Best practices of Teach English training for professionals

I’m Daniel, and I have been teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) for the last ten years. To find out more about precisely what TEFL is and the role it can play in your life, go to TEFL, where they have a wealth of knowledge and ideas to help you learn all about it. You can achieve your accredited TEFL certification even if you don’t have teaching experience.

For my part, it is safe to say that I have learned a lot more than I ever thought possible at the beginning of my teaching journey. I only wish that I had known then what I know now. To help you on your journey, and to avoid some of the traps I fell into early in my own career, I have created a list of five of the best training practices  that have got me to where I am now.

1.    You can teach an old dog new tricks

I remember my first day of teaching TEFL, walking into the building, feeling the butterflies in my stomach as I surveyed the eyes around the room, hungry for knowledge and keen as mustard to absorb what I had to offer. I must admit, it was overwhelming – especially when I discovered that one of my students was 55 years old!

Initially, my first impression was: what is this person doing in the classroom? Surely, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? How delightfully wrong I ended up being. Professor Wong was the head of department at the local hospital, and was studying English to enable him to communicate more effectively with other medical professionals. He was a model student, and progressed quickly.

So, always remember to not judge a book by its cover, no matter how tempting that might be to do. Whether you walk in on the first day to a group of rowdy teenagers, or a seemingly shy bunch of youngsters, you will be amazed how often those first impressions do not match the reality. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to be impressed!

2.    Answer questions

Students of all ages and backgrounds have questions. They may be related to grammar (the rules that govern the words we use), syntax (how and why some sentences sound and are correct while others are not), vocabulary (the words we use), pronunciation (how we say them), or just about general knowledge.

While I was teaching in Spain, my students had a plethora of questions, some related to what we were learning but most concerning my interest in and knowledge of football. In Catalonia, where I was located, Barcelona was the preferred team to follow, so the students were captivated when I informed them that in fact, my favourite football team is Derby County! 

My ability to be open, upfront, and honest, yet still professional, allowed me to build bonds with the group that other teachers had found challenging. That is not to say that we did not work hard – it is merely that finding the time to answer any and all questions, at the right moment, can pay real dividends in the long run.

3.    Ask questions

As a teacher, it is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that you are the dispenser of knowledge, and that you have nothing to learn from your students. Probably, I was as guilty of this as many others, but it is a habit I have worked hard to break. Here’s why.

One day, while teaching an adult group in the UK, I felt some discomfort in my back. Determined not to let this pain get in the way of my teaching, I soldiered on bravely until I reached a point of no return, and was almost in tears.

At this point, I asked the group if they could call a doctor, to help get me the medical attention I thought I needed. Fortunately, and unknown to myself at the time, one of my students actually had a passing interest in back pain, and had been learning about some exercises that could alleviate discomfort. With this in mind, he stood up and strode confidently to the front of the classroom, despite being a quiet student typically, and calmly showed me and the group the stretches he had found out about. Within seconds, I felt so much better.

 In a more general sense, asking questions may also lead you to uncover things about yourself as a person and a teacher you didn’t already know. Some websites have a vast store of information at your fingertips, just waiting to be accessed and perused.

4.    Don’t be afraid to fall

As an educator, the spotlight is pretty much constantly on you, from the moment the bell rings to begin the class to the moment the lesson ends – and even then, some students might well have some extra questions for you! One of the earliest mistakes I made was to think of myself as an actor performing a role at every single moment of the lesson.

Now, undoubtedly, there are moments when I am the central focus of the class, for instance while presenting new learning material or clarifying misconceptions. However, at several other key points during a lesson, I have learned to take a back seat and think of myself more as a director.

In this way, the students take centre stage and begin to flourish in their own way in time. My responsibility becomes to guide them on their way, and catch them if they fall. I actually made this discovery while teaching in Qatar, where the students were much happier being the stars of the show, and letting me sit back and watch them grow.

Of course, the process of teaching as a vocation necessarily involves making mistakes, and I have made more than my fair share during the last decade. The vital aspect here is not to be afraid of making a misappropriation or error, so long as it is well meant, and you are prepared to learn from it.

5. Be a lifelong learner

Last but not least, commit to the idea of learning for yourself. Whether it is a new hobby that can help you to improve your English language skills or an active pursuit, being in the frame of mind to accept new knowledge is an essential part of staying invigorated and full of life. Speaking of lifelong learning,TEFL is the perfect place to go to learn all about, both a craft and a passion, chock full of useful hints and tips to assist you in becoming and staying the best teacher you can be!