Professional TEFL Teachers Never Do These Things

Your job as a TEFL teacher is to help your learners advance in English, be it for an exam or simply to improve their skills in the language. Be wary of anything that could inhibit their progress or damage your professionalism.

1. Accept Social Media Requests

Most schools, academies or other TEFL organisations will have rules about this. I know that I always tell my teachers not to do it, with teenagers or even adults. You can, and should, be friendly as a teacher and certainly encourage a good rapport with students, but never cross the line into a friendship. Often, I encourage my learners to set up group Whatsapp chats so they can discuss class material or really anything they like. But I myself am never a part of these discussions. There will always be, especially if you teach adults, the possibility for great relationships and even friendships, but it is a slippery slope!

A few years ago, we had a teacher that added all of his students on Facebook within the first couple of weeks. They were mostly young adults and he ended up going out partying with them most weekends, with the unfortunate result that none of them respected him in class, wanting only to discuss plans or gossip or have a chat. Once you lose that professionalism, it’s very difficult to get it back!

Of course, such is the nature of TEFL teaching that you may have just moved somewhere far away to start your career or take a year out. Often, this means that the only people you come into contact with are your students. Always try to socialise and make friends outside of this group, other teachers for example.

2. Date Students

If the last seemed obvious, it may be unnecessary to include this one. But it’s so very important that I thought I would dedicate a paragraph to it.

Let’s speak candidly for a moment, for those of you that teach adults. It will happen once or twice or even more frequently during your time as a TEFL teacher, that you come across an attractive student. A student that you really like, is funny, and just the right amount of cheeky, or has whatever traits that you find beguiling. You are not blind, and nobody expects you to be, you can recognise this in your students as we all do. But most schools and academies, if they are any good, will have very strict rules about this. Dating students is extremely unprofessional and leads to an often uncomfortable atmosphere in class. As well as an unavoidable telling off from your supervisor.

3. TALK and TALK and TALK

I was observing a lesson recently, a fellow TEFL teacher who had been teaching in his academy for almost 20 years. It was a class of advanced learners, all enthusiastic to improve and speak with each other. But, seemingly oblivious to this, the teacher was at the front of the class talking the whole time. I mean literally, for an hour and a half he was babbling on about error correction and his home country and even cracked a few bad jokes that the learners didn’t, and couldn’t possibly, understand. During the whole lesson, he probably allowed the students to say 10 words between them. Had it been a successful lesson, they would have been speaking or at least doing something for the vast majority of the time.

Don’t be like this guy. Let the students have a go at it, and be there to help them when they get it wrong! Try to spend as little time at the front of the class as possible!

4. Assume That You Will Be A Good Teacher Because You Are Native

You won’t.

Most of the really fantastic TEFL teachers I know, are not native speakers. Why? Because they have been there themselves, they have been on the other side of the classroom and had the experience that they now seek to create for their own students. They have studied English grammar to death at school, and had to pass numerous exams and tests for anyone to take their level of English seriously. They know their stuff.

A naive teacher with no experience often has the bad habit of assuming teaching English is like having a conversation. Just talking to the learner so that they can practise their language. They will often know very little about grammar and when a learner ventures to ask why something is like it is, they will say: “because it is”.

Don’t be like these people. Do your planning properly, know what you are teaching and how you re going to teach it.

Anything to add? Any more things that are unprofessional for TEFL teachers? Let me know in the comment section below!

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