After my plan for the next 2 years was thrown out the window by an unpredictable situation, I was left wondering what the next months and years would look like. A wise person suggested taking the TEFL course, so that I would be certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language.
I decided on the 120 hour combined hours, that gave me both classroom hours and online hours that were split into different sections. My classroom hours were done over one intensive weekend, and the online hours I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. I only have a handful of assignments left before I complete the course, so it felt only natural to look back on it and see what I’ve learned. Here’s some of it:
1. No one looks silly if everyone’s participating
I once switched out of a class in college because participation throughout the class was going to be 50% of our final grade.
I walked into the room that the classroom portion of my TEFL course would be taught in and saw that the tables had been pushed all the way to the edges of the room, and the chairs had been placed into a semi circle in the middle. I almost turned right back around to walk out and drop the course.
By the end of my classroom hours, I was over-exaggerating my gestures and over-pronouncing words just as the instructor had been doing. It sounds silly on paper, maybe, but it really does help students learn.
We all felt a bit awkward when we had to stand up and ‘practice’ that in front of the rest of the class, but we soon fell into easy laughter. It was a lot less difficult to stand up and ‘act silly’ when someone had done it before me and someone had to do it after me, too.
If I could get a do-over in life, one thing I would make sure to change is my participation. It would mean that I would get a lot more out of the class, and it would make my teachers’ lives a little easier too!
2. Language teaching is diverse
I walked into the classroom hours thinking that there were just different levels of language fluency (B1, B2, C1, C2, etc). I walked out knowing that the UK has its own labels for language fluency levels and there’s more than just fluency level to think about. TEFL teachers will often teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP), such as teaching business-focused vocabulary and communication to business.
3. Teaching is not just “teaching”
I should probably write a thank you note to the teachers I’ve had.
I started this course thinking that teachers did “teaching” and that that was about it. Maybe some grading (I’m pretty sure one of my high school teacher still owes me an essay grade), some lesson planning here and there, but really all they do is “teach.”
Oh wow was I wrong.
It took several hours of the course, both classroom and online, to teach us how to lesson plan. That in itself was surprising to me, because since college I’ve found it easy to structure papers/essays, presentations, or debates. However, teaching isn’t just an extra-long presentation. (Well, maybe for college professors who only use a standard lecture style it is.) There’s a lot that goes into the lesson planning, starting with knowing what kind of lesson plan to make.
Once the lesson plan has been made, edited, and edited again, the “teaching” can actually begin! But even that has extra steps to it. The TEFL course I took outlined the many different roles that a teacher assumes in the classroom while they are teaching. There are 9 in total, and a teacher can use any number of these in each lesson.
Next time you see a teacher – thank them! They do a lot more work than you think they do.
4. English grammar is complex
Okay, so I knew this one already. But having to complete a 30 hour grammar course online reminded me just exactly how confusing the English language is. Between all the irregular verbs and the exceptions to each rule, not to mention all of the exceptions to those exceptions, teaching English starts to feel like a calculus problem.
One gem from our classroom hours: “Always teach the irregular verbs first. Because in English, the irregulars are more commonly used than the regulars.
5. Innuendos make language learning interesting
Think of the most recent innuendo you’ve heard. Now, imagine hearing that in a foreign language you’ve just recently started learning.
Or, try this Italian innuendo: “Ho scopato ieri.” Translating that literally into English, it becomes “I swept yesterday,” as though you did a little house cleaning chore. However, there’s a double entendre in it.
Difficult, isn’t it? Though we may take our natural understanding of double entendres for granted, they’re actually quite difficult to teach, but all sorts of hilarious.
At one point in our classroom hours we were doing a ‘chain story’ where one person says three words, then the person to their left says three words, and so on. Our ‘chain story’ was a business proposal about a “Sexy Hammer” (I would try to explain this but I don’t even know where to begin). Some people used their three words to create, or move towards, an innuendo. Others used their three words to drag the story away from the innuendo possibilities.
When I walked into a room of 8 other students and an instructor, with an age range of 19 to 50s/60s, I did not imagine that we would be taking turns to say three words each, and them being: “The Sexy Hammer / has many uses / one of which / is the new / improved banging button.”
Nevertheless, it happened, as did many more sentences in that story with even more innuendos in them. It was a fun way to work on language skills, and to see how adult-learner lessons can be kept creative and fun without having to use games aimed at a very young age range.
Language learning isn’t always verb conjugations. 😃
6. In fact, learning is best done through fun
I took the bare minimum of notes during the classroom hours, which is unlike me. And yet everything we learned, I can remember with ease.
When you learn things while having fun – they stick! Because happy, fun memories are easier to remember than the 60 minutes you spent writing down verb conjugation after verb conjugation from the board or your textbook.
7. Most people are at least partially kinesthetic learners
Yes, it’s true that there are auditory learners, visual learners, and so on. However, most human beings are at least partially kinesthetic learners due to human nature.
Our instructor insisted on having us do every single activity, and on walking around talking about it after to create a “buzz moment.” It sounded a bit strange at first, but it clicked pretty quickly for me. When we all confidently took part in the activities instead of mumbling through them, it sounded like there was a buzz in the room.
It was in those moments that I felt most confident during the classroom hours, as I could see that the small thing we had just learned had really sunk in and I could practice it straight away.
I believe that all learners need a mix of learning tools to suit their own individual style and preference. But I really saw the importance of including kinesthetic learning in a classroom, particularly for something that is often thought of as just rote memorization.
8. Fight through your nerves – it’ll be worth it
I almost walked out of my classroom hours within 20 seconds of walking into the room because I got nervous about the high interactivity of it. I stuck it out, though, and in the end I learned a lot and had far more fun than I had anticipated!
It’s scary to go outside your comfort zone, especially in a room full of strangers. But if there’s something you want to do, try it anyway. At the very least, you’ll come away with a funny story or two.
I hope you learned a thing or two! If you ever take a TEFL course let me know, I’d love to hear your stories from it.