How Much Of Yourself To Share

In many education situations, the structure is so formal that there is really very little question of how much a teacher should share about themselves. But in many EFL classrooms, the topics which students are asked to speak about are, perhaps not “personal” per se, but definitely connected to them as individuals. Teachers are often asked to model these situations, and it’s certainly not a rule that you have to expose every detail about your own life…but I’d agree that if you expect your adult students to speak in front of the class about themselves, you need to be willing to speak about something at least equivalent.

Around children, it’s somewhat normal to censor what you talk about, but when you teach adults it can be harder to make the call. Sometimes it’s obvious: I wouldn’t share my religious views or lack thereof, or ask others to do so. Politics are touchy, and I think most of us can name a few topics that just seem unwise to discuss in any context. But while it sounds like a bad idea to share your political views, there are plenty of political-ish issues which may be interesting and motivating for students to discuss.

Sometimes EFL classes involve topics which, while again they aren’t overtly personal or about things people generally “cover up”, they may not be generally spoken about in some professional contexts. New Headway Advanced has a lesson on love (“what are some different types of love?” “how did you meet your spouse?”), an aging author who is developing Alzheimer’s disease, and “science and miracles.”

And beware if, during the present perfect lesson, you ask more creative or inquisitive students to come up with questions using “Have you ever..?”

There are a few interesting threads on Dave’s ESL Café about how (or whether) to answer questions about drug use, relationships – how did you meet your spouse, do you have a boyfriend? – in general. While most of us can probably agree that lying is not the ideal solution, it can be a challenge to come up with a good evasive answer on the spot if you feel answering is crossing a line; “that’s none of your business” is often not a good one, even if it’s true. I’m a fan of joking “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you”, though this works less well if your students have just shared their views or experiences on a topic.