What does a new teacher really need to know?

I’ve been asked to explain to some other native speakers the essentials of TEFL. This puzzled me as I’ve studied them far too much. I began to think of the initial basics I’d learned on the CELTA which seemed more like survival skills, then I pondered on various methods and course planning like the MA/DELTA, next about opening up teaching via Dogme. But what should I teach a native who won’t do the CELTA but wants to and can become a TEFL teacher?

1)The standard TEFL lesson format of warmer to Open practice?

2)The 4 skills and how to teach them?

3)Elicitation and drilling?

4)Error correction and reformulation?

5)How to liven up a book?

6)How to plan a full lesson?

7)Tech and using it?

What do you think they really need to know?


6 thoughts on “What does a new teacher really need to know?

  1. Truthfully, I think the first thing to know is classroom management – building management into your lessons.

    Guiding questions:
    1. What should students be doing when they enter the room?
    2. How will students be grouped for conversation?
    3. How can supplies/transitions be facilitated quickly?

    Classroom management is especially tricky when student language levels are very low. Give teachers tools for addressing lower-language students’ classroom movements – especially with the little ones.

      • Nope. I prefer to teach older students.

        But I’ve had experience teaching 3- to 5-year-olds (the cute “little ones”) who didn’t speak English. They are incredibly difficult to teach unless you can manage them properly.

        • Cute? Sound like a private school. I survived 5-12 by banging on tables, shouting, discipline and then getting glandular fever for 2 weeks. After that I took a more praising route and one that was less physically and emotionally draining.I learned that you can put too much of yourself into teaching and if you do then you take everything personally.

  2. Hi Phil,

    Another good post – but I have a bit of a “gripe” (sorry) 😉

    I love these discussions on what teachers need to KNOW and LEARN – and, I often push this question with two others:

    • What do TEACHers need to “do with” what they KNOW and LEARN?

    • What do TEACHers need to do to keep on improving what they “do with” what they KNOW and LEARN?

    These questions are critical for every TEACHer – even the best qualified and most experienced.

    I get that lots of people who want to enter TEACHing may not want to do a CELTA – especially as you say “native speakers”…BUT…and here’s the gripe…what makes a person actually think that they can walk into a classroom (and into the lives of LEARNers) without some form of training or minimal form of certification.

    This is one of the reasons that the “profession” and native speaker “teachers” give the rest of us a bad reputation. Sure, there are many “cowboy” language operations ready, (more than) willing and able to “hire” these people – operations that care little for the LEARNing of their students…their “customers”. I have no problem with “native speakers” being hired as “speaking assistants” – but to give them a whole class and to entrust them with the ELL of those students is unprofessional, unethical and…in the long run…bad business!

    OK – this gripe is turning into a “rant” 😉

    The CELTA, in actual fact, does not give a person “certified status” – it is a form of “initiation” and there are several “mountains” to climb after this initiation. Even a CELTA is not enough…even when we want to get into the Dogme game (I heard someone describe it as such this weekend). It takes a very skilled and experienced teacher to play that game…and help students “win”!

    There are hundreds and thousands of trained ELT Teachers (who do 4 years at university) and happen to be (very strong) non-native ELLs themselves (many are bi-lingual) and EL Teachers. These people give up four years of their lives to “LEARN the trade” – but many schools, colleges and universities (as well as “cowboy operations”) still prefer their “love affair” with unqualified and inexperienced native speakers – some of which KNOW and LEARN very little, can do even less with that they do KNOW and LEARN…and (sadly) are more interested in how much cash they can “earn” and how many countries they can “see”…than how much real LEARNing they can co-create with students (and IMPROVE professionally).

    Mmmm, yes – I know this is probably gonna get me in trouble…but not with those more professional native speakers who care and want to LEARN the trade well…before they master alternative approaches.

    Gripe over 😉


    • Go Tony Go Tony!

      I completely agree. If I hear “what’s the CELTA?” anymore I’ll go mad. The problem is that people in EFL schools in the UK, especially directors, seem to think everyone in the world has the CELTA or a DIPLOMA. Wrong! Schools abroad have nothing because there is no British Council accreditation. Why not? Well, first because few people know what TEFL is, fewer have a CELTA (mainly as there are few CELTA courses abroad) and that it is often not recognised so they don’t need it. Yes, Cambridge could push for more recognition and the British Council could also invent foreign accreditation which they only give to schools with qualified teachers ie CELTA ones BUT they’d then have to set up lots of CELTA courses everywhere. Sounds like money making in a way. Also, many countries don’t like the CELTA fun method

      Having lived here and there I can say that nowhere apart from England has ever paid more for CELTA/DELTA people. I’ve only met 2 people abroad who knew what a DELTA was. Being a native speaker is enough and if you can speak the local language you go straight into a French uni at 20K+. I was offered 26k just based on my years of experience NOT on any qualifications. So, I have a mate with just a CELTA on about 27k just because he speaks French fluently.

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