Posted on June 13, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
All Things TEFL
04th Mar 2019
No matter how much training you do before starting to Teach English as a Foreign Language, there will be a few things that you can only learn on the job. However, as long as you have the right skills to take on the challenge, there’s nothing to fear! Here are a few skills that we think are important for every TEFL teacher.
Probably one of the most obvious skills you need as a TEFL teacher is confidence. Though your first classes with your new students can be daunting, you need to appear confident. Both appearing confident and having confidence in yourself as a teacher will automatically make the students feel that they are in the best hands. You have to show your students you are confident, firstly, as a teacher and secondly, in the subject you are teaching. Adults especially won’t have much confidence in you as a teacher if you are quivering in your boots or if you don’t know how to answer their questions.
As a TEFL teacher, you’ll normally have four to five classes a day and you’ll need to pre-plan all of these as it’s unlikely you’ll have time between classes to plan your next class. Some teachers like to plan on the same day as their classes so that the information is fresh in their mind. Others like to plan a week in advance so they are always ahead.
You’ll also need to come to class well prepared with any resources or materials you need for the lesson at the ready. That means printing out worksheets in advance! This will also help you appear more confident as you won’t be caught getting flustered as you try to scrape together materials at the last minute.
In addition, you should consider that there will likely be times of the year where you’ll need to be extra organised, such as exam time. At these times, you will be expected to do revision classes, deliver exams, mark all the students work and possibly write reports.
#3 Listening to two conversations at once
In lots of EFL classes, you’ll put your students into small groups to do a speaking activity. This means that lots of students will be speaking at the same time – and many of them will be asking for your help at the same time! Being able to listen to different conversations at the same time is definitely a skill that TEFL teachers learn over time. Furthermore, you won’t just have to listen but you’ll need to pick up on errors or good language use while you’re doing so.
This may sound impossible, but over time this skill will come to you naturally. Plus, as you get to know the students in your classes, you’ll start to recognise their individual voices so that you can hear how they’re getting on without even having to look!
Being adaptable is key to being a great TEFL teacher. If you’ve moved abroad for a teaching position, the likeliness is that you’re already pretty open to a new lifestyle and culture. However, you’ll also have to be open to adapting to a new working environment and a different education system to what you may be used to.
In the TEFL world, days and classes can be unpredictable. You may find one day you have new students in your class that you weren’t expecting. Other times there may be unexpectedly low numbers due to students being on a school trip or at a local festival. In these situations, you’ll have to think on your feet about how to adapt your activities or change your lesson to suit more or fewer students.
If you’re moving from one school to another, especially in another country, you’ll have to be prepared for change. In fact, it can often be more difficult for you if you’ve had previous teaching experience in another country as you’ll have to adjust to a new way of doing things. There’ll be new students, classes sizes could be bigger or smaller, there could be big difference between city schools and rural schools, and learners’ skills level may differ from place to place.
#5 Using a photocopier
Sounds easy, right? And to some people it will be. However, for those of you who have never had to use a photocopier before, this can be a challenging feat. It’s not just being able to photocopy a page from a text book, you’ll have to wrestle with different paper sizes, pages printing at whatever angle they feel like, learning how to do double sided printing (or how not to do double sided printing in some cases) and figuring out colour copies. There’s also learning to scan materials, and once you’ve figured that out, it’s knowing where on earth the documents have been scanned to… Then just as soon as you’ve covered all the basics, you move schools and be confronted with another beast of a machine that you have to learn all over again!
Communication is fundamental when teaching. You have to be able to motivate and enthuse your learners to learn, as well as understand your students and their problems. All of this can be difficult when you don’t speak the same language, but communication can also be conveyed by tone and body language. Having good communication skills with your students will help you to build a good rapport between you and the classes.
As well as being able to communicate with your students, you need to be able to listen to them. You’ll need to be able to show an understanding of your learners and you can do this by trying to view things from their perspective. Looking at things from their point of view and abilities will give you a better understanding of their needs and how to approach your lessons with regards to teaching them English.
#8 Reading upside down
Reading upside down is a skill you’ll learn over time without even realising you’re doing so. Often you’ll stand or sit in front of your students when monitoring activities, and as a result you’ll be viewing their work upside down. In fact, you may find yourself checking that your students have put the right answers upside down while simultaneously listening to them ask questions. However, as always, practice makes perfect.
#9 Cultural sensitivity
It’s likely your students are from a different culture and having understanding of that culture will help what approach you take whilst teaching. Their culture is likely to influence their learning needs and styles which will help you plan and deliver lessons that resonates with that culture. Furthermore, we as teachers have a responsibility to review our own stereotypes and assumptions, we take into the classroom, which may hinder connecting with our students! We should also learn the many do’s and don’ts in certain cultures.
It’s obvious that teachers should have patience, but with TEFL teaching you may need to be even more patient than your average teacher. It can be quite frustrating at times, when students don’t understand your explanations and you can’t understand why. Being patient is key, as well as understanding and remembering that this is difficult for them. English is not their first language, and for some people learning a language does not come easy. There are many different types of learners and some will take longer than others to grasp certain aspects of English. You need to be patient, not show your frustration, give your students the time to process the information you give to them and, most importantly, never give up on them!
You also need to have patience in terms of the typical classroom management problems that might arise, especially when teaching young learners. Always remember to stay calm and in control. Losing your patience can be the start of losing control!
#11 Tying shoelaces and putting on jackets
If you’ve signed up to a job with young learners, you won’t believe the amount of times you’ll be asked to tie shoelaces and help put jackets on students. As they haven’t yet learnt to tie their own shoelaces or zip their own clothes, expect them to ask you to do it for them – repeatedly! You may be thinking that this is not a new skill you need to learn, but funnily enough, it’s all the more challenging when you’re doing it from another angle.