Published 8th September 2017

The term “English as a Foreign Language teacher” is actually quite misleading. You are a teacher, yes, and you are teaching English as a Foreign Language, yes, but you are so much more than that. Anyone who has done an internationally recognised TEFL course and who has done any teaching abroad will know that being a teacher is only one part of your job.

In fact, being an EFL teacher requires you to play a number of different characters every day. Sometimes you will need to be serious, sometimes crazy, sometimes stern, other times friendly. Not entirely sure what we mean?

Here we have a few of the most common characters you’ll be expected to play as a TEFL teacher:

The TEFL Teacher as Guide
As the teacher, you may have all the knowledge, but it is up to you to use that knowledge to help your students as best you can. This does not mean telling them everything in a lecture, it means utilising what they already know, guiding them to a place of understanding rather than spoon-feeding them grammar rules.

The TEFL Teacher as Cheerleader
Learning a foreign language can be hard and English can be especially confusing – think about phrasal verbs, idioms and grammar in general – so it is necessary for us EFL teachers to support our students, applaud them when they do well and motivate them when they are struggling. Motivation is key when learning a language and we need to do our utmost to ensure our students stay motivated.

The TEFL Teacher as Friend
This is a tricky one. What we mean by “friend” is not the same as a friend in the real world. As an EFL teacher you need to be open and friendly so that your students don’t feel too nervous or shy to ask you questions or admit when they are confused. You’re not necessarily going to go for coffee with your students on the weekend, but your students should know you are emotionally available when they need you.

The TEFL Teacher as Model
The one major reason our EFL students come to our classroom is to be exposed to English. As EFL teachers we need to provide accurate models of the language for our students to copy. If we use incorrect language, our students will pick that up and accept it as the norm, eventually using it themselves outside the classroom.

The TEFL Teacher as Referee
Things don’t always run smoothly in the EFL classroom. Our classes are made up of learners who have different personalities, backgrounds and possibly also ages and nationalities. They didn’t choose their classmates and so it is always possible that personality clashes may take place. It is up to you as the teacher to resolve such matters as quickly and painlessly as possible, so the focus can return to learning the language.

Remember: being a TEFL teacher is not the same as being a traditional old-school teacher, so take those thoughts of the teacher standing at the front of the class out of your mind and embrace the idea of the TEFL teacher as a teacher with many different hats.