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Teaching without TEFL

Temple of Heaven  Beijing

A TEFL certification is not always required to teach English. The benefits of getting this certification are out there, but we don’t usually talk about what happens when you teach without TEFL. This is what happened when I taught without training:

I gave them a fish, but didn’t teach them how to fish.

When I taught without training, I could tell my students when they made a mistake, but I couldn’t tell them why the mistake was made (and how to not make it again). For example – if my student said “I don’t play tennis, but I look at them playing every day”, I knew from being a native English speaker that was incorrect. The correct sentence is “I don’t play tennis, but I see them playing every day.” I could tell my students the right way to say this sentence, but I couldn’t explain the difference between look and see in this sentence.

Is that grammar correct?

This was embarrassing, but I hadn’t studied grammar since I was in high school. In my daily life, I’m very confident with my language skills, but when trying to teach sentence structure, adverbs, relative clauses – let’s just say it wasn’t great.

That lesson didn’t take long.

This happened a lot in the beginning. I thought my students had a lower level than they did, and the lessons I planned that should have taken an hour took 20 minutes. Now I have 40 minutes of class left with nothing to do. That’s seriously not fun for anyone.

I can tell they’re bored.

I hated this – I spent so much time planning for class, and I wanted my students to enjoy learning English. They clearly didn’t in some of my classes, and that was hard. I knew it was because the content was too easy for them, but I didn’t know how to elevate the material to be appropriate for their level.

The semester is over. What did my students learn?

This is the worst one, because I had no idea what I did to help improve the English level of my students after teaching without TEFL. I hated feeling defeated and unaccomplished. I knew I owed it to myself and my future students to put the work in to actually teach them. If I’m not going to make a difference, why do it?