Your Teacher Trainer is Critical to your Success

Everyone agrees that an in-classroom TEFL Training course is the best training to get if you can afford it.

People spend a lot of time asking about validity of courses, content and more, but the one thing they never ask about, might just be the most important factor in their success:  The Teacher Trainer.

It is important to know some information about your primary instructor.

Some schools will have only one primary teacher for your specific course and the rest of the teachers will help with the observed teaching practice. In other schools you may get different teachers to cover different areas of the course.

Both are fine, but it is still important to know a few things about your primary instructor.

You may ask why it is so important.

More than a few years back, one of my teacher-trainee students had just finished our TEFL certification course when he was hired by a competing school to do teacher training. He had no teacher training experience and he had never really taught any classes on his own…would you want such a teacher-trainer for your first course?  Could or world this person inspire you in your new career?  Ummm . . . probably not.

Before you sign up for an in-classroom course, ask your teacher trainer these questions via email or telephone:

1)     What are your qualifications (education, certification, etc)?

In a perfect world it would be great if your instructor has a relevant degree and really understands how teaching and learning works.

TEFL Cert and CELTA are courses designed to be given to high school graduates. It would be better to look out for a teacher-trainer with something like a MATESOL or at least an M.Ed with some sort of TEFL, PGCE or DELTA certification.

2)     What is your experience?

You want to look for a teacher-trainer that can provide you with insight in every area of teaching. This person will understand the TEFL-world and all the problems teachers are facing.

Someone with a minimum of six to eight years teaching experience (to both adults and children) and experience in at least two countries, in different settings, will be able to give you that insight. The number of years and the number of countries is a question you should definitely ask.

3)     Have you taught different students in different settings? What about tutoring?

If your teacher-trainer has taught in more or less the same setting and circumstances you expect to teach in, they will be able to provide you with spot-on information.

If they don’t tell you about this, ask them!

4)     Do you enjoy teaching? Why? Why not?

Even though it’s a hard thought to grasp, there are some teacher-trainers out there who DON’T enjoy teaching. For them teaching is merely an excuse to travel, see the world and live overseas.  They may actually hate teaching.

If you have one of these people as your teacher-trainer, their attitude will reflect in your classroom and you may not enjoy it at all.   It is all a choice – if you  learn to enjoy your work, it will be a positive change in your life.

5)     What’s great for you about teaching?

Listen to their voice, heart and attitude to know if they really like teaching or not.

TED’s Tips™ #1: I strongly advise you to study under a teacher-trainer with at least six to eight year’s experience, in at least two countries, in at least two or three different settings (public school, university, language school, tutoring) and with children and adults. Your teacher-trainer should have some kind of qualification – ideally a master’s degree, but something in Education or DELTA will do as well.

Teacher-trainers with these credentials are rare, look for them.  If you want to be the best you should get the best!  You are spending a LOT of money on an in-classroom course.  Be sure you get what you pay for.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t fall into the trap of marketing schemes, beautiful websites, cloying testimonials,  impressive looking and sounding curriculum. Rather go for the best teacher-trainer that you can find, this person will be the one who will make you a good teacher.  Will inspire you.  Or will turn you off to teaching.   Up to you.

Teaching Internships in China


TEFL Teacher Training Alternatives

A whole lot of dreams, not enough pay.  Sound like you?

As we mentioned in a previous post, not everyone can afford to take four to six weeks away from work on top of paying for the costs for a full-blown Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course.

Not sure what path is best for you? Take a look at the options below:

Volunteer and Learn

First, any kind of training is better than no training. Help someone out while you help yourself—get free training to be a volunteer with organizations like Literacy Volunteers of America (now known as ProLiteracy and working internationally).

Study On-line

Inexpensive web-based courses will provide you with the beginnings of the knowledge and skill you need to do a decent job in a TEFL classroom. Will you become a seasoned professional with such a class? Probably not, but you will have a grasp of the theory behind TEFL and learn how to keep improving as a teacher.

