TEFL Course Preparation Tips
Jun 19, 2011 Teacher Training 1996 Views
Internet forums are always abuzz with future TEFL students asking what they can do to prepare for their course. Here are some of my tips on what you can do to make sure you have an edge over your classmates and help make the transition into teaching and living abroad easier.
I. Things to Improve your Teaching Pre-Course
1. Learn your own Language - You need come into your course with some kind of grammatical base. It will make everything easier. Know the tenses, perfect tenses, continuous vs simple forms, structures and functions...etc. Know at least the basic kinds of verbs and parts of speech. The more the better if you ask me. There is a plethora of websites and books out there dealing with grammar. Start learning it.
If you don't know where to start, ask your TEFL provider for some assistance. If they can't give you a sheet or anything to help you learn the grammar, you've picked the wrong program. At The Language House TEFL, we have a grammar test at the end of the course and require an 80 percent on it to pass. It's difficult, but guess what? An ESL teacher not knowing grammar is like a chiropractor not knowing the names of bones in the body.
2. Work on Public Speaking - Language teaching is all about presentation. You are going to be up in front of a lot of people for the rest of your life or career teaching. Work on this if you are afraid of speaking in public. Teaching is not like giving a speech or a lecture. You are not going to have a podium to hide behind. Getting some speaking practice in before your course will help you get rid of those jitters that you will feel during your practice sessions.
3. Work on Voice Control - Communicating as an ESL teacher requires excellent voice and language control. To illustrate, how do you communicate with beginner English language students? You speak slowly, clearly and basically to them. All of this is a slap in the face to our educational upbringing where we have been taught to speak eloquently, use complex language and sentence structure.
This seems like an easy thing to do, but you would be surprised. If you can't control your voice, you won't be able to teach well. Period. I've seen dozens of teachers simply break and drop out of teaching because they were unable to control their voice and output (TTT). As you get nervous, your voice speeds up. The faster you talk, the more your students cannot understand you and the more nervous you get. A downward spiral of TEFL failure.
I actually force my TEFL students to practice speaking slowly and basically to each other. The trick is to not sound like a caveman or unnatural. So my advice - sit in front of a mirror and work on speaking slowly. Voice should be clear, speed should be slow, vocabulary should be basic and intonation should be audible.
4. Read up on TEFL
Jim Scrivener's "Learning Teaching" is my favorite book. Spend the 25 bucks and buy it, read it, learn it.
5. Get in Contact with Past TEFL Graduates - Makes sense to do this. You'll probably get a lot of great inside information regarding the course and tutors. If a school cannot get you in contact with at least a dozen past graduates, there's something up and the TEFL school should be avoided. I've heard schools say things like because of privacy issues they cannot give out graduate contact. That's simply not true. In my experience, our TEFL graduates have always been helpful with potential students and as long as you ask them if you can use their personal info they are totally fine with it. If a school can't give you a list of students who you can contact on facebook, there is something really wrong with them.
6. Practice Being more Animated - This can be paired up with public speaking, but it's often an important skill. Teaching requires you to use your body and hands to gesture and mime things to your students. A lot of new trainees are very uncomfortable doing this and tense up. Practice it. Teaching a course, especially to lower levels, is almost like playing a 90 minute game of charades. Get used to using your body. I know it sounds basic, but it's so important.
Preparing for Living Abroad
Doing well on the course is only half of the coin. You also want to plan for your new life abroad. I'll keep most of these basic, because they are basic.
1. Have Enough Money in the Bank. You'll need it
2. Have a Passport and Visa (if you need it)
3. Buy your Tickets Early - I suggest paying a bit more money to have a ticket that you can cancel or switch the dates with ease. Things can come up and plans get changed. Flexibility is always a good feather to have in your cap.
4. Take Care of all of your Issues Back Home Before Leaving -Don't leave your home in chaos and move abroad. It's just going to follow you wherever you go. Deal with it first, and then make the move. Addiction is serious, family problems are serious, mental health is serious. Leaving for a bit might sounds like a breath of fresh air, but your problems will chase you around the world.
5. Connect with Expats living in the City - One of the most stressful things whilst (how British of me) on the course is that you are going to need to eventually find your own place. You can start looking before you leave or you can start looking a day before you're going to get kicked out of our temporary accommodation. Look before. It will help you get a feel for the different areas and prices and what you want.
6. Start Learning the Language - Why not? Get a jump start on it. It will help you get around the city, impress your fellow students and tutors and make you focus on the move abroad. If you don't have the funds to take a proper course, then learn online. There are tons of videos, podcasts and free materials for most languages out there. Start learning and practicing.
*Note: Don't assume that even if you live in a foreign country for years you'll automatically pick up the language. Most English teachers in Prague can hardly speak any Czech at all, even after years. You learn by making the effort and practicing. Start now.
7. Read up on the Culture, History and Current Events - Everything becomes more personal and more fascinating when you know the culture and history of your new country. Use the internet or buy a proper book on the country/location you are going to. It will make you value the experience and get you more excited about your new future life.
8. Ask your TEFL Provider if there is Anything you are Unsure of - I mean not everyday, that would be annoying. However, if you are confused about something, there's nothing wrong with simply sending out an email and having them help you.
9. Start Looking for Work Early - The demand in a lot of past TEFL hotspots is waning. That's the reality. Jobs are out there, but it takes more effort. Search forums, contact your TEFL provider, network with expats and past graduates, maybe even contact actual schools. You want to hit the ground running. During your course, you're most likely going to be overwhelmed. Get at it early and it will improve your chances of being successful
TEFL Prague Courses - The Language House