You are now faced with the first challenge outside the realm of your TEFL Course: Who are you as a teacher? The reason one may ask this question is because one might be confused as to how they might be able to give an effective class. You just finished a TEFL course. As of right now, no one will be telling you what to do. The first thing I want to tell you now is relax. No TEFL Teacher in Spain knows what they’re doing when they start teaching English in Spain. The best you can do when you’re a total novice in the field is to be prepared, adapt to the needs of your students, and always keep their understanding and growth in mind as you get to know your students who are learning English. How do we as TEFL Teachers begin that journey as professionals, as pillars in the Spanish community?
Let’s start with the students. You will be walking into their homes completely unaware of their needs as students learning English, and your abilities as a TEFL Teacher. As you get to know them, you might find yourself learning not only what you need, but also how you can help. This understanding is built on the experience you got from your TEFL Course. So, let’s now move to the most basic of questions: Who are the ESL students?
Let’s define kids as individuals ranging from 2 – 12 years of age. The mind is in the early stage of development. Parents will certainly want to take advantage of this period to ensure their children get on the fast-track with their language journey. If there was ever an ideal time for a child to adapt to a foreign language, it’s now. The problem with kids as far as Teaching English (it could be in Spain, or anywhere else) is that they are little balls of energy. They are easily bored. They will either doze off or act out if a teacher can’t hold their attention. If this happens enough, the parents will be frustrated at both the teacher and the student, and the teacher will be frustrated at both the student, and possibly his career choice. So, how does one prevent excruciating frustration? The first thing to do is to be prepared. Come with engaging materials like stories, games, pictures, tablet applications. Remember, you are in a country with a huge demand for TEFL Teachers. It only follows that there will be TEFL materials that are specifically created for Spanish speakers. The reputable entities like Oxford or Cambridge English have materials that use easy-to-follow pictures and words in context. Another good activity to do is playing games in English. Simon Says is always good to determine if your student can follow simple instructions, and subsequently the vocabulary of the human body. Another thing to remember is to adapt to the needs of a child. Since children get bored very quickly, it may be important to shift the activity every ten to fifteen minutes to hold the child’s attention. Start with the small story, continue with a game, ensure understanding with a small test, and finish it off with a song, and make it fun. Always carry with you an abundance of resources to move to should English-learning exercises finish quicker than a teacher might expect. Investing in the right piece of technology can be crucial to holding a child’s attention when giving an English class. If the class has elements of fun and interactivity, children will almost certainly enjoy it, even if they have to do grammar and vocabulary exercises. Work the language into the games play, and when you do these activities, come prepared to ask the student the simple questions like, “What is your name?” or “Where are you from?” that they will be required to answer for a basic English language test.
As a child moves closer and closer to that pivotal year when they are applying to colleges and universities, the pressure is on. Universities in Spain require students to have a B1 English Level (Completion of the PET) in order to pursue their professional studies. Depending on their career choice, this requirement may differ. Legal and Business studies may require a B2 (Equivalent of a Cambridge First Certificate). Parents need their children to pass the necessary English tests. Teenagers are more occupied with being trendy than preparing for their future. In Spain, they care about the football match, or they care about a trending YouTube video, or being a presence on social media. They’re not particularly interested in learning English. As much as a TEFL teacher might be closer to identifying with the teenager, they still have a job to do. Bring necessary exam preparation or grammar materials with you, and approach every subject with patience. You know that they have to pass their English tests. They know that they have to pass their English tests. Being added pressure on the English learner isn’t going to help them understand what they need to understand. For TEFL Teachers, having the exam materials show that you are committed to helping them understand the language skills, and there is a plan in place based on what skills the student needs to learn to pass their exam. Also, be relatable. Be someone they can easily talk to. Spend a few minutes before each lesson talking about a football match, or a trip that you took. When you’re teaching English in Spain, it’s important to change the perspective of the student. Think about it. Do they want to spend time with a TEFL Teacher who’s there to do a job, or a friend who wants to help them learn English? There is a distinction between the two contexts, and if you can help them feel like you have a hand on their shoulder instead of a pair of eyes over their shoulder, they will, at the very least, be co-operative with you. This will heighten your chances of success with both the student and their parents.
In some, but not all cases, it may be important to note their existing level, and their needs. With younger children and teenagers, if you’re the English teacher, you’re not dealing with the student. You’re dealing with the parents. Children in Spain are required to learn English, so classes may be more consistent. With adults, it may not be the case. They have jobs to go to. Sure, since the official language for the business world is English, TEFL students in Spain may be encouraged to improve their English to communicate with English-speaking clients. They also have bills to pay. They have business trips to go on. They may have children of their own to look after. They also get sick. Things happen to them or their families. One thing that does ensure consistency is that Spanish speakers need to speak English more and more, whether it is at work with clients, or at home with their families. Whatever the case may be, adaptability is important. Use the first few classes to get a sense of what they need to improve on, know what their English level is, and have materials at the ready to create a program of sorts to ensure that the students feel a sense of involvement and progress. Experience may have suggested to some mature students that they are unable to learn English, but if they feel involved with the learning process, they’ll see some improvement, and that will build confidence, compelling them to continue learning English. One of the great things about being a TEFL Teacher in Spain is that there are materials that are specifically catered to students in Spain. This will make the search for materials easier, and more relevant to the growth of Spanish speakers learning English.
In any profession, no one is 100% sure of what they are doing when they first start doing it. The same is true when one decides to be a TEFL Teacher in Spain. After you understand how your own language works, it’s up to you to be able to pass on that knowledge to your students. The best way to do that is to adapt to their needs. Another thing to remember is to amass a collection of materials to help you prepare your classes. Get games, pictures and activities that are visual and interactive with children. Be relatable with your teenagers, and don’t be another point of pressure for them, as they are under enough stress as it is. With your adults, be adaptable to not only their needs, but their schedule as well, as they do have other commitments. Above all of these things, it’s important to be patient. Language learning is an ongoing process. Even the most proficient students in the world need a little bit of a review of some of the simplest of grammar lessons. If you follow this basic understanding of the children, teenagers, and adults in Spain, you will see yourself on your way to being a TEFL Teacher who is well thought of in Spain.