Does ‘free’ sound better than ‘inexpensive?’ Of course it does!  I’ve written a free on-line TEFL course: TEFL Boot Camp. The course is self study and gives you the basics to help you get started as a good TEFL teacher. Of course, no certificate is on offer for the free version. You can try this course to see if teaching English abroad is for you. Even if you later choose to do an in-person TEFL, this course will give you a leg up.

How much training are bosses looking for?

Sadly, some people in some countries who are looking to hire teachers don’t care about training at all. On the other hand, other recruiters will have specific training requirements you will have to meet before they hire you. You won’t be able to please everyone in every country, but with a good TEFL training course you will satisfy about 95 percent of all employers. Plus, you’ll have enough training to feel like you are doing a good job. Satisfaction about the work you are doing—what a great feeling!

On-Line versus Face-to-Face Training

As with love and money, any training is better than no training. If you simply don’t have the time or money to do a full face-to-face course, or if you just want to experiment and see if it might interest you, consider an on-line course.  It can be a good introduction to teaching and can tide you over until you get into a full-blown program with observed teaching practice.

Get What You Pay For—”Free” In-Person TEFL Certification Training?

There are some TEFL certification schools around the world that will offer you “free” certification training if agree to work for them after your course for a specified period of time. Approach these programs with caution as things that look too good to be true often are.  You’ll sometimes be working at greatly reduced wages and the “free” cost of the program – well . . . is much more than if you just paid for it up front.

Beware of Swimming with (TEFL) Sharks

It’s also important for TEFL newbies to remember that not every school treats their foreign hires fairly. Certainly not all schools would do something dishonest, but there are some unscrupulous places out there and you should check out any school carefully before giving them money.

For example, some TEFL certification schools happily enroll you into their program and then happily place you in a job in which you are usually paid less than the going rate. The difference between the wages other people on the job are getting and your wage will go to lining the TEFL school’s pockets.  You will feel a bit cheated.

They, unfortunately, rarely tell you about this little arrangement, and month after month, for as long as you work there, you are literally paying for your TEFL course. So . . . remember that “free” things are rarely free.

Their little payback might seem small at first, but if you stay at that job for a couple of years the money will add up and you may end up paying for that “free” certification a couple times over or more.

No free time and no money?

I’m prejudiced of course, but my TEFL Boot Camp is as good as it gets on-line. You’ll learn the basics of TEFL teaching methods, lesson planning and even how do do classroom board work for a guaranteed lowest price anywhere.

Have a little money and still prefer to study on your own? Check out TEFL eBooks for some options.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get the full four- to six-week TEFL Training in residence if you have the time and money to do so.
The full course is worth your time, money and effort. It will provide you with the confidence, knowledge and skills to get a good TEFL job right out of the gate.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get some training. Any kind of training to help you along.
Any training is better than no training—you will enjoy yourself more and do a better job. Study a book, take an on-line course, or sit in on classes somewhere.

Take an interest in becoming a quality teacher.

Teaching Internships in China



Be the Teacher with a Plan

Lesson Plans for ESL EFL

Preparing lesson plans can scare rookies teaching English abroad, but once you know what goes into a good plan, writing them is no problem at all.

Getting past the mystery and mystique, a lesson plan is simply a step-by-step guide to what to do in the classroom on a given day.

Put it in Black and White

Write down in an orderly way what you’re going to do do in the classroom. The more detailed these directions are, the better. It needs to be clear enough that, if for some reason you couldn’t go to class, in an emergency another teacher could read your lesson plan and know exactly how to teach the class in your stead.

And, anyone substituting you would need minimum preparation because you would have already attached handouts and activity sheets, and even planned out the board work you were going to use to illustrate the lesson.

A superlative lesson plan might even include specific hand gestures and cues used in various parts of the lesson—Yes, that’s how detailed your plan should be.

What Kind of Plan Should My Plan Be?

Now, there are literally hundreds of types of lesson plans and no one format is used by all schools. When you start at a new school you should ask format they like to see teachers’ plans in. Many schools have their own set format for plans, while others will let you use whatever style you like.

