Inexperienced Teachers and EFL
by Marina Salsbury
For college students hoping to travel the world, teaching English as a foreign language can create opportunities that might not otherwise exist. Both long-term and short-term teaching positions are available in a variety of places, and far from requiring applicants to earn a PhD online, often the only qualification is the applicant be a native speaker of English. However, there are a number of problems inexperienced teachers face. Becoming aware of these issues and looking for ways to overcome them can make an EFL position more rewarding for teachers and students both.
One issue that arises with new teachers in any position is finding a routine for planning, teaching, and grading. While actually teaching a class may seem effortless, most teachers spend hours in preparation, finding appropriate materials, creating activities, and thinking about the best ways to explain new concepts to students.
Grading completed assignments can also take a lot of time, especially if they weren't well planned to begin with. People with no experience should realize these aspects of teaching are crucial to success, and should look for a good lesson plan template that can be used to prepare lessons. Talking to experienced teachers to get a feel for different approaches to planning and grading can be very helpful, as can becoming familiar with online teacher forums. All these things will be invaluable when starting out in a new EFL position.
Another potential issue for inexperienced teachers is stage fright, or discomfort in front of a class. Getting up in front of a group can be difficult the first few (or few hundred) times, and inexperienced teachers often find themselves nervous and even unable to speak as smoothly and coherently as they normally do. They may forget what they were going to say, or not remember what comes next in a lesson.
Without adequate planning and a clear lesson plan to follow, stage fright can be even more crippling. To overcome this, students planning to teach EFL should consider ways to become more comfortable in front of groups. They might consider courses in public speaking, or join an organization like Toastmasters to help improve speaking skills. While these things may not address teaching specifically, learning to be comfortable in front of a group is the first step to becoming an excellent teacher, especially in a subject like EFL where speaking to and with students is so critical.
Finally, one of the most difficult things for teachers to learn is to give explanations on a level students can understand. Learning how to explain English grammar comprehensibly to EFL students is a skill that simply requires practice. For students considering becoming EFL teachers, one way to get that practice is to look for opportunities to get involved in ESL tutoring in the local community. Public libraries, K-12 schools, and community colleges are all likely to need volunteer tutors who can help support English language learners. By working one-on-one or in small groups with ESL learners, future EFL instructors can begin to identify problematic areas for language learners, and can learn how to explain these concepts in ways learners can understand.
While inexperienced teachers may face problematic situations in a classroom, teaching EFL can be a truly rewarding experience. Students thinking of exploring the world through EFL teaching should consider the above strategies to make up for their lack of experience and be successful in a classroom. In addition, becoming familiar with the numerous resources available online, such as those at Dave's ESL Cafe, will provide inexperienced teachers with lessons, ideas, and support that will make their EFL experiences even more satisfying.