TEFL Trainer – Reflective diary
Author: Francesco T.
What do you think it takes to be a good EFL teacher? Discuss traits, skills, knowledge, formal training, etc. Describe some of your peers and yourself.
Is it possible to define the perfect EFL teacher?
Defining accurately what makes a competent EFL teacher is something that might not be possible. I have come across very different teacher in my life and found that each of them had some strengths and weaknesses. But when it comes to language learning there are a few key traits we might want to take into consideration to make sure to do our best as teachers.
One of those things is to know your students. Not only the age and their level of English, but also their culture, where they grew up, how they have been learning English so far and what languages they are capable to speak. These can be elements that can help us construct a better curriculum and to optimize our classes to ensure to achieve the desired outcomes.
Knowing your students is big part of the lesson planning, which contains all the teaching strategies we may think to implement into our lessons based on the type of students we have. That leads me to think about a very important quality that a teacher should possess: adaptability. The quality of being flexible enough to adapt, change and rethink our position within the classroom makes us less likely to panic or blank whenever we find ourselves in a situation that requires us to change immediately the lesson plan and our teaching strategy if, for instance, we notice that it is not producing the desired results. It is important to try and forecast what effects our teaching methods are going to produce once implemented and to be ready to deviate from the initial lesson plan when needed.
Along with adaptability, it is fundamental to note another quality that a teacher needs to have, which is patience. I believe that it is an important part of teaching as our expectations for our students are possibly never going to be fully satisfied; hence we might want to arm ourselves with patience in order to help and aid our students along the way according to their needs.
The capacity of being a good EFL teacher, in my own opinion, could be aided by the teacher’s awareness of the language learning process. Empathy, often and however, becomes a great tool to understand our students’ positions; certain mindsets and difficulties that might seem insurmountable, could discouraged them and stray them away from the language itself.
Having to teach English, always requires a good grasp of its grammar, syntaxis and vocabulary. Depending on our methods, the grammar will be employed in our lessons with different measures, but it surely is our tool to confidently assess the students. It is essential to be sure, especially when teaching grammar at lower level to avoid the creation of fossilization or to aid high-end students achieve proficiency.
Learning the grammar is just a part of the language. The rest lays in the actual usage of English. It being strictly linked to specific areas, countries, or societies, becomes a complex and ever evolving communicative system that often presents us with new and unusual utterances or concepts that are difficult to understand, even for native speakers. It is important to keep our mind open to diversity in the language and to a continuous learning practice, even on the teacher’s side. Enthusiasm must be the key to transmit the passion for the process of learning a new language in order to trust it.
Looking at myself, I do think I pretty much own most of the qualities above and I will be sure to better some of them as my experience progresses in my career, but I do notice a tendency in my teaching style that I can directly link to my early experience as a student learning English, in comparison to another fellow EFL teacher who is both a native speaker and a university student like me. We pretty much share the same enthusiasm about teaching languages; however, we do disagree on what is the best method in terms of grammar teaching.
My colleague, having learnt English without the need to learn the grammar first, is fully convinced that learning a great deal of grammar as a first step plays an essential role in English learning, given the fact that he had to struggle to understand the grammar of a second language.
I do agree that there should be a basic grammar knowledge (such as recognising and distinguishing articles from adjectives), however, that is something I generally have link to the need for deeper understanding of the language for academic purposes. Also, the amount of grammar to be implemented in my classes is conditioned by the language learning background of my students. It depends on whether grammar was part of their language learning for both L1 and any foreign language. Also, knowing what languages our students speak can help us realise what are going to be the possible interferences or whether the L1 can aid the leaning of the second language, where parallelisms can be made.
Ultimately, I always think that language teaching can never be standardized given the different kinds of students and the many different kinds of language learning strategies that can be implemented or that might have already been influencing the student’s personal method. It is always best to understand our students first and planning later, forecasting learning curves and any possible problem in order adapt ourselves to aid them along the way in the best way possible.