Posted on November 27, 2018 | By Alexa Randell
All Things TEFL
04th Mar 2019
Being an average TEFL teacher is, well, fine. But have you ever heard of someone being inspired by a teacher that was just so-so? No, neither have we! We don’t want you to settle for okay. We want you to be fantastic! And to help you on your way, we’re taking a look at what makes a great TEFL teacher – and how you can become one too.
Great TEFL teachers are brilliant at planning
Okay, so ‘lesson planning’ might not exactly top your list for excitement. But a great TEFL teacher knows that a fantastic lesson is underpinned by a brilliantly-structured lesson plan, with clearly defined objectives and a range of interlinking, customised activities that reflect the needs and interests of the class.
Try this: Develop your lesson plans a week in advance. Go back a day or two later with fresh eyes and check that each ESL activity has a sharp focus that links directly to the aims you’ve set for the lesson.
Great TEFL teachers know every student is unique
Watch any class given by a great teacher and you’ll see that they’re willing to spend as much time as it takes to help each student learn a single point – and do it at the same time as challenging their strongest students to reach even higher. In other words, great teachers remember that their students are individuals who learn best if they’re taught at their own pace.
Try this: Pair up your more able students with a partner who takes longer to pick up new language and ask them to explain it to them. It gives struggling students more time to learn – and is a great way to stretch the skills of those who finish first. Plus you might even pick a few ideas for your own teaching!
Great teachers admit their mistakes
However amazing you are, everyone makes mistakes now and again. Great teachers don’t try to hide their errors but use them to encourage and give confidence to their class.
Try this: Challenge your students to spot any mistakes you make – whether accidentally or on purpose. It’s a great way of keeping a class focused! For a bonus point, ask the students to tell you why it’s wrong and give you the correct answer.
Great TEFL teachers have in-depth subject knowledge
Great teachers know it’s essential that they understand what they’re teaching. They’re not born with the subject knowledge but they do invest their own time to research each topic they’re covering – and are prepared to follow up anything that they don’t know.
Try this: Set aside a couple of hours each week or half a day a month to learn something new. Whether it’s researching new ways to present a topic or exploring the finer points of grammar, it’s an investment well worth making.
Great TEFL teachers celebrate success
Whether it’s a class of 3-year-olds or 93-year-olds, students will live up (or down) to the expectations set for them. Great teachers challenge every single one of their students to learn, regardless of the level at which they start – and celebrate their achievements when they do.
Try this: Set up a reward system in your class – which can be as simple as a sticker or a round of applause from the class. Rather than focusing on students who come out top, reward students for trying hard, or helping their classmates or having a go at something they’re unsure of.
Great TEFL teachers adapt
Even the most well-prepared lessons don’t always go to plan. Great teachers keep their focus on the aims of the lesson and are ready to cut an activity short if it’s not working – or extend another beyond the allotted time if it’s contributing more to the lesson than they’d expecting.
Try this: Work out a couple of short, adaptable activities that will encourage a silent group of students to get talking – and another couple that can calm an over-excited class down. Keep them up your sleeve for when you need a quick, positive boost. That way, you won’t be scared to cut short an activity that’s gone awry.
Great teachers are fantastic communicators
We’ll let you into a secret. Even the very top communicators usually weren’t very good at their first presentations. Great teachers practise delivering engaging activities and make time in each class to speak to students individually.
Try this: Practise speaking in front of a mirror or ask a friend to film you and give you feedback. Look out for any distracting actions, such as moving around too much or constantly fiddling with your hair. Try jumping up in the air and seeing how you land – apparently that’s your best speaking posture!
Great TEFL teachers know their students
If you don’t know what’s going in a student’s life, it’s hard to decide whether to make a sleepy student do some star jumps to wake up after a big night out or leave them to recover as their baby kept them up all night. Great teachers have empathy and respect for their students and invest time in talking to each one, as well as their parents and colleagues.
Try this: Stand at the door as your students enter and leave the classroom. Welcome them in by name and be ready to spend time discussing any issues before they leave.
Great TEFL teachers are creative
Students are far more inspired by activities shaped around their individual interests than ones lifted straight out of a textbook. Great teachers know each class and creatively adapt each part of a lesson to make the learning engaging and fun.
Try this: Build in sessions at the start of the term to find out what excites and motivates your class. Use this information to shape activities in future lessons. It’s amazing how much more students will remember if an activity is based around their favourite football club, band or love of travel.
Great TEFL teachers make sure everyone is included
Shy students can find it hard to speak out in full class activities. Energetic students can get restless during quiet periods. Students lacking in confidence can withdraw if they’re given over-confident partners. Great teachers know this and structure each lesson to make sure every student is included.
Try this: Change the seating pattern to mix up students and break up cliques. Use pairs and small group activities to help students interact and get to know each other away from the spotlight of a full class presentation.
Great teachers are proud to be TEFL teachers
Great TEFL teachers love teaching. It shines through every part of their TEFL life – from preparing lessons, to dressing the part, to arriving full of enthusiasm every day. That positivity is infectious and makes TEFL students want to learn.
Try this: Write down everything that is good about being a TEFL teacher. Stick it up in a place you look at each day, for example above a mirror or your desk. Be proud of what you do – you’re making a real difference to people’s lives.