Becoming a better TEFL teacher is a challenge. And while we know that teaching English isn’t the easiest job in the world, it sure is one of the most rewarding. If you want to teach English, then you must always be willing to adapt to ever-changing learning environments. To help you out, here are some of our favorite tips for topping up your knowledge and becoming a TEFL superstar.
Get yourself a TEFL certificate.
To answer what might be your immediate question – no, you do not need a TEFL certification to teach English as a foreign language. But it sure does help! When looking for a TEFL job, generally the higher your qualifications are and the more teaching experience you have, the higher your earning potential will be both online and abroad.
A TEFL certification itself isn’t just a piece of paper that says you can teach English. It’s the physical representation of an in-depth course that teaches you particular skills and techniques that you won’t learn in a typical education course. Sure, you might have some sort of previous teacher training, but what you learn in a TEFL course is unique and the content is recognized as specific to teaching English as a second language.
Throughout a TEFL course you will learn at least the basics of teaching English as a foreign language. Classroom management, lesson planning, understanding and teaching English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation amongst other things. You will also learn specific skills related to teaching students who speak English as a second language.
Become a better TEFL teacher by taking a specialist course!
Most companies who require a TEFL qualification as an entry requirement will accept no less than a 120 hour course. This type of course is one that beginners will typically start off with.
However, you can study more advanced courses too, such as a Level 5 course. This is one that will require a greater deal of commitment, time and energy. So make sure that if you decide to invest in a TEFL course, you choose one that is right for you and your own needs.
Make sure to invest in good equipment.
Whether you are teaching English online from home or in a classroom in Thailand, investing in good quality equipment will set you apart. Setting up your virtual classroom or organizing your portable props to travel with needn’t be too expensive. But investing in some of the basics will absolutely help you to become a better TEFL teacher.
Props are always a great resource to use when helping learners to stay engaged in lessons. Our useful DIY classroom resources guide will give you some inspiration for making your own props from things you could find around your home.
If you are traveling the world and working remotely or working in a brick and mortar classroom, then you could invest in some portable props that can easily fit in your suitcase or rucksack. Think of small things that are easy to take with you; flashcards, puppets or small toys.
If you are teaching English online, think about how you can make your classroom as interactive and comfortable as possible. Props are great of course, but it is beneficial to also have a good quality webcam, microphone and headset. You could even have a world-map poster or solar system curtain that could be used as a classroom background, and easy to fold away.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
One of the most common mistakes that new teachers make is working for the first company that says yes to them. Don’t make this mistake. When you first start off as a TEFL teacher, research your options thoroughly, whether you want to work abroad or online.
Some companies have stringent hiring policies, whilst others will hire teachers within a few days of application. So the best thing to do when looking for a teaching job is to research and apply for multiple roles and keep your options open. Companies that hire English teachers will all have their own individual entry requirements. For some roles, you will need a TEFL certification, a degree or prior experience. For others, you may need to be a native English speaker as opposed to a fluent speaker.
If you want to teach English abroad, always read the small print. A lot of companies will require that you sign a contract for a certain period of time, say 6-12 months. Some contracts have bonuses included, but if you leave your contract early or don’t meet targets then you may not get what you are expecting.
If you want to teach English online, then luckily for you, we have made it easier to find the perfect company. We have put together an ultimate review of online teaching platforms that will help you find the perfect fit for you.
Be open-minded in your own learning journey.
Teaching English as a foreign language is a journey and an experience. Being open-minded will help you to become a better teacher. No matter how long you teach English for or how many hours of teaching you rack up, you will always find ways to be better. Developing your learning materials for one, is key.
Try to imagine teaching English 20 years ago – there would have been no such thing as online learning. There would have been very little opportunities to use technology in lessons. Teachers had to be spontaneous and intuitive and had to create their own materials to keep students engaged. Nowadays, you have all the electronic tools you need to be efficient. But being just efficient isn’t enough anymore.
One of the signs of a truly great teacher is being able to always top-up your knowledge and adapt to changing teaching methods. Whether that is through study and taking an additional or more advanced course, by reading the blog of a fellow teacher or by learning through practice, keeping an open-mind and always learning is crucial.
Become a better TEFL teacher by improving your own language skills.
Regardless of whether you are a native speaker or a fluent speaker, you need to be easy to understand. You don’t want to be teaching a lesson with a student who has no idea what you are talking about. To be clear, we are not saying that you have to change your beautiful accent. What we are saying is that you must make sure you are clear and concise when speaking.
Many English speakers who have an accent believe that they wouldn’t make a good teacher. But the important thing to remember is that there is a huge difference between an accent and pronunciation. If you are going to be teaching students pronunciation, then you have to make sure that your pronunciation is good. Exposing your learners to as many accents as possible is great.
Prepare in advance for classes to become a better TEFL teacher.
A lot of companies in the TEFL world will provide lesson plans for their teachers. However, we recommend that you always prep yourself in advance of every lesson, regardless of whether lesson plans are provided or not. If you are new to teaching, preparing and planning lessons can sound daunting. Newer teachers often find that it takes more time than they thought to plan lessons and this can be frustrating.
However, effective teachers always make sure that they are prepared for their lessons. For the learners, evidence of planning in advance shows them that their teacher has devoted time to thinking about the lesson. This shows a level of professionalism and commitment to their student’s learning experience. Lack of planning reveals the opposite.
Link up with other English teachers.
There are so many ways to engage with other English teachers. You could start a blog, share tips or collaborate on lesson plans. You might even want to think about getting involved in peer-to-peer feedback. Because two minds are often better than one, right? Working together regularly can be a great way to get to know your fellow teachers, and sharing ideas can help you to become a better TEFL teacher yourself.
Using social media can also be a great way to learn about other teachers and their methods. Many teachers live-stream some of their lessons, give tips online and share examples of their lesson plans. Being able to conect with them might help you to become more confident and able to adapt your lessons.
Approach each class with a positive attitude.
Whether you are teaching in a brick and mortar classroom or in your own virtual classroom, make sure to approach all your lessons with a positive attitude and approach. Your students will be so excited to learn, so make sure you are able to live up to their expectations.
Being tired, unenthusiastic or generally not bothered about your lessons will show. Before your lesson, take the opportunity to get a bit of fresh air outside or have a coffee. It really does help, especially if you have back-to-back lessons. Take breaks when you can, don’t overdo it and treat each class as an opportunity to impress.
Take care of yourself to become not only a better TEFL teacher, but the best.
Looking after yourself and making sure you don’t suffer from burnout is so important. Many teachers, especially in the beginning, can feel pressured to take up as many students and lessons as possible. Doing this will almost certainly contribute to exhaustion and stress. But making sure that you have enough rest throughout your week of lessons will positively influence your mood, happiness and ultimately your mental health.
If you teach English online, then make sure to adopt an approach that allows you to gradually increase the amount of lessons you have every week. Start off slow, and once you get used to it a bit more, start to open up your schedule. Don’t go gung-ho, as this is likely to backfire.
We hope that by using these tips, you will be able to become the best TEFL teacher possible. Making small changes and implementing them over a period of time will certainly make a difference. But looking after yourself is the key to becoming a better TEFL teacher in the long run. Putting in the effort now is something that your future TEFL superstar self will thank you for.