Top Ten TEFL Myths—Busted
We’ve come across a lot of talk regarding the validly of doing a TELF. Most of the time, the reasoning comes up short when
all the key factors are considered.
1. You need to speak your students’ language to teach English.
Teaching is not Translating.
Imagine learning to ride a bike without ever taking off the training wheels. It feels easy and comfortable, but you will never really learn to cycle. The same is true of any foreign language. If you’re always relying on the crutch of your first language, you have no chance of becoming fluent.
In the ‘communicative approach’ to language teaching, you as the teacher will want to immerse your students in an English-only environment as much as possible when they are in your class.
In many cases, by using your students’ own language, you may impede their progress in learning English. Your students need as much practice as possible using English within its unique structure. How is that going to happen if you revert to their native language?
There are plenty of non-verbal tools and resources to help you effectively teach your students English without having to revert to their language in class. Not only is it possible, it’s the most effective and efficient way to teach, and learn a language.
2. Teaching a language is the same as teaching core subjects like math, science or history.
Myth. Teaching any language is very different from traditional teaching we’ve all experienced in school. That type of learning involves a lot of lecture-style presentations and the students mostly memorizing the course material. Here they are acquiring knowledge.
In teaching English, your students need to acquire skills. It's more like teaching a musical instrument. It involves practice. Participation. requires communication and this communication is a natural form of language practice. Students learn and practice the target language through the interaction with one another and their instructor.
The more practice a student gets, the more their English should improve. If the students aren’t participating much in class, it could mean that the teacher is talking (lecturing) too much.
It’s a key reason why Vantage TELF employs the communicative approach to language learning.
3. I'm a native-born English speaker. Why do I have to be trained to teach something I already know?
Well, I’ve eaten food all my life, so I can just waltz into any kitchen and become a 5-star chef, right?
Mastering a subject is knowledge. But knowing how to teach effectively it involves skills. How will you develop these requisite skills if you haven't been formally trained?
Do you really want to stand up in front of a class of 35 students without any idea of how to teach? Untrained teachers don’t know what to do. They often burn out winging it within a year.
On the other hand, proper training can lead to a successful classroom session--and a highly rewarding experience. That’s something your students will notice…so will your school…and the ultimate decision-makers—the parents.
4. I’m not good at public speaking. How can I teach?
If you, as the teacher, are speaking more than your students, you may be lecturing.
Lecturing is fine for imparting knowledge (see Myth #2), but learning a language is a skill-based activity. And skills can only be developed from practice. That means you need to get your students speaking and using English as much as possible.
At Vantage we use the Communicative language teaching (CLT) approach in the classroom. CLT emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of study. CLT focuses on the teacher being a facilitator, rather than an instructor.
The communicative approach has been designed to get your students speaking and using English so that new language skills are born.
5. Online only TEFL courses are equivalent to an In-Class TEFL
New teachers are born in the classroom. Yes, doing an online-only TEFL can be a lot cheaper. It definitely wins on convenience. It could, however, end up being a short cut that bites back.
In the hundreds of candidates we’ve trained, almost everyone has developed their teaching skill set in their observed practice teaching sessions (the practicum).
How do you replicate the experience of teaching real non-English speaking students in a live classroom online?
Getting professional feedback on your performance is where the knowledge of course book becomes the teaching skill set you’ll need in your new career.
That’s why many good schools shun online-only course offerings. They want a TELF with a minimum of six hours of observed practice teaching
6. A TEFL is not necessary. In some counters, like, in Cambodia, it's not a requirement.
It’s true that you can find an English teaching job without a TEFL. The demand for English teachers is high so some schools and/or countries will take English speakers who haven’t been formally trained in teaching a language.
Typically those schools are not the best institutions in their respective country. The best schools want the best teachers. A TEFL certification says at a minimum that that candidate has passed a program of professional training.
Bottom line: For the best jobs, a TEFL (and teaching experience) is a must, no matter what country you work in. If you wish to settle for any teaching job, you probably could skip doing a TEFL or just do a cheap online-only one. But if you want the best job that your background and qualifications can bring, a120 hour TEFL with a practicum will help in differentiate yourself as a career teaching professional.
