.
  • They are really eager to learn English and to learn it well.
  • They are intelligent and display good common sense.
  • They have a positive mindset and love contributing to the class.
  • They easily make friends.
  • They are fun and a joy to teach.
  • They are dependable and trustworthy.
  • They are open-minded and adventurous.
  • They are sincere and authentic.
  • They work hard and are willing to make mistakes.
  • They speak English 90% more than their native tongue
  • They are always awake, alert and excited about learning English.
  • They are smarter than average.
  • They always do their best.

On Side#2 write "What makes my perfect student tick?"

In other words why do they get out of bed in the morning, what do they really love about life, what's important to them?

Here are some examples:

  • They really love life and are always looking to expand their knowledge.
  • The opportunity to be with people and contribute to people is very important to them.
  • They have a positive outlook on life and are fun to be around.
  • They see English as a way to get ahead in life and are excited at the opportunity to learn more and more and improve day by day.
  • Life to them is exciting and a great adventure.
  • They are outgoing, courageous and love life.
  • They are excited at the possibilities of life.

Now on Side #3 write "I choose for my perfect students to expect me to..."

Some examples I came up with are:

  • be a good teacher
  • always be on time
  • always be prepared with something that is stimulating and fun
  • be upbeat, awake and alert
  • be committed to ongoing self-improvement and development
  • be humorous and entertaining
  • be ongoingly searching for and applying new ideas to teach
  • be cheerful
  • be patient and understanding
  • speak clearly, plainly and expressively
  • be open-minded and willing to coach and be coached
  • be willing to make mistakes
  • keep the needs of the students upmost in my mind
  • not be complacent and ongoingly strive to improve my teaching skills
  • act professionally

Now in step four you go back over the list in number three and ask yourself if you provide that item 100% of the time. If not then circle that item. If yes then go on to the next one.

Don't be too hard on yourself. You shouldn't have to cogitate over each item. Just answer them quickly without much thought. Whatever your gut feeling is should be correct. When you come to the end of the list you should have several that are circled.

Now on Side#4 write at the top "What do I have to improve to attract my perfect students?"

Then just list those items that you circled. For example I would choose:

  • to be upbeat, awake and alert
  • not be complacent and ongoingly strive to improve my teaching skills
  • always be prepared with something that is stimulating and fun
  • be humorous and entertaining

So now you have your Strategic Action Plan. It's helpful to keep it with you and read it daily so you can keep on track with attracting your perfect students. You'll also know who of your current students are "perfect" and who are not.

Having perfect students makes teaching ESL a lot more stress free and a lot more fun.

This little exercise only scratches the surface of what's in the book Attracting Perfect Customers. As an ESL teacher you are in business and anything that can help you improve your business is valuable.

And as I said before you can use this for almost anything in life: perfect teacher, perfect spouse, perfect partner, perfect friends.

In conclusion, I invite you try this exercise and see what you come up with. Maybe you could add a lot more items to the lists. Better yet, get a copy of the book and read it. Ongoing self improvement is important for a teacher.

It helps you stay fresh, open-minded and always striving to be better and better.

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