As an experienced teacher, you probably already know the skills required to deliver engaging and effective lessons on a regular basis. However, it is often easy to forget what you are able to create and produce when you are caught up in your daily work. On the other hand, If you are a novice teacher – or if you are thinking of becoming one, you are in for a treat.
Teaching is an incredibly fulfilling profession, regardless of the subject you teach. There aren’t many professions around that allow you to make a long-lasting impact in the life of others as much as teaching, especially teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). In the long run, those who are able to master the language and apply it at work are often able to progress in their career and improve their professional situation.
However, the impact of educators can be also seen on a day-to-day basis, as they help their students develop their existing skills and develop new ones – not only language related.
Personality and Attitude Matters
At the heart of what teachers are able to achieve are their personality attributes and attitude towards their students as individuals and their learning process.
Empathy and patience are the key virtues that allow any teacher to embrace a student-centred approach. Whether you are teaching in-person or online, as a TEFL teacher you will deal with people from different cultures. Students who have gone through different language-learning experiences will carry their own personal ‘baggage’ of what it is like to learn a language, whether it be positive or negative. This is particularly true with learners who have been exposed to a very different type of learning system from yours, as it is in Japan, for example. If you are interested in this specific market sector, this guide will help you find top teach English in Japan strategies.
Being flexible and willing to learn are other crucial features of an effective teacher. Teachers who strive to foster a safe learning environment for all are those who step into their learners’ shoes and adapt their lessons to ensure the students’ needs are met. As a teacher, you will find that every lesson offers learning opportunities for yourself as well as for your students.
So you think you have the right personality and attitude for the job. Where do you go from here? Start by taking a TEFL qualification. That’s where your willingness to learn is immediately put to the test.
The Importance of a TEFL Qualification
There are a number of reasons why becoming TEFL qualified is a necessary step into the world of English teaching. First of all, it increases your employability rate. Finding a job as an English teacher without a qualification – either abroad or online – has become almost impossible. Furthermore, those language schools who hire unqualified teachers seldom offer good working conditions and competitive salaries.
But what makes these qualification courses invaluable is the knowledge you acquire before setting foot into the classroom. They have been designed specifically for those who have never taught before and will cover all aspects of classroom life. A standard 120-hour TEFL course will cover language-related areas, such as the mechanics of the English language, e.g. grammar and phonology, but also practical aspects such as classroom management and materials creation and development.
By the end of the course, you will be able to confidently start teaching and you will be on your way to master at least five key components of teaching:
1- Selecting Learning Aims and Developing Lessons that Evolve Around them
The purpose of each lesson is to introduce and practise different aspects of the language so that learners can produce it independently. For this reason, it is important to identify the aims (also known as ‘objectives’) of the lesson before planning it. In a reading lesson, for example, you could focus on gist reading – to identify the main idea of the text, and on topic-related vocabulary (e.g. the weather), and/or an aspect of grammar, like ‘going to’ for predictions.
You can choose whether to share the aims with your students at the beginning of the lesson or ask them to identify its objectives at the end.
2- Assessing Learners’ Needs
Although language schools do their best to organise their students in classes depending on their proficiency level, you will find that the abilities of each individual learner are very different, even within the same level. Some students might be able to speak accurately but lack fluency or have a limited vocabulary range, while others are confident speakers but need support in building coherent sentences. For this reason, it is necessary for you – as their teacher – to identify your students’ strengths and weaknesses, so that your lessons can successfully target their language needs.
3- Providing Variety
Variety is the spice of life – and keeps your class engaged and motivated. From role-plays to running dictations, from controlled practice to mingling activities, there are plenty of different ways to introduce and practise a language. Changing the pace of the lesson is another way of providing variety: add a fast and communicative activity after one or two quiet and/or individual tasks to keep the learners engaged.
4- Thinking on your Feet
Planning is very useful to give you a general idea of the direction you want your lesson to take, but they can’t always be followed to the letter. Don’t be disheartened if you find that your oh-so-carefully-planned lesson doesn’t work, for some reason or another – the plan doesn’t matter as such, it’s how you react to it that counts. Find out what the problem is and address it, and the rest will follow. Is there too much unknown vocabulary in the reading text and the learners are struggling to answer the comprehension questions? No problem. Stop the activity, get the students’ attention and work on the unfamiliar words. Do a quick check (a game perhaps?) to assess their understanding of the vocab and then go back to the original plan.
5- Developing IT Skills
Many language courses nowadays rely on some digital components and it is crucial that you keep up to date with the tech. This can be also very beneficial if you decide to teach online – either as a form of extra income or full-time. In this case, technology is what will allow you not only to deliver your lessons but also to find clients in the first place.
What can a Teacher do?
There are endless possibilities to what an accomplished teacher can do, but it all starts with the core skills that a TEFL course can help you develop or discover, from creating a lesson to thinking on your feet, or even reinventing yourself as an online English teacher with your newly found digital skills.