There is, however, some general agreement about what should be included in a good lesson plan and we will look at that here.

Nine Important Parts of a Good Lesson Plan

Generally agreed components of a lesson plan include:

1. Day/Date: So you can refer back to it again easily.

2. Lesson Name: What will you call the lesson?

3. Class/Level: Age, topic, skill level, class name

4. Materials: List everything you need to teach this lesson. List every possible thing you will need to take to the classroom and/or obtain from the school to complete the lesson.

This list can help you make sure you don’t forget to copy any handouts or collect special materials that you need to take to the class. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to walk all the way back across a university campus to get a critical part of a lesson. Bad teacher!

5. Textbook/Coursebook Name: From what book are you working or drawing the lesson from? This seems simple now, but having the name of your old resources on hand may help you in the future.

6. Unit, Title and Page Number: Specifically where are you teaching from in that book?

7. Goal/Aim: What are we working toward today?

Here, you should describe the final result of the lesson. Write it in this format – “The students will be able to (do what?)________.”
Example: “The students will be able to ask and answer questions about their hobbies and interests.”

8. Grammar Structures Employed, and How They Are Formed: Show the structures, using a structure chart if needed.

9. Questions and Answers Relevant to Your Lesson: These will be asked during the warm-up part of the lesson, to elicit from students what they may or may not know about the topic you’ll be covering that day.

For more advice on eliciting, read the post about English Teaching Methods.

Structuring: How to Build the Lesson

Now we need to put all of that together, hung on the structure of your teaching method. First, you need a warm-up: This includes a review (revision) of the previous lesson and how it links to this new lesson. Use the questions and answers you have written above to elicit conversation using the new structures and function. Also, you may want to show examples of what your students will learn in this lesson.

In some countries and with some age groups this part of the lesson may best be pulled off as a specifically designed game.

Next comes Presentation (or you can use the ESA format or Ted’s GRO method):

Note down the target language to be taught, and how you will teach it. Include how you plan to stimulate the students’ interest in the language and how you might elicit the forms or vocabulary you are planning to teach.

It’s important to include specific details here. For example, at what point in the lesson are you going to model structures and dialog and when you will require a repeated response (choral response) from the students. Don’t forget to include a structure chart for the grammar and/or the dialog you intend to teach.

For the Practice section of the lesson, include the specific activities and attach any handouts you might have to the lesson plan. Most practice sessions include up to three practice activities and  sequence them from the most to the least structured, slowly giving the students more freedom and creativity.

The third part of the lesson is Production. This is where students use the new language skill you’ve just taught them.

Allow, and encourage the students to talk about themselves, their lives, or specific situations using their own information.  While they do this, they should focus on the target language that was taught in the presentation and practiced in the previous activities.

Be sure to include in the plan exactly what you will ask the students to do and how you intend to monitor students throughout the lesson and how you will encourage and correct them as needed in their use of the target language.

Last, you need to plan a Conclusion. In this part, discuss and recap what the students have studied and learned during the lesson. In some countries and for some ages this may also be followed by a game that uses the target language.

See? If you follow these simple steps, the dreaded lesson plan is easy!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Many experienced teachers, once they have methodology set in their mind, write only minimally structured lesson plans as they will have developed a set routine for how they approach each lesson.

New teachers, though, should develop the habit of rigidly following detailed lesson plans which they have written for at least the first six months to a year of teaching. This will require some real discipline, but it will pay off in terms of skill development over time.

TED’s Tips™ #2: After each class, sit down and take a few notes about what went great, what went wrong and how you might have done a better job. This will help you a lot in refining your skills. Even very experienced teachers put serious thought into problems that occurred during class and how they might best be corrected.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Save every lesson plan you write. If you teach a certain book or certain topics repeatedly to students of similar levels (and you will), you’ll find you need only to tweak your old plans a little, drawing from your notes in Ted’s Tips #2.

Teaching Internships in China