Tips on How to Become a Truly Unique EFL Teacher

When you love your TEFL job, you can’t hide it!

You give your best to make your classroom a fun place where your students will feel motivated and happy to learn new, useful things. This job is one of the few that gives you a chance to feel the joy when someone else is succeeding. You get to celebrate your students’ successes as if they were your own. And they partially are.

So you try even harder to be the best teacher you possibly can. You know the students appreciate your effort, but you’d also like them to remember you as truly unique. You’d like to make your course an unforgettable experience – whether that is in a real classroom or in an online classroom - not only because of the cheerful atmosphere in the class, but also because of your special way of teaching and spreading knowledge.

You want to earn a special place in their hearts. How can you reach this goal? Here are some tips!

1 Have a Routine

Take some time to think about what you want your class to look like. Whether you work for a school that has their own programme or you’re a freelance teacher, you probably follow a certain routine in your lessons. Write down a couple of great ice-breakers for every age and level and keep them close. Techniques to welcome students to an online classroom are equally as important as welcoming them into a physical classroom - maybe more so. They are even more useful for you if they’re adaptable to different topics. Students, especially children, love routines and the fact that they know what to expect next. Make something unique a part of this routine. Maybe a short game or a quick chat about what made your day or week awesome. Online, maybe getting your students to show you somethig on their desk that is usually hidden from view. Your students will practice speaking, but also focus on positive things and cheer up!

2 Create Your Own Materials

You’re struggling to find adequate materials for your students? You find some useful stuff, but it’s not exactly what you had in mind. Using coursebooks is okay and you manage to teach everything you were supposed to, but you feel like you should add something else to your lessons. There are many cool websites and apps where you can create your own, personalized exercises and handouts, worksheets, charts, games, memes, and whatever comes to your mind. Making your own materials will let you express your creative side and make your course more interesting and diverse, and also different from any other in the world!

3 Show Your Feelings

You need to be professional when you’re teaching because you also need to be an authority in the classroom. However, the relationship between teachers and students is different from other business relationships. This one has to be more humane than others, a little bit more personal. People learn more from a person they like, and they will like you if you show them you’re just like them. Of course, you have to leave your private life out of the classroom, but let your students see when you’re genuinely happy with their progress, and when their successes enthuse you. Be tactful, but also completely honest. That will surely motivate them to work harder.

4 Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

After a couple of years of teaching, you’ll get to know yourself. You will know exactly who you are as a teacher and what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you’re not very good at improvising, make sure you have time to prepare for each class. If you’re not good at following a plan, just bring enough material so you have options to choose from as the class goes. If there’s a unit you’re not sure how to teach, consult your more experienced colleagues and exchange ideas with them. Knowing what you do best and where you need help is how you’ll avoid negative energy in your class and prevent you from feeling exhausted and disappointed because you’re not satisfied with your own teaching. It all starts with you – the vibes you send out there are the vibes you’ll receive.

5 Teach Outside the Classroom

Learning happens everywhere. If you have the opportunity (and check that you are following all the safety procedures in the school), expand the horizons of your students. Whether this  is a wildlife walk, ordering a drink in a cafe, or going into an online space, each will enrich the learning experience of your students. There are many interesting learning platforms that you can use to complement your teaching inside the classroom.

These can be used for sharing additional exercises, educational videos and documentaries, films, reading material, even for giving your students some online homework and quizzes. They can check the results immediately and you don’t need to do any grading. You can even create a newsletter and send it to their e-mails if the time allows – interesting facts about English, English art or history, a guide through different UK and USA cities, and more. You know your students, so you know what may spark their interest.

6 Include Colloquial Language

Some coursebooks may be a bit outdated, and some grammar units may not be as important as some colloquial expressions your students should know. This is crucial if they’re planning to visit an English-speaking country! It’s our job to prepare them for real-life situations and real-life language. Wherever you have some room left, try to squeeze in a bit of authentic, colloquial language. Teach them some jokes in English, help them understand humour better. Isn’t it one of the best things when you’re learning a language? English is full of funny puns, but you won’t find them in most coursebooks, and your students will love them. Idioms, slang, all of that is also an important part of a language. Knowing these, apart from grammar, and everything we’re traditionally taught, means you really speak a language.

7 Know Your Thing

Last, but not least – know what you’re teaching! By preparing for each class, you’ll know if there’s something you’re not sure about so you can check it before the lesson starts. Don’t get yourself into something you don’t know well. And if you don’t know something – learn it. A good teacher never stops learning, because there’s always something new to add to your skillset. Work on your knowledge, improve your teaching skills, invest in your professional development. Your students will certainly notice and appreciate it. By developing yourself, you’ll send an important message to your students – learning is a fun never-ending journey.