TEFL and Cheating in the EFL Classroom

You won’t hear this in your TEFL Training Class . . .

If you teach in a public school, college or university you will be faced with the reality of cheating in your classrooms.

I am amazed that you will find no information on cheating in TEFL training manuals or even CELTA and DELTA manuals – not even a single word!

The cheating topic could fill up quite a few pages, so first I will help you with some ideas to keep you out of trouble.

All schools have formal and informal procedures to deal with certain problems and when it comes to cheating you’ll find vastly different approaches.

What is wrong in Mr. Tucker’s class?

Most schools won’t have your back when it comes to catching those cheaters. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

During my time in Saudi Arabia I worked at a school where they had very strict anti-cheating rules and they backed up their teachers when it came to discipline in general.

But when a teacher caught cheaters a bit too often, it would quickly turn into, “What is wrong with Mr. Tucker?  Why do people cheat in his classroom so much?”

This is what you get in the real world. If you are too successful at catching those cheaters, you’ll be the one in trouble, you’ll be seen as the problem.

Put a stop to it

There is a good lesson in the question of “What is wrong in Mr. Tucker’s class” and you can put a stop to it.

You are not a spy on the watch to catch the cheaters. You are teacher and you should try and prevent cheating through the set up of your teaching environment.

To prevent cheating is an easy task if you have small classes. If you have a lot of students in your class, try and schedule two different exam times and test people in smaller groups, you can even use your office as a last resort.

Students should only have a pen or pencil with them when they are seated. Have students take tests and exams only on paper that you hand out. All their books, bags, telephones and other devices should be left in the front of the room where you can keep an eye on them.

Have a strict ‘no talking’ and ‘keep your eyes on your own work’ rule. I used to post a big notice on the board that said, “No Talking, No Looking and No Crying” (for those who hadn’t studied). Putting a couple of eyes in the Looking and a crying face next to Crying helps remove some of the tension of being strict.

Walk around the room. Don’t stay in one spot and sit at your desk or lectern grading papers or reading a book. To help students resist the temptation of cheating it is best to stand in the back of the room and walk around quietly. After a few years and a lot of tests you will have a good laugh at some of the sly ways (or so they think) students try to cheat.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Know at which level your school will support you in fighting cheating. If they have an informal rule which states that you should not create any problems, there are always informal ways to apply no cheating rules. I have more than a few times walked up behind a student just as he was beginning to slip out his cheat sheet and just snatched it out of his hands and walked away. Cheating was prevented.  The student was happy he wasn’t busted and the school was happy too as no problems were created that they would need to solve (unhappy parents, perhaps?).  It may not be the perfect solution, but it is an informal way to deal with cheating.

TED’s Tips™ #2: The best way to stop your students from cheating is to inform them about all the rules before they take an exam. Tell them what is allowed and what is not. Tell them about the rules both in the class preceding the exam and at the beginning of the exam. As an educator, you should believe in education and teach your students NOT to cheat.  That’s really what schools want you to do.

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What they Forgot to Teach you at TEFL Training School

There is a simple path to success abroad: Cultural Adaptation

You won’t learn how to succeed on a TEFL course

If you have some business education you may know of the research that found that only about 20% of people who are fired are fired due to a lack of skills in their occupation.

So if you flip that statistic over it says: 80% of people who get fired are fired for other reasons such as bad work habits or socials skills issues.

I really hope that you study hard in your TEFL training to develop the skills to become a great teacher and be useful and helpful to your students.  But there are a few more things involved on the road to success.

One my favorite topics is definitely the one of how to adapt, survive and thrive in a foreign culture.

Intercultural miscommunication is so common, that if you add that to the 80% statistic you’ll find that being fired for something other than job skills can easily climb to 90% for expatriates. That reflects my own experience.  I’ve seen this problem in all five foreign countries in which I have worked.

Your TEFL training won’t teach you how to handle these issues…so what can you do?

