What not to do as an EFL teacher?

Every teacher, particularly those starting their careers, inevitably stumbles upon some mistakes in the classroom. The key to improving as a teacher is recognizing these errors. In this article, we will examine some of the most common pitfalls new teachers encounter and how to steer clear of them as you grow in experience.

Don’t talk too much

One of the most frequent mistakes by novice teachers is monopolizing the conversation during lessons. Remember, students need ample opportunities to practice speaking the language, which fuels their progress. Limit your talking to essential instruction and steer clear of irrelevant chatter. Encourage students to read answers and provide peer feedback. Maximizing student talk time equates to maximizing their learning.

Don’t let one or two students dominate the class

Typically, every class has one or two extroverted students eager to engage in lessons. While their enthusiasm can be positive, it is important to not let them overshadow others. Extroverted students can unintentionally eclipse quieter members, hampering their involvement and dampening their motivation. Aim for an inclusive classroom where all students receive equal opportunities to participate, not just the most vocal or confident ones.

Also read: Is grammar knowledge important when teaching English?

Don’t pretend you know everything

English teachers often face numerous language-related questions from their students. Pretending to know all the answers is a mistake. English, being a vast and intricate language, leaves room for unknowns even for experts. Instead of fabricating responses, jot down the question and assure the student you will provide the answer once you have it.

Don’t try to improvise

Proper planning is the foundation of an effective lesson. Underprepared classes often serve as a wake-up call for new teachers. With a well-prepared lesson, comprising all necessary materials and activities, you can confidently navigate the session. The success of a thoroughly planned lesson provides immense motivation.

Don’t follow the textbook too rigidly or abandon it altogether

While most teachers follow a textbook for their TEFL curriculum, it is vital to adapt it according to the class's needs. Strict adherence to the textbook might render lessons monotonous, whereas a lack of structure can lead to disorganized, aimless sessions. Be ready to replace ineffective activities from the textbook with ones more suitable and interesting to your students. However, don't entirely abandon textbooks, as they provide a needed structure to your lessons.

Also read: What are the best books for teaching ESL?

Don’t say “Do you understand?”

When you provide instructions for an activity and ask if the students understand, they are likely to answer yes. However, checking their progress later may reveal confusion. Instead of seeking a simple yes or no response, use "concept checking questions" to truly gauge their comprehension. Consistency in this method helps familiarize students with this mode of questioning.

Don’t just use words

Despite our best efforts to minimize teacher talk time, certain situations require detailed explanation. Supplement your instructions, feedback, or answers with visual aids such as pictures, real objects, or written prompts to facilitate understanding.

Don’t blame your students if they don’t understand

If your students are grappling with an explanation or activity, it often indicates an issue with your explanation, not their understanding. In such cases, it is your responsibility to alter your explanation. As you familiarize yourself with the learning styles of your students, remember that comprehension difficulties typically don't stem from them.

Also read: What should I teach English beginners?

Don’t forget to give plenty of feedback

Feedback is crucial in a TEFL classroom. Be it homework, written activities, or group speaking tasks, feedback allows you to rectify errors and clarify doubts, smoothly transitioning from one segment of the lesson to the next.

Don’t think of your students as your friends

Finding the right balance between friendliness and professionalism in the classroom can be challenging. While maintaining a friendly demeanor is essential, leaning too far towards casualness can undermine discipline. Establish clear boundaries to ensure effective classroom management, especially with younger students.

Also read: Can I teach English abroad without any teaching experience?