Is Teaching English “Incredibly Easy”?

Wishful Thinking on the Web . . .

There are a few myths about teaching English out floating around on the Internet that should probably be addressed here.  I responded recently to a discussion topic over at Lonely Planet where someone stated – exactly this:

[Teaching English is] . . . incredibly easy because it’s your first language (I’m assuming) and your students will have very poor language skills so any knowledge you can give them will help.

I felt a need to respond and wrote:   I will be the first to admit that teaching English is not rocket science, but is work and is not always “incredibly easy” just because you speak it as your native language. AND – not all students have “very poor” language skills. Some are counting on your help to get into quality and even prestigious universities in Western countries. If you don’t know what you are doing – you can, in fact, inflict a fair amount of damage on someone who has paid you – often generously – for your help.

The same poster also wrote:

I choose to believe that people with the dream to travel will succeed.

Now, that is wonderful thinking and I like to think that way too, but I wrote this in response:
I really like that, but teaching English is a JOB. It is WORK. It is not travel. It does pair well with travel and seeing the world, but first and foremost it is a job. There are responsibilities that go with it. Namely, that there is usually a classroom of students who have paid good money to sit in a room with you. Often, what is for them a LOT of money. Suggesting that it is easy to meet their needs and help them succeed – by virtue of wishful thinking – only hurts the students and potentially gives future teachers some bad guidance on which to make a decision to move to the other side of the world.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Some marketing organizations that are trying to sell you TEFL training even have TRAVEL in their name – some don’t even mention teaching!  TEFL is a job first and foremost.  It can be a super wonderful job that affords you the opportunity to see the world.  But the job and your students need to come first.  As Zig Zigler’s famous quote goes: If you help people get what they want,  you will get what you want.  And in TEFL, that is very very true.

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