Teaching English as a foreign language (or TEFL) can be a rewarding career for those individuals who possess the necessary skill set. But how does one know if TEFL is right for him or her? For that matter, how does one identify which age groups he or she would like to work with, or which location to teach in? For those with an interest and ability, teaching English as a foreign language can involve travel all over the world—while working for corporations or school systems, or independently.
However, teaching is not for everyone. Luckily, there are certain characteristics that can indicate whether or not you would be successful as a TEFL instructor, and you should consider them before you begin to plan your move. Here are five to start with:
1. You can provide accessible explanations
One of the most important skills to possess when teaching any subject is the ability to explain a concept, idea, or process in a simple and accessible way. This is especially true of teaching a language, where elements like grammar and structure can dramatically change the meaning of a word or phrase. Moreover, those who teach English as a foreign language sometimes teach groups of students with varying levels of skill.
If you are wondering whether you would be a great TEFL teacher, consider your ability to explain information to others who may have little or no understanding of the subject. If you realize that you are particularly good at providing easily comprehensible explanations with strong examples, TEFL might be right for you.
2. You are patient
Whether you are teaching children, teenagers, or adults, you will require a great deal of patience. Everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds, which can be challenging in a classroom setting, particularly when students become frustrated with their progress. You cannot simply enter a classroom, teach a lesson, and expect everyone to immediately absorb and remember what you have said. In some cases, you might have to repeat yourself several times, or devise different methods to accommodate those who struggle with the material. Nevertheless, teachers who are able to remain extremely patient in the face of adversity may find the field to be very rewarding.
3. You are interested in other languages and cultures
One of the primary qualifications of a TEFL teacher is a mastery of the English language. After all, your job is to teach that language to others. But some of the best teaching methods are based on a two-way exchange, rather than a one-directional lesson. For example, if you are teaching English to a student from China, it could significantly improve your lessons to knew some things about Chinese culture and the languages of the country. Not only does this demonstrate an investment in the students, which can be very motivating, it also makes the learning experience a collaboration in which you and the student can learn from one another.
4. You are flexible and creative
As previously noted, everyone has a different learning style. This means that while you may have a plan in mind for how you will teach a given lesson, that plan can easily change. You would then have to develop a second plan on the fly. For those individuals who tend to be more flexible and creative, these situations can be very productive. They can also lead to exciting and beneficial learning experiences. On the other hand, if you are not the kind of person who can adapt to unexpected changes, teaching a foreign language in a classroom of diverse learners could be very challenging.
5. You are organized and communicate effectively
Being well-organized and articulate can be an asset in most jobs, but it is particularly important for teachers. In a TEFL class, you may teach people from various countries, and you would need to be able to articulate your lessons in different ways so that everyone can follow along easily.
If you are the kind of person who tends to be very orderly and has no trouble expressing your thoughts and ideas in different ways, you would probably make a great TEFL teacher.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.