The Best Thing I've Learned From My TEFL/TESOL Course
2018-11-24 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
A TEFL course is the first step towards a successful career in teaching English abroad. A TEFL course, whether taken online or in-class, covers a wide range of topics from lesson planning and classroom management, to English grammar and pronunciation techniques. In this post, one of our TEFL graduates shares their thoughts on the best thing they’ve learned from their TEFL/TESOL course with ITTT.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Leif O.
The best thing that I learned from my TEFL/TESOL course is that teaching is more nuanced than just having a lesson plan and letting the ESA formula do the work. With these kinds of courses, it is so easy to get so caught up in the theory and the teaching practices that we forget about crucial components like compassion and empathy. The children that I will be teaching will be trying the best that they can to learn a foreign language. That’s admirable, and there is no time block in a formal lesson plan for telling students that what they are doing matters.
I learned that these nuances manifest themselves in a couple of different ways. First, there are nuances with how you should interact with young learners. A lesson plan can get you far in terms of content and teaching methods, but you still have to remember that there should always be a human element in your teaching style. A teacher can come off clinical or cold if they follow the lesson plan to a T because the words on the page don’t remind you to smile at the learners and utilize the powerful technique of human connection. There is real value to be gained for both the teacher and the student when a connection is formed. That is something that will never make it in the lesson plan but is crucial for engagement.
There are also nuances in how to interact with your own environment. It is important to be excited and smiley, but it is equally important to give off a grounded and steady mien in the classroom. The students do want to be entertained (particularly very young learners) but one cannot forget that they are looking up to someone and need to see stability. These young learners are not only learning the language from you; they are also learning how to be a person your age, so a kind of confidence and clear thinking will show them that they can be confident and clear-headed too.
There are also nuances, of course, regarding the culture that you are teaching in. Coming from the USA is especially important to realize, as my country has quite an unsavory reputation in many parts of the world. Showing that you are a thoughtful American can go a long way in breaking down stereotypes and building connections between two countries that may not interact very frequently. If one goes into teaching as a brash American who knows all the answers, that will just align with what they see on the international news every day. There is no place for bravado in a land that is not yours; Americans have been far too authoritarian on whose land is whose for far too long. Those entitled sentiments do manifest themselves in American culture, so it is important to understand how those affect how an American sees the world. Politeness and respect mean an immense amount, especially if the person is from a country like the USA which historically has not respected some of the world’s borders or people.
It is also useful to note that there are nuances that will be missed. There will be a faux pas, slip-ups, and mistakes. But I will keep in mind that I can have an effect, whether that be the friendship with a young child, a classroom, or a culture steeped in tradition and custom, and so the nuances become just as important as everything else.
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