Take a look at the FREE eBook titled Seven Secrets of Success Abroad.  I wrote it to help people survive and thrive while living abroad.  It is free – along with numerous other ebooks over at TEFL Boot Camp.   Click here to get that ebook free

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get the eBook and read it.  If you have intercultural skills it can save you from disaster and help ensure success in your life abroad.

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TEFL Disorganized = Freedom to do a Great Job

Should you plan on schools having things completely organized for you?

This depends a lot on where you will teach.   Language schools tend to be more organized than universities.

A university teacher asked once:  I was wondering if I should bring teaching materials with me. How much flexibility will I have to use my own materials in the class?

I responded:  I’ve taught in four countries and honestly prefer to use my own materials.  Why?   Because what the school will provide – if they provide anything – is often irrelevant and unfocused. You may find some decent materials at schools…but just at some schools.  It is not common.

When it comes to flexibility you should hope that you get a lot. Some schools will have well-defined programs already in place and they will stick to them.   These programs sometimes have terrible materials with a curriculum not really suitable for their students.  That’s not much fun to teach!

With colleges and universities, especially those with small EFL programs, they will usually give you freedom to do what you want because they expect that you know what you are doing. I have almost never seen a decent syllabus while working at eight different colleges and universities in four countries. Larger English departments will sometimes have a better syllabus and are more structured and organized.  Small programs are much less likely to be well structured.

I’m not telling you this to criticize schools in a negative way. In the end it is actually very positive, as the freedom gives you the opportunity to build a plan needed by the students. Believe me, it is horrible to stick to a structured program if it doesn’t help your students.

Sometimes schools will give you a book someone used the previous year and it might be a really lousy book.  They might well expect you to use it as it was ordered by the campus bookstore and students already bought it. Use the book a little bit, otherwise your students will complain about buying a useless book. Use it, add some of your own materials and gradually fade out the book. Then next semester you get to pick the book.

How things really work

A teacher once contacted me for a job – he was about to quit his new job because, in his words, the school is very unprofessional. They want me to create my own program.

Say what?

 I couldn’t believe it!

To me it seemed like the perfect teaching job and he was going to quit? What?!

You should jump for joy if you get such a chance.

This type of freedom is common in most Asian countries and smaller schools.  They will expect that you know what to do and how to do it because they are often paying you significantly more than the non-native local teachers.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you have the freedom to be creative in your class, grab that opportunity with both hands, it doesn’t always come around.  A good TEFL training course will help you have a good idea about what to do if you are allowed such freedom.

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Your Visa while Training Abroad

Every country has their own visa regulations therefore you should get all the information of the visa type and how to obtain it before you take that step to a life abroad.

A ‘visa-on-arrival’ is quite common in certain countries – with this type of visa you can step on the plane with no prior visa-worries and –arrangements.

It will be smart to know about the visa before you go, ask these questions of your TEFL training school:

Most of these questions are pretty self-explanatory:

1)     Should I get a visa before arriving in the country?

2)     If I do not get my visa before arrival, how long can I legally stay in the country?

3)     What is the cost of the visa if I need one?

4)     How difficult and how much is the visa, how long will it take to get one?

5)     Is the visa extendable so that I can stay longer in the country?

6)     Is it plain and simple to get a visa or will the school help me?

7)     Will the original first visa cover me for the duration of the training course?

8)     If I seek and get a job, can I change the visa to an employment type visa?

9)     If it is not changeable, what should I do in order to obtain a visa for employment?

10)  If I need to do a ‘visa run’ to get a working visa, what will the cost be and will my potential employer likely pay for or reimburse those costs?

11)  What is the processing time of the legal working papers and what do I need?

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get all the visa information before entering the country. Make sure you are legal and you stay legal. It is not the responsibility of your TEFL school nor your employer to check up on your visa status or legal presence in the country.  This is a VERY common mistake of newbies: to trust that their school/employer knows the visa process and that everything they say is accurate and up to date.  It often is not.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Getting a visa can be expensive and time consuming. Make sure you know how much it will be and how long it will take. Other countries might be easier where a simple stamp of a clerk will get you sorted. Know before you go.

Teaching Internships in China