But there’s an even more important reason to do TEFL training...read on
7. Getting a teaching job is the single most important reason do to a TEFL?
Many would say that a TEFL is the ticket to getting better teaching jobs—as important and true as that is.
But probably more importantly—at least in the long term—is that your TEFL teacher training will give you the foundational skill set—the tools and the know-how—on how to be successful in the classroom.
The better you can perform your job, the more you will enjoy it, the more your students will learn and the better asset you'll be to any school where you teach.
And being good in your job can lead you to a world of rewards as your value is increasingly recognized.
8. I’m an experienced teacher. I don’t need to do a TEFL now.
You could be right. TEFL programs are designed assuming a trainee has no teaching experience.
Having said that, we’ve trained teachers with as much as 15+ years of experience and who’ve taught in diverse cultures like China, Korea, and Turkey. They came back to get TEFL certified because they weren’t getting invited to interview at the prestigious schools where they felt now they were now qualified to teach. They were good teachers who had lots of great experience, but they also said the learned a lot from their Vantage TEFL experience.
It’s not uncommon for institutions to pre-screen out all applicants without a TEFL. Often that’s done before it gets to the hiring authority. They never see all that great experience because their resume never reaches them.
Bottom line: Shortcuts may bite back. Skipping TEFL training when you’re just starting out as a teacher may mean you’ll lack a differentiating qualification you’ll need in the future.
9. TEFLs are expensive! Why should I do one?
They aren’t. You will be paying approximately the same per hour as your students will be paying to be taught by you in your first TEFL job, but at Vantage, you'll be on an award-winning course, trained by hugely experienced trainers, job search help, small class sizes, and an internationally-recognized certificate at the end.
Try comparing the cost of a TEFL course to almost any other face-to-face qualification such as IT training.
The better schools typically want a TEFL certification. It demonstrates competence in the classroom and they’re willing to pay more to those teachers who have one.
This can range from $100 to $200 a month in additional salary. So usually in a year or so, the extra compensation will reimburse you for a full TEFL program that can cost around $1,500.
You should approach a TEFL certification in term of an investment in a potential future career. And the experience you’ll gain from better schools will usually be perceived better on your resume.
10. You have to teach kids
School-age children are definitely a big market for TEFL teachers. But if kids aren't your ticket—with more than 1 billion people learning Engish—there are other large market segments that need teachers such as private language schools and business English at corporations.
They’re often looking for TEFL teachers to deliver one-to-one lessons, business skills in the medium of English and conversational English classes for adults.
This infograph on the many kinds of English teachers may give you more ideas.
Bonus Myth: Combined TEFL courses are better than online-only programs
Combined courses are designed to bring the best of both worlds—the digital power of online eLearning and the traditions of a classroom setting.
These are hybrid courses where you do the course book online at your own schedule. Then when you've passed all of Vantage's 20 units pass—as well as successfully completing a lesson plan—you will join the practicum practice teaching sessions of non-English speaking students in a real classroom.
This typically is done over approximately ten workdays. Combined programs go a long way to addressing the shortcomings of online-only TEFL courses. For those working full time, this may be the only way to complete a TEFL with a practicum while still holding a full-time job.
English Teaching—The Big Picture
Teaching English is a competitive market. Schools want the best teachers and your TEFL demonstrates that you’ve been trained to teach. That should get you noticed. Your resume won’t be the only application they’re looking at.
Markets are also efficient. There are good reasons why institutes will pay more for professionally certified teachers. Schools themselves are in competition against other schools for the best students (who often pay more). A school’s quality of teaching is a key way they can differentiate themselves from competing institutions.
It’s not the textbooks that make Harvard or Cambridge world famous. It’s the quality of their professors.
© 2007-2015 by Vantage Siam Co., Ltd.
1873/15-16 Sena Center, Phaholyothin Road,
Ladyao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900