Friday, April 13, 2012

Seven Positive Aspects of Being an EFL Teacher

TEFLing It ain't all bad
It's easy to  find things to complain about regarding the EFL teaching profession. But there are also many positive aspects about being an English teacher.

Making a Difference

A cliché, but one that is so true. Will you connect with every student you encounter? Present lessons to every student in a way that will motivate, enlighten, and most importantly, help them improve their language skills? Of course not. But if you dedicate yourself to improving your teaching skills and making your lessons interesting and engaging, you will see students who improve before your eyes and increase their effort and desire to learn. It's a great feeling when it happens.

Working Independently

If you enjoy working in a situation where there is little supervision, then options exist for you in the world of EFL teaching. However, there are many schools and language centres where the reality is just the opposite. For example, someone always breathing down your neck, a litany of  paperwork requirements that confirm you have performed any number of tasks, and strict sign-in and sign-out policies.

Fortunately, if you work as an English instructor in a university, you are likely to experience little supervision. Almost to a person, teachers in this environment will say that they greatly appreciate such freedom. The unfortunate thing is that there will always be a percentage of teachers who can never handle this responsibility.

Is it something hard-wired into them that results in more than an acceptable number of canceled classes, chronic tardiness, and a kind of twisted glee at missing various deadlines? Whatever the reason, these types of teachers never respond to being treated as adults with the common respect that you would expect, but instead offer up a kind of unhinged, monumental inability to manage their responsibilities.

In extreme cases, poor behaviour from some teachers can result in freedoms being clawed back for everyone. But management can surprise sometimes, and then the feckless individuals are confronted and face consequences for their own failings.

But for teachers who can handle being treated like adults, the peace of mind is very rewarding. It's almost as if you are a free agent. You are assigned courses, and you go about taking care of business: attending classes, submitting marks on time and conducting yourself in a professional way.

New Beginnings and Endings

New semesters and new groups of students always present new possibilities, the opportunity to improve your teaching skills, and most importantly, the chance to encourage and motivate different students.

Had an off semester? A class of students you just didn't click with for whatever reason? Reassess, tweak some things and then you get a fresh start the next semester.

The end of each semester can also be very rewarding , from being able to finish all the marking and grade submissions, to seeing the end of a particularly repugnant course you dislike (and may be able to see change down the road because of your feedback to course coordinators), to the satisfying feeling of completing something and moving on to the next semester.

It can also be a very nostalgic time as memories return of years gone by and your own school days.

Going Mobile

This is a huge advantage that comes from being a teacher. It really hits home if you leave teaching for a while and find yourself chained to a desk for eight hours a day.

The health benefits from being on your feet and moving around for a good portion of the day while teaching can't be over-stated. Of course, you can move around as much or as little as you want in a particular class. If you feel tired, limit the time you spend on your feet. If your students are listless, move around the room and motivate them with your own energy.

Even the act of moving from one classroom to another can perk you up and keep things interesting.

Teaching a Subject You Love

I would hope that most EFL teachers like working with the English language day in and day out. For those who truly do, working as an English teacher will improve your understanding of the language and allow you to spend hours a day sharing your passion with others.

Before and after classes, you will pore through grammar books and websites searching for answers to questions that were prompted by students' questions. Or you will simply spend hours researching the language because something made you start thinking about a particular grammar point in a way that demands more insight and and a better understanding. Seriously, you will. At least I do.

For teachers who started teaching English for reasons other than a love of a the language, I don't know what to say. It must suck to some degree to find yourself doing something you don't really like.

Gobs of Free Time

Again, a point that needs to be heavily qualified. Some positions won't provide all that free time. But, if you are going to be a teacher for any length of time, you should really make an effort to secure a position that gives you months of holiday time every year. Because those positions are there, and so you might as well enjoy a benefit that is traditionally associated with being a teacher.

This is especially true if you work at a university. Two and a half to three months of free time at the end of the school year and at least one other large chunk of time off at the end of the first semester are great for recharging your batteries and visiting your home country. Of course, you probably will only have two to three weeks of actual holiday time and will be expected to be "on call" to perform any number of related duties during that free time, but still, it's a huge advantage.

Former Students

I probably have three to four thousand former students in Thailand. And I run into them all the time. It's amazing how many times I instantly recognize them and remember their names. They are usually happy to see me as well.

You had some kind of effect on a student, they remember you, they are happy to see you. It speaks for itself as a positive aspect of being a teacher.

So, there you have it: seven positive things about being an EFL teacher. No doubt, there are many other reasons. If you are thinking of becoming an English teacher, perhaps this list will give you some things to consider. If you already are a teacher, feel free to add more reasons.


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