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Acing the TEFL

written by: Louanne Piccolo•edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas•updated: 9/22/2010

ESL, TEFL,TESOL certificate courses are demanding but also very rewarding. Students who are prepared to work hard and commit themselves totally during their course should ace their TEFL certificate. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about how to succeed.

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    How Intensive is the Course?

    TEFL courses can last a weekend, a month or be followed online. The length of the course will determine how much time and effort needs to be invested but it is obvious that students who put the effort in will reap the rewards. All elements of TEFL courses must be completed and any sections that have been missed must be caught up. Accredited TEFL certificate courses are very strict about this and don't award certificates to students who have been absent or have not handed work in.

    Students should remember that a TEFL certificate teaches and prepares them to be ESL teachers in a relatively short time. Future teachers will need to learn about:

    • language analysis and usage
    • theory and practical application
    • classroom management
    • lesson planning and assessment
    • grammar
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    Will I Pass the Course?

    Teacher training schools usually have long and tedious entry requirement questionnaires and application forms. Although this may be annoying for students, it's to ensure that those who are accepted have the capacity to pass. The quality of writing and the ability to express oneself clearly is tested so students should fill out their own application forms. Places on TEFL/TESL courses are limited and schools don't like to waste a place on a student who is likely to drop out. Generally speaking, students who are accepted are able to pass the course if they are committed and hard-working.

    Continual assessment is used during a TEFL certificate course so students will get an idea early on if they have to put in more effort or not. Students having difficulties should ask for a private meeting with their teacher trainer, as they are there to help.

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    English is my Native Language but I Know Nothing about Grammar

    ESL teachers must teach grammar, have a fairly good grasp of the rules and how to apply them. While most mother-tongue English speakers can speak their language, they can't explain the intricacies of the grammar.

    Luckily, TEFL courses don't expect students to be grammar experts before coming to the course. Learning grammar is part of the TEFL programme and an accredited TEFL school will teach a student everything he/she needs to know about grammar during the course. Most schools send out pre-course optional reading lists to help students prepare beforehand, giving them more time to spend on practical teaching techniques than on grammar. Students who use this option are more likely to be at ease than those who don't.

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    How Good Do I have to be at Teaching Practice?

    TEFL students are teachers in training so no one expects perfect lessons from them at the beginning. However, progress must be seen during the course. This is why month-long TEFL/TESOL courses are better in the long run than shorter courses. Weekend courses and courses by correspondence are great for learning about teaching theories but don't have the time or the opportunity to let students put them into practice.

    Open-minded students who can laugh at themselves, take criticism and have fun with a group of people should have no problem with teaching practice sessions.

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    I Want the TEFL Certificate So I Can Travel, have Fun and Earn a Lot of Money

    Those who enjoy teaching do have fun doing their job and having a TEFL certificate does make it easier to travel and work abroad at the same time. However, a student who has decided to get a TEFL certificate so he/she can find an easy job, earn a lot and see the world is in for a nasty surprise.

    Teaching is not an easy job to do while traveling. It is a demanding profession and it is important to be prepared and to work hard in order to do the job well. Teaching can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating. An ESL teacher needs to be energetic, enthusiastic and have highly developed social skills. Teachers can find themselves in schools with no internet connection and very little teaching resources and so, they need to be creative as well as know how to teach. The majority of teaching jobs are not well paid. Most teachers find themselves working for more than one school at a time or having to take on a second job.

    Acing ESL, TEFL, TESL courses is possible as long as students are prepared to work hard; complete all assignments; and seek help from their teacher trainer if they are having difficulties. They will also need to prepare the ESL course beforehand by reading up on grammar and teaching theories and being open-minded and positive about criticism. Finally, the teacher trainer should have decided to take the TEFL/TESL because they would like to teach, not because they think it is an easy option to working while traveling.