I remember bursting onto the TEFL scene some 20 years ago. I could barely contain my excitement because I had these big, globe-trotting plans! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would end up teaching other native speakers to TEFL, and yet, that is exactly what happened, and boy is it my happy place!
To truly understand why I became a teacher trainer, I must go back to one distinctive moment in 2015 when an emotional English student told me that he wished he had started learning English with me. Now I know this sounds like blowing my own trumpet but bear with me…This chap was not an easy individual and by the time he landed in my EFL class, he was fed up with the whole experience. He had bounced from one school to the next and one class to another. He had even changed countries a few times hoping that maybe the English accent was better for him in a new country… can you imagine? He had spent the better part of two years trying to learn English and was still a Beginner. I think we can appreciate the frustration he must have felt.
So, on this day he had successfully completed an important task in English, on his own, and was really taken by emotion because he was closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream. This dream was something he had been pursuing since he graduated. His only obstacle… English. I found him sitting in my classroom and he proceeded to tell me that he had been able to cross this important bridge because of me and that all TEFL teachers should do what I do. I did not know explicitly what he meant, but I understood instinctively. That was the moment I decided that I would start training people to be outstanding TEFL teachers.
My goal was to share the magic and joy of being able to help someone convert a dream to reality. I have not just taught English; I have indirectly taken part in some incredible moments! I have assisted surgeons while they repaired a child’s tiny heart, I have co-piloted an A380, I have watched a maxillo-facial surgeon fix a facial defect and a vet birth a calf. I have been invited to thesis presentations and graduations. I have had the pleasure of listening to a journalist delivering her first English report live on TV. I have taught priests and imams. My students are completing Masters, PHD’s and Doctorates… and I have been there every step of the way.
My super-power? I play a pivotal part in the success of every single student that crosses my path. I cannot describe the joy I feel when a student achieves their goal. So, I decided to teach people how to experience this for themselves and if they play their cards well, they can also travel and earn a living!
So, what does it take to be a TEFL teacher?
It has less to do with how well you can teach grammar and a lot to do with understanding what your students need, what makes them learn and showing them the tools that work for them. Easy right? Well, at a risk of over-simplifying, yes! The crazy part is that there are around 300 million people in the world that are learning English…not ONE of them has the same needs, learns in the same way, or requires the same tools. You, TEFL teacher, have the responsibility of figuring that out for every single student and you can do it following a few simple rules.
Top trainer tips
We are often suffocated by fancy material, course books and supersonic technology. Your students should guide you to the type of materials and tools they can gain the most benefit from.
Learn a language
If you have not tried to do this, you will not truly know what it is like NOT TO UNDERSTAND what is going on. You NEED to feel this to gain perspective and respect the process.
In yourself too but remember that it is not easy to learn a new language, plus, in many cases there is a lot at stake so it can be very stressful.
Teach the students
If a plane’s computers and instruments conk out, you want the pilot to just fly the plane, right? Teaching is no different. If your plan does not work out, just teach the students.
Never stop thinking about what you did and how it could be improved. All it takes is a cup of coffee and two biscuits. You will never look back!
Expect the unexpected
Things rarely go according to plan. Learn to think on your feet.
Consider specializing for international marketability. There are thousands of TEFL teachers, but few can say they are experts in a particular field. Set yourself apart.
Become part of the global TEFL community. It is unreal what kind of tips and ideas you can find.
Do not be fooled by the promise of a footloose career. If you are not invested in your students, they will not be successful. Simple.
If this is not a strong suite, make it a priority. You will be left high and dry if you cannot keep organized and manage your time.
It all seems straightforward right? If you have one student, maybe… but usually a TEFL teacher has upwards of twelve students, so you must learn to juggle many different aspects as well as inspire and motivate. Why not join the next TEFL course and let me show you how to become an inspirational TEFL teacher?