“What are the best and worst aspects of teaching English as a foreign language?”
Our top four contributors give their take on TEFL.
Best: when students forget that they are practising English and simply genuinely communicate; when a student who has always thought/been told they were rubbish at languages discovers they can do it after all.
Worst: the way the profession is still undervalued and the idea that if you are a native speaker, you can teach English, which is still all too prevalent; unrealistic expectations on the part of some students (and parents) in terms of price paid vs learning outcomes; and burnout and stagnation.
Best: the chance to make a positive tangible difference to learners’ lives as well as the chance to learn more about myself through interaction with a wide range of individuals from different cultures and learning backgrounds.
Worst: see best! Also – the tendency in some learners to expect the teacher to do all the work in their learning journey. In addition, dealing with the fallout of teaching a ‘colonial’ language can be extremely challenging at times.
Best: the broad range of modern methodologies to choose from. There is a huge amount of interesting literature on English teaching and language learning. Teaching English provides an opportunity to innovate in the classroom.
Worst: teaching when students have low levels of motivation, or the class sizes are not conducive to communication. I also feel that as the industry becomes more corporate, teachers have the least worth in the industry, and their pay is continually cut. This has certainly been the case since most English training has moved online, and the industry is more transnational these days. The worst thing is probably the way employers treat you.
Best: the huge amount you learn from your students about their culture, their language, their work, their studies – no other profession gets involved in so many different types of lives in such a positive way. What you learn from TEFL you can also apply in many other types of jobs where excellent communication skills are required.
Worst: strange working hours, relatively poor pay.