Published 12th October 2015
Do you have good language skills? Are you patient, observant and enthusiastic? Are you punctual and responsible? Are you fun, as well as funny? Do you enjoy paperwork? Can you sing, dance and draw? If you answered yes to ALL of these questions, then you qualify to be a TEFL teacher!
Seriously though, the label TEFL teacher is actually very misleading. While teachers generally need to have a wide range of skills anyway, TEFL teachers need to have a very special set of skills. In fact, the ability to teach is only one of many skills TEFL teachers are expected to have, many of them unexpected.
First of all, and possibly the most important, TEFL teachers need to have a sense of humour. You may be teaching Young Learners, where you may well be expected to act like a clown on occasion, or you may be teaching older students, in which case you will still be expected to be entertaining. Think about it: would you rather be in a boring class or a funny one? Don’t stress though if you don’t think you are a stand-up comedian, foreigners seem to be naturally funny to locals!
At the same time, you need to be patient and supportive of your students. We were not created equal in terms of language learning skills, though parents will have you believe otherwise. Sometimes learners need some extra care and attention, and a bit more time and practice than other students, and here is when you will need to bring your juggling skills into play. The majority of classes will incorporate learners of different levels and abilities and you will need to be able to keep the faster learners stimulated while also keeping the slower learners motivated.
If you have any experience directing traffic, this will also come in handy during class. Some learners, no matter the age, will feel the need to dominate the classroom while other learners are happy to sit in the corner and say nothing. This is where you come in, gently controlling the flow of the lesson so all learners are included. This relates to the activities of the lesson, too, as it is necessary to ensure all the parts of the lesson are logical and the lesson flows smoothly.
Finally, you need to be flexible, and not in the gymnastic sense. No two TEFL jobs are the same and it is important to be able to hit the ground running, acclimatise quickly and also get on with all the other teachers you work with. Being a TEFL teacher is not as easy as it may initially seem, but it’s probably precisely because you can find yourself in so many different situations that so many people stay in TEFL for so long.