The 5 pitfalls new TEFL teachers face

From speedy sentences that simply can’t be understood to getting uncontrollable butterflies in the stomach, this list of 5 pitfalls that most all new TEFL teachers face is essential reading for graduates heading to the classroom this year. And there’s just a few suggestions about how to overcome the lot too. You can thank us later…


New TEFL teachers
Teacher talk time | © Embajada de los Estados Unidos en Uruguay/Flickr/Public Domain

Talking too fast


It might not seem like it to the avid gramma guru, but in North America, Australia and the UK, we’ve gotten pretty darn good at speaking English. The folk over in Old Blighty have been doing it for more than 1,500 years, after all (cheers you hardy Anglo Saxons!). And while that might seem like something to boast about, it can actually be a pretty irritating pitfall for those new TEFL teachers looking to be the best they can be. Why? Well, because you’re almost certainly going to speak too fast for your students, that’s why. One sure way to avoid this is to force yourself to slow down those sentences to half what you normally would. Or, just offer anonymous feedback forms – the pupils will soon tell you to hit the vocal brakes themselves!


Talking too much


Most all experienced pedagogues in the English teaching world will tell you: Student talk time is the holy grail of the classroom. It’s even got its own acronym – STT. But what is this elusive and apotheosised STT? Well, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. It’s any time periods in the lesson when the students, as opposed to the teacher, are doing the talking. It helps to build confidence in grammar, encourages peer-to-peer learning, and even drives a certain competitiveness in the classroom, which can help you help students reach their full potential. There are loads of ways to get STT going, like group activities and paired work, while one thing’s for certain: It definitely won’t happen if you’re jabbering away 24/7!


Talking in the native language


Okay, so you might have integrated into that new destination pretty darn quickly and gotten to grips with a little of the local language yourself. Or, perhaps you’ve opted for some private teaching in Italy, Spain or France, and are eager to see just how rusty that vocab you learned back in your own school years is today. Well: Woe to all new TEFL teachers who think the classroom is the place to try it out. It’s not. Not even a smidgen. No matter how proud you might be of mastering the ins and outs of the vernacular, it’s important to avoid speaking your students’ own language for a whole host of reasons. Not only does it break that all-important immersion aspect of TEFL tuition, but it also gives the nod for your pupils to flit between English and a language they already know!


New TEFL teachers
Don’t speak the native lingo! | © JRF

Letting the nerves get the better of them


It’s certainly a nerve-wracking experience, standing up in front of a classroom of fresh faces and eager-eyed foreigners primed for those past tenses and participles. We know just how hard it can be – trust us, we’ve been there too! But part of being good at this is being able to master those worries and apprehensions that all new TEFL teachers are bound to feel as they enter that first school or institution. Different people will use different ways to cope and get around the problem, while others simply won’t feel the worries at all (you’re the lucky ones!). You could try breaking the ice with some fun TEFL games, intros, or just an easy couple of conversational sessions which will allow you, as well as the students, to find their feet nice and slow.


Not prepping lessons enough


There’s an old mantra between veteran TEFLers that says planning time should be around double that of the lesson time. And while that might be overstating things a little, the point is that having a set outline for all your sessions is absolutely essential. Many new TEFL teachers will fail to plan enough, while just a few will over plan. Finding the right balance between the two is important for progressing, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues, your head of studies, or online TEFL groups (the myTEFL Facebook page could be a good place to start!). And once you’ve got an archive of tried and tested plans in the bank, it’s all plain sailing, as they say.

New TEFL teachers
Student talk time | © Quest Language Studies/Flickr/Public Domain

Were you once one of those new TEFL teachers? Have you taught your way to success? We’d love to hear any extra tips in the comments below. Or, if you think you’re up for the challenge fo the TEFL life, be sure to check out our offering of courses…


Leave a comment

ten − 1 =