Published 22nd March 2018

Teaching English as a Foreign Language can certainly be dreamy. If you manage to find your dream job in the location you’ve always dreamed of – be it desert island, vibrant city or rural village – then you probably don’t need to worry about anything besides planning lessons and marking homework.

If, on the other hand, you don’t manage to find your dream job the first time around (it’s out there, but it may take some time to find it) then you might have a more real experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language.

So if you are seriously considering becoming a TEFL teacher, we thought you should be aware of these three realities of teaching in an EFL classroom that you probably aren’t expecting:

Big classes

The ideal classroom size is about 25 students maximum. If you are teaching in a small school, a language school or a private university then this might very well be your class size. However, in a lot of EFL situations you can expect a few more bums on seats. In some countries, 45 students are the norm, while in others it can go up to 75 students.

Does this mean you throw your hands in the air and run away screaming? Of course not. If this is the case for you, while it’s not ideal you simply need to rethink your teaching strategies and methods to find ways that suit your situation.

Last-minute changes

In most jobs, if someone is sick it doesn’t affect much. Maybe a meeting will need to be postponed or a presentation cancelled but on the whole the working day goes on as usual. Not so for teachers. If a teacher calls in sick, another teacher needs to be found. Some schools will have back-up plans for just such situations but sometimes even those don’t work out.

So it might affect you in two ways. Firstly, you may be the teacher asked to cover the class if you are available. This will mean you will need to think on your feet and teach a lesson with minimal preparation. Good thing you have lesson plans for just such occasions up your sleeve!

The other option is that if there is no other teacher available to teach the class, you may need to merge your classes together and teach a double class. Again, not ideal but not impossible. Because your class size will suddenly be a lot bigger and your students may be at different stages of the coursebook, use the lesson to play fun revision games.

Fame and celebrity

If you find yourself teaching in an isolated place, you may find an unexpected bonus of being an English teacher is fame and celebrity (sorry, not fame and fortune). You may feel like you are being followed by paparazzi when you walk in the street when it’s just locals taking photos of you or you may find people ask you to take photos with their children. Either way, understand that it’s all harmless fun and enjoy the attention!