5 funny confessions of a (former) TEFL teacher
Posted on 5-07-2018 by Joseph Francis
With my days of tense teaching and pronunciation lecturing firmly in the past, it’s now perhaps somewhat okay for me to reveal the honesties of the classroom I once ran. Whether it’s tales of being toppled from my high teacher’s chair by a particularly smart student or having a fight with the school photocopier, I do hope these confessions of a TEFL teacher will help others entering the world of English learning abroad.
Sometimes my ‘winging it’ lessons were better than my planned ones
It’s a curious thing but there’s definitely something to be said for the negative effects of over-planning. I can certainly testify to that, because I distinctly remember loads of my unplanned lessons going far more smoothly than those I’d meticulously choreographed. After a busy (read: heavy) weekend or a late night (read: party) the day before, I occasionally made the cardinal sin of forgoing (read: forgetting) that EFL planning – we’ve all been guilty of it once or twice, eh? Perhaps I got lucky but the ones I opted to ‘wing’ regularly came out as crackers, with flowing conversation, oodles of Student Talk Time and good vibes. I still wouldn’t recommend it though!
Business English classes were often just chats
You can imagine my delight when I turned up to teach my first ever business English class to find a room of professionals all around my age, with similar interests and a pervading happiness that they didn’t have to go back to their work desks while I was in the office. Cue 45 minutes of chats about skiing and films, music and hiking destinations. It was all in English, of course, but those planned verb exercises and past-tense tutorials where swiftly put on the backburner.
I had fights with the photocopier
I had a mantra – if in doubt, photocopy it. It applied to everything, whether it was important sections of a textbook or just the bus timetable I needed to get to work. That would probably be okay, provided I actually knew how to work the photocopier. I once managed to press a button to make it spurt out 50 blank sheets, only for me to dutifully re-insert them into the empty tray and for the fangled thing to do it all over again. Then there was the time I did double copies of pages with one leaf upside down so students needed to twist and flip each paper to get to the next part. Teaching that class was like running an origami tutorial.
I drew moustaches on textbook photos using the smart board
Okay, this one probably sounds waaaay naughtier than it actually was. No book was harmed in the making of this confession – I promise! Any teacher lucky enough to have a smart board at hand will know that it’s super-easy to scrawl whatever you want over digital projections of the textbook you’re using. That’s great for annotating comprehension sections and circling interesting aspects of grammar. And it’s also great for doodling cheeky cowboy moustaches and comic-book sunglasses on stock images. I certainly owe an apology to EFL book models everywhere but sometimes those feigned faces are just too tempting. And the whole class loved it.
Smart students sometimes taught me grammar!
In the Dadaist world of gerunds and past participles that is English grammar, I find it hard to believe that even the Charles Dickenses among us would get everything right all of the time. The problem for me came when I found myself totally outsmarted by a student, who seemed to have a much better grasp of his intricate grammatical jargon that I did. I think I got caught out saying something totally amiss about continuous tenses. I didn’t get away with it. But I made sure it didn’t happen again!
Have you got any entertaining confessions of a TEFL teacher to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below. Alternatively, if you’re ready to go out on a limb and enter the classroom, be sure to check out our offering of TEFL courses.