There’s no English teacher like a TEFL teacher
Speakers of English have an incredible opportunity; they speak the most widely recognised and used language in the world. Include the prospect of traveling abroad to work and travel, teaching English is an allure for many travel loving, adventure seeking individuals who want to earn money along the way.
However, this has created the misconception that teaching English is a walk in the park that any native or fluent speaker of English can do. The reality is that like any profession there are skills and experiences that are essential for doing the job well. Teachers that take the TEFL certification program quickly learn that there is a lot more to teaching English than just speaking the language.
So you think you can teach?
Most TEFL programs run for four weeks, in which students work on a full time intensive course. Everyone who takes the course has had some experience of being in a classroom, whether it was 5, 10 or 15 years ago; but less people have been in the teachers position. TEFL students soon appreciate the skills and knowledge needed to manage a classroom effectively. A comment such as, “Wow, I never knew my teachers did so much” is often heard in the first week of the course and highlights exactly why a TEFL certification is so important to becoming a teacher.
Communication is the ultimate goal when learning a language. To teach English you do not need to know the language of your speakers. This makes other methods of communication the foundation of successful English teaching. TEFL certified students learn about communication capable aside from speech. Also, being able to set up your classroom and manage it while coordinating students is a skilled learned through practice, something TEFL students learn on the course.
Think back to your favourite teachers and classes at school. The ones you remember are the ones where you were totally engaged in the activities and materials the teacher gave you. Teaching is not lecturing. It’s about interacting with your students so that they learn topics and language through inspiring and communicative activities. Teaching the grammar rules for conditionals is one thing, but to transform them into an interactive activity is another challenge entirely. TEFL certified teachers learn how to do this and it takes considerable practice and learned creativity. What’s more, TEFL certified teachers learn how to create eye-popping, funky and enjoyable materials from scratch, to use with these activities. Meaning teachers can go anywhere in the world, with the least possible facilities and still manage to brighten up a classroom.
All classes have structure. While some classes are based around ‘conversation’ they still have form and substance. Students will quickly get bored of lessons which are based around ‘chatting’, and will soon notice if a teacher is unable to produce something more solid for their classes. On a TEFL certified program you learn how to create lesson plans and learn how to add tweaks to them which can be quickly applied in classes so you can cater to your students needs at any level.
For many native speakers we take speaking English for granted, we don’t know how or why we do it. This is not the case for foreign speakers and you’ll be constantly asked ‘Why?’. Have you ever stopped to think about how or where we make the ‘v’ sound in English? For Spanish speakers this is one of the trickiest phonemes to make. In a TEFL program you are taught phonetics and grammar which will set you up to answer any question your students may throw at you. You’ll soon realise there is a lot you didn’t know.
Business English is a market in high demand. Students on a TEFL program are taught how to create and specialize lesson plans for businesses, a skill rarely thought about but essential for good teaching. TEFL teachers have also been exposed to the world of young learners. A businessman and a young learner might have the same level of English, but you wouldn’t teach them in the same way. Would you know how to adapt your lesson plans accordingly? This is harder than you think. In the TEFL certification program you learn how to adapt your lesson plans to be a flexible and effective teacher.
Most students learning English are doing so for an exam. Being on a TEFL program you learn the ins and outs of these exam boards. Students will want to know these differences and will expect you to tell them. Reading about the differences online does not compare to the wealth of knowledge that an experienced English teacher can give you. Knowing what grammar, phonology, vocab or fluency is required at each level will pass or fail your students in the exams. It’s your responsibility as a teacher to make sure your student is fully prepared going into that exam.
Taking the plunge
Taking a TEFL course can seem like a big investment; it might be tempting to shy away from a course, thinking that because you have a high English level you are qualified for the job. However, serious English academies only hire certified TEFL graduates. They realize the importance of having teachers who have received proper training from accredited schools. What makes them ‘serious’ academies is that they want proper education for their students and appreciate that this only comes from those who have dedicated themselves to a TEFL course.