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What to expect in TEFL

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English is taught in so many countries around the world that it is hard to tell anyone what to expect. However, there are some 'universal truths' in the world of TEFL.

As in any field, there are plenty of expectations to go around. There are the students' expectations of the school and the teacher. There are the school's expectations of the teacher, and, finally, there are the teachers' expectations of the students and the school.

Though we will address all these classes of expectations forthwith, it is essential that you first understand that unless your expectations are realistic, and by this I mean understood in terms of the TEFL industry itself, there is very little chance that a job teaching English as a foreign language will ever lead to either job satisfaction or and, in the best of cases, personal and professional fulfillment. Therefore, in reading through the upcoming paragraphs with their accompanying lists of ‘expectations’, be sure to ask yourself if this is something that you can do on an ongoing basis.

What do language students expect of their teacher? Take a few minutes to recall your own expectations of your teachers when you were a student.

Language students expect their teacher to:

  • be knowledgeable about English and English-speaking cultures
  • be able to clearly explain both grammar and vocabulary items
  • help them with their pronunciation problems
  • correct their errors and mistakes
  • teach them well
  • motivate them
  • provide interesting lessons
  • be at all times professional
  • be well prepared
  • be punctual
  • be friendly

What do language schools expect of their teachers? Think about it. It's not too hard.

Languageschoolsexpect everything their students expect plus that teachers will:

  • complete class registers
  • keep a record of what has been taught in class should the class need to be taughtby a different teacher
  • complete any necessary reports or other paperwork bothaccurately and on time
  • conduct regular class testing and report the results
  • call in when they areill or are unable to teach sufficiently early that cover can be arranged or that students can be informed that their lesson is cancelled
  • behave and dress in an appropriate and professional manner
  • co-operate with the school management and with their colleagues

As you can see from the above, TEFL is a serious business. These days, with students becoming more and more discerning and critical, schools are less tolerant towards teachers who expect EFLto be apaid holiday. Competition is tough, so standards must be high to ensure a school's survival. The 'good old days' when it was enough to be a native speaker, are long gone and will never return.

What can language teachers expect of their students? Students are people, and you can expect to meet and teach all types. We do not choose our students: they choose us. They are our customers and as such deserve the respect and commitment of their teachers. They may sometimes be difficult and demanding. This is often because they are spending a substantial portion of their family budget on English lessons in order to improve their career prospects, or, perhaps, to enrich their lives and need to be sure they are getting good value for their money. Just as there is no typical EFL teacher there is no typical student. They too come to us from all walks of life and for a multitude of reasons. They come with high expectations, different learning styles, and with widely differing levels and experience of the English Language. Like students in other fields some work hard and some do not, some find learning English easy and some find it difficult. In short, they are no different from students everywhere.

What can language teachers expect of their schools? This really depends on the country you are working in and who you are teaching. If you are teaching general English, you may well find yourself teaching in a state school classroom or perhaps in a rented room. In some African countries you might even have to teach in the open air. If, on the other hand, you are teaching 'in-company', then you can expect to teach in an office or possibly in a meeting room.

Class sizes vary greatly, in Europe 10-15 students is the norm. In China and some African countries classes of 60 are possible. Frequently it is the size of the teaching space that dictates how many students are accepted into a group.

Most schools have a library of resource books for the use of teaching staff, and course books and teaching materials are usually provided.

Facilities such as photocopiers may either not be available at all or their use may be restricted on cost grounds. The bigger schools often provide computers with access to the Internet as a wealth of teaching materials can be found there. If you wish to have a look at some of what is available on the net, check out the Macmillan publishing house's web site www.onestopenglish.com. Over Head Projectors are rarely provided. A blackboard (Remember these? - You need chalk to write on them!) or a whiteboard is considered essential and so one or the other will usually be present in the classroom. However, in-company teachers may find themselves without any form of board at all, or, if they are lucky, using a flipchart.

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