Teaching Matters: Explaining the concept of skill in relation to the workplace

“In business for yourself, not by yourself.”

~Ray Kroc (1902-1984), McDonald’s founder

How do people get jobs in the United States? Internship season is almost upon us, and finding work is not always an easy thing – particularly in an uncertain economy. Many ESL students may be from countries where people are employed through families, political parties or the government. However, most people in America have had to apply and interview to get their jobs.

Therefore it’s important for English teachers to explain to their students the concept of skill. Define and explain the meaning of the word professional as meaning that you are paid to do something. It does not necessarily mean that you are good at it. For example, some professional entertainers and comedians may not be that entertaining to many people, but they are still considered professional because they are paid to perform.

In the classroom, teachers can pair or otherwise group their students to make lists of skills they have and skills they would like to improve. For example, reading, writing and speaking their native language are skills the students already have. Reading, writing and speaking English are skills they want to improve. That, of course, is why they are in the class. Incorporating sayings and quotes like those like the ones below, or others that you may find,  introduce and explore the importance of maintaining, developing and expanding skills in a competitive modern economy:

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
— American saying

“God helps those who help themselves.”
— American saying

“People rise to their own level of incompetence”
— the Peter Principle of Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Want to learn more? Check out the Practicing Job Interviews chapter from Compelling American Conversations. This chapter is also available here with expanded material from the Teacher Edition on Teachers Pay Teachers!

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