What Makes a Good EFL Teacher?
Mar 14, 2010 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 9944 Views
"How long is a piece of string?" springs to mind but the answer may be much simpler than you think, because you probably tick many of the boxes already. You're probably asking this question because you are already or soon plan to be an EFL teacher. This means that you probably like working with people, that you prefer variety to routine, and that you are don't mind taking calculated risks. As a rule, Teaching English as a Foreign Language is one of the most satisfying jobs you can do because the vast majority of learners are highly-motivated, so all you need to do is try to recognise which aspect of your teaching skills needs to be used at any given time. Below are some suggestions about the different roles you'll find yourself playing - all of which combine to make a good teacher.
The Party Host
This job is about getting people chatting and communicating as much as possible, so a good EFL teacher needs to be approachable and create a friendly atmosphere in which plenty of communication can take place. At times this means you are more of a facilitator, rather like the host at a party, making sure each class member interacts with the others. You should organise and set up activities whereby the class get to know one another and talk freely about their opinions and their lives, just as they would if they met through a mutual friend. As any good host would, once they get chatting, just stand back and quietly observe; only join in when the conversation dries up. This minimizes your 'Teacher Talking Time' and maximises 'Student Talking Time', which is one of your main goals as a teacher. You simply need to have a great big smile on your face and a welcoming attitude towards your class members.
If you are new to EFL teaching, you might not feel like much of an expert yet. But you do have expertise because you can speak English better than your students, so you certainly have something valuable to share. A good EFL teacher may not know every single rule off by heart, but hopefully will have some idea of where to find out a rule for the next lesson if the students want it. He or she will also know if something sounds right or not, and can give reassurance to a student who is unsure about being correct. Furthermore, the good teacher can give a clear, concise model of the language. You'd be surprised just how many words you know in English and much of your job involves finding the right one for a student who wants to express a particular idea in English but doesn't yet have the vocabulary.
Occasionally, your students may have trouble with a certain piece of grammar or grasping the meaning and usage of some vocabulary. A good EFL teacher will to try to work out why this may be an issue - for example it could be interference from the way their L1 (mother tongue) is organised, so the item may not have any parallels for them. The teacher may be able to draw a sketch to explain meaning, or might produce a good timeline which sheds light on how a particular tense works. Occasionally it's helpful to make use of scales, such as:
[0% Never - Rarely - Sometimes - Often - Always 100%]
Or explain things using opposites or synonyms. A golden rule for troubleshooting, especially at lower levels, is 'show, don't tell'. If you can demonstrate meaning through mime, gesture, pictures or some other way, it's often much clearer than a verbose explanation.
Another role is that of giving advice when people ask for help and suggestions. Many students ask their teacher, "How can I learn new vocabulary?", "How can I remember the grammar rules?"; a good EFL teacher creates a mental resource file with some of these answers ready to hand. If you think about some of the questions you have had about language learning, see if you can come up with any suitable answers to those questions. But remember - you are not expected to be an Oracle. You can always throw the question open to the rest of the class first and see if anyone else has some good ideas. You can ask colleagues for their opinions, too. Pretty quickly, you will learn a whole pool of wisdom that you can pass on to future classes. At the same time, keep reminding your learners to try to take responsibility for their own learning. Train them to work out rules for themselves and guess the meaning of unknown vocabulary. A really good EFL teacher eventually does themselves out of a job!
The final role is simply one of being organised enough to turn up at the right time in the right location and get a class moving together towards a common aim. Each lesson should have a clear aim and resources prepared to guide learners towards this aim. This may be themed round a topic, focused towards a particular piece of grammar, or working on something which will eventually result in the class members passing an exam. A good EFL teacher knows where they are going with each class. They have an aim and most likely some sub-aims and goals too. They want the lesson to be fun, interesting, motivating and generally enjoyable so that effective learning takes place. In order to do that, they will employ a variety of activities with plenty of pair and group work to encourage communication. The good teacher makes sure that all 4 skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) are touched upon regularly and that the class can see that they are making progress. Through well-prepared instructions, the organiser sets up activities and then gives appropriate praise, feedback and correction afterwards. They also check learning has taken place by asking concept questions and maybe setting up mini-quizzes and informal tests so that new language is not quickly forgotten.
There are doubtless other things which also contribute to being a good teacher. But to summarise, here are 10 key points taken from the ideas above:
- Smile and be welcoming
- Keep your TTT down and maximise STT
- Use plenty of pair and group work to facilitate interactive communication
- Use variety and changes of pace in your lessons
- Learn some tricks to aid memory and understanding of certain rules
- Always have an aim for your lesson
- Ensure a balance of skills is taught
- Give praise, feedback and correction
- Keep things fun and motivating wherever possible.
What makes a good EFL teacher? Well, it's very likely that you do!