Should a TEFL Certification be Mandatory for Teachers?
The importance of a course such as a TEFL is easy to overlook when you consider the multitude of teaching jobs that are available around the globe that require no teacher training whatsoever. In many countries, the only requirements are that you have some form of degree and are a native speaker. For those looking to travel whilst earning some money, these countries can provide a good balance of income and culture, as well as easy access to other countries in the area. However, whilst this is beneficial to the 'tourist teacher', it can often lead to substandard teaching methods. For an example of this, I need not look any further than myself.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Timothy H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
My Teaching Experience
I have been an EFL teacher in South Korea since 2009, teaching in different educational institutions such as private Academies, English Camps, and High schools. When I arrived, the requirements to become a teacher at a Hagwon (private academy) were simply to have a 2.1 degree (UK) in any field and be a native speaker. I was a little apprehensive that I had never had any kind of teacher training, but I was assured that that wouldn't be a problem as I would receive some when I arrived at my new job. My training consisted of spending 1 day 'shadowing' the person I was replacing (who also had no training) and the next day I was on my own with different students and books. I was given no guidance as to how to lesson plan, how to deal with different age groups and abilities, how to manage a classroom, different activities to encourage participation, etc. Fortunately for me, I had studied drama, so improvising came easily, but the next month was a battle between orientating myself, trying to plan lessons with basic materials, teaching 30+ classes a week, and adjusting to a country where I couldn't even read. I can honestly say that my lessons were disorganized, ill-prepared, and amateurish, and with that came ‘imposter syndrome’. This would result in me trying out a few different ideas then sticking rigidly to the ones that initially worked, making my classes repetitive and boring over time. However, my ability to bumble through lessons, and my director’s insistence that the students liked me, gave me a belief that I was doing a good job, and therefore the process and cost of taking a TEFL became “Why do it if I don’t have to?”.
The Importance of Education
This was the start of my teaching experience and over the years I have improved to a degree. I have listened to other, better-equipped teachers and taken their ideas on board, and implemented them with varying degrees of success. My lessons have become more structured and productive, but every time people would suggest I take a TEFL, I had the same reaction: “Why do it if I don’t have to?”. Well, I'm now in a position where having one would open up more opportunities, and so I have taken it, and I can honestly say that I have learned so much more in the last 3 months than I had in my first 7-8 years in Korea. I can now create more effective lesson plans, I’m more aware of how my behavior impacts a lesson and how my role should vary. Basing my lesson structure on the ESA method, incorporating different study techniques and activities has seen my lessons come to life, with students feeling happier and more confident to speak up and join in. The resources provided and advice on using materials has also added a new sector for me to draw ideas from.
From a teaching point of view, I feel like my lessons have improved and my students are more interactive and engaged. I had to prepare an open class and I was able to prepare lesson plan sheets to hand out that I was confident in, and I had a good balance of study and group exercises that taught and practiced the lesson topic effectively. From a personal point of view, I was very proud of myself. It was the first open class I’d taught since starting my TEFL course and it is the best open-class I've ever taught. I have also found myself reflecting on my behavior in trying situations. When a student is misbehaving in class, I no longer berate them in class. Instead, I ask them to come outside and I talk to them calmly. This avoids shaming them (a cultural issue in Korea) and also allows me to explain why their behavior is unacceptable in a more productive manner. After this, the student is often better behaved and still willing to participate.
Do you want to teach English abroad? Take a TEFL course!
In my opinion, based on my own experience, taking a 120-hour TEFL course (or equivalent qualification) should be a mandatory requirement for people wanting to teach English as a foreign language. It offers consistent, basic training over a wide range of topics, providing a teacher with enough resources, knowledge, and confidence to begin teaching. Any country that is serious about delivering quality education to its students needs to add some form of actual teacher training, be it a TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, etc, to its list of requirements, and should I move on from my current job, I will strongly advise my current employer to look for it on resumes.
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