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What I wish I'd known before I started TEFL

Guest posts

If you are thinking about teaching English abroad or online, Rakesh has some tips for first time TEFL teachers. Rakesh has been teaching TEFL for 4 years and shares some of his experiences in this blog.

1.The first lessons will be the most difficult; nevertheless, things will improve and get easier.

My first few lessons were the most challenging since I was in a new environment and unfamiliar with my students, but after a few months I learned it was all part of the process and that the more classes you take, the more natural you will become.

2. Get ready for work, even if you are taking online classes.

When I first started teaching online in covid-19, I used to get up late since I didn't have anywhere to go, so why should I get ready? During that time, I used to get tired easily and blamed it on computers, but a fellow teacher suggested that you need a transition point, just like when you go to the office from your home, that transportation time is where your home-mind changes to work-mind, but that wasn't possible during the pandemic, so when getting ready to work from home take some time to visualize what you will be teaching and transition from home-mind to work-mind.

3. You will have poor lessons, but keep in mind that it is not always your fault.

We all have unpleasant days at work, and you will undoubtedly experience them at some point when teaching TEFL. It is inevitable, regardless of your level of experience. I've seen a lot of new teachers blame themselves when a student, especially a child, isn't engaged. The bottom line is that there will always be some children who refuse to learn / participate; you cannot always change this, so don't be too harsh on yourself.

4. /Rr/ Sound

Learning a language is a long process; don't expect students to get everything right the first time. For example, for Asian students, the /Rr/ sound is very difficult because this sound does not exist in many Asian languages, and as a result, they cannot distinguish the mistake when they are pronouncing the word with /Rr/ sounds. However, you may always review or assign them various minor assignments to keep them practising on a regular basis.

5. Time management is essential.

Being on time, and respecting punctuality in general, is always a good thing. At the same time, never try to hurry through a lesson. I understand you may have a curriculum to follow, but lessons that are delivered too slowly or rushed can lead to disengagement from your students. Be thorough, be clear and keep things on point.

6. Small talk helps, it helps a lot.

If you have a small group of students, try to get to know them by asking them about their weekend plans, sport, movies, pop culture or anything they are interested in. Remember their likes and ask about them. You can be a teacher who teaches them or a teacher who knows, understands, and teaches them; the choice is yours.

7. Giving confidence is far more essential than grammar.

When I was in school learning French, my teachers were always focused on grammar, and as a result, I was always afraid of making grammatical mistakes when I had to talk. I began avoiding situations in which I needed to speak French. Therefore, based on my own experience, I can suggest that speaking with freedom and without fear of making mistakes is extremely beneficial for ESL learners. Grammar is certainly important, but if a student is reluctant to talk at all, provide them with a space where they can speak freely, even if they make mistakes.

8. The warm welcome you receive from people all around the world when you travel as a teacher.

I've only been a teacher for four years, but I have so many stories to tell about the people I've met and the experiences I've had because of my TEFL career. I've visited 15 countries, enjoyed international cuisines, listened to traditional songs, sang and danced with locals, and seen places that I couldn't even imagine before I started this career. So prepare yourself for a world full of warm-hearted people who will welcome you to their country with open arms!

Thank you to Rakesh Valiya who authored this post and is currently travelling the world as a TEFL teacher.