English Language Teacher

You have completed your TEFL course, you are searching for or found a job and are ready to make TEFL a reality.  You are going to experience learning curves on the job, culture shock and make great memories. Teaching will be your anchor wherever you call home so while you are meeting new people, taking photos, and making memories, reflect on how you can become a great English teacher too.

Learning does not stop after you are certified

Great work completing your TEFL course.  The learning does not stop once you have a certificate. TEFL is a profession where researchers, scholars, professors, and teachers constantly develop new teaching techniques and contribute new research and data regarding language learning. This does not mean you have to read scholarly articles or become an academic.  Your TEFL course provided you with a strong foundation for teaching but there is much more to discover.  The best way to become familiar with other teaching methods and techniques and become familiar with language learning theories is to do a simple online search.   If you are looking for ways to teach vocabulary, enter “teaching vocabulary” into your preferred search engine and see what comes up. Reading blogs and websites related to TEFL is also useful for getting familiar with terms and finding new ideas to try in your lessons. Your host country has many places to explore and so does the world of TEFL!

Plan, prepare, praise

Don’t rely on your English-speaking skills and knowledge of grammar as the foundation for being a great teacher. There was a reason you took a TEFL course and now is the time to apply what you learned to the real classroom setting. A great teacher plans their lesson taking into consideration the level, interests and personality of their class.  

Your lessons should have clear objectives and step by step procedures to meet the learning objectives. What vocabulary will you teach? Is there a grammar point you need to teach or review? Have you catered to the different levels in your class? Is the topic age, level and culturally appropriate? Are the students engaged in hands-on activities and inquiry-based learning or is the teacher doing most of the talking and explaining? Are you checking comprehension and reviewing as needed or are you rushing through the lesson?  Is the lesson worksheet dependent or are students creating and communicating?   It’s easy to print a worksheet from the internet, but a great teacher will take the time to create their own materials from time to time.  Creating your own materials enables you to control the level, language, and content of the materials.

When you teach, are you going through the motions or are you passionate and positive? A great teacher encourages, praises and smiles even when students are not paying attention or participating. You’ll experiment with various classroom management techniques and research ideas on how to achieve more learner engagement. A great teacher is always evolving and applying new ideas to the classroom. 

Be reflective and journal

Not every lesson you teach will turn out the way you planned. This is not the time to feel disappointed or doubt your skills.  Learn from your mistakes.  Why did the lesson fail?  What did you forget to prepare or consider as you delivered the lesson?   Then, modify the lesson and teach it again if possible. Keep a journal to note the things that didn’t work and what you did to improve the lesson. The improvements you made for a previous lesson should be applied to future lessons.

Don’t feel ashamed to talk to fellow teachers. No one is perfect and the fact that you stepped up to ask for advice shows you are taking your job seriously and care about your students’ progress and engagement. Be humble enough to take and apply the advice provided.  Your experience will help other teachers one day so appreciate the process of learning and applying.

Be yourself, not keep to yourself

Many teachers forget to be personable and relatable. Teaching is also about building relationships and creating a comfortable and enjoyable learning environment.  Share photos of your family, friends and pets. Share your personal stories if applicable to the lesson. Ask questions about the student’s culture and language. Demonstrate you are interested in learning about your students as people more than you are interested in their ability to utter words in English.

If you have a talent or are skilled at something, bring it into the classroom. Are you good at juggling, magic, art, music, singing, or acting? Your talents can become part of the lesson or used to deliver the lesson in a fun and interesting way.  You can write a song to help students remember a grammar point or draw a picture to help them remember a vocabulary word.  You are more than an English speaker in the class.  You are someone the students will look up to and connect with culturally and personally. 

Becoming a great English teacher doesn’t require years of schooling or accumulating massive amounts of scholarly information.  A great teacher involves professional development, reflective practice, and connecting with their learners. You’ll find there are other characteristics to becoming a great English teacher. When you do, pass along your knowledge to someone else taking their own steps toward greatness.

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