Be prepared to protect your English teaching job.
This article, “10 great ways to lose your English teaching job”, highlights critical risk areas that you should understand.
We agree that “forewarned is forearmed”, so we feel it is only fair to highlight some of the ways to lose your English teaching job.
English teaching should be fun, but it is also serious. Some people view English teaching as a fun thing to do while travelling. As an English teacher, you impart knowledge to others in an environment where the expectation is that English teachers behave professionally, know their subject and respect their students.
Our list of 10 great ways to lose your English teaching job addresses personal and professional issues. The list results from our experience training and placing English teachers, plus some of the quirks we have corrected. They may seem common sense, but not everyone has common sense.
We give this advice to all our TEFL course students. Some had ignored what we told them and learned the hard way when fired.
As long as you avoid what is on the list, you will have a long and fruitful English teaching career.
Ten great ways to lose your English teaching job
1. Arrive late for class regularly
Never arrive late for a class. If you do, you had better have a perfect excuse. Lateness shows a total lack of respect for your students. Lateness shows a lack of dedication.
2. Look like a backpacker
Never dress sloppily. Do not chew gum while you are teaching. Do not answer your cell phone while you are teaching. Do not show large, visible tattoos. Do not wear a lot of facial piercing jewellery. Others usually interpret your appearance and behaviour as statements about who you are. Some of these points could be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) by your students or employer as a lack of self-respect or a lack of respect for your students. To avoid potential “image” problems altogether, your appearance should be neat, including your hair.
You will almost certainly never get past an interview if you have large, visible tattoos, a lot of facial piercings or a hair-do that looks like something from a heavy metal rock band. To clarify, piercings, earrings, and single nose studs are usually not a problem. There are typically multiple facial piercings (lips, eyebrows, chin, etc.).
3. Do not prepare your classes
Never start a class for which you have done no preparation. If you have not prepared, it will become evident to your students quickly. As with lateness, you were not prepared shows a total lack of respect for your students and a lack of dedication.
4. Show the effects of the night before
Never arrive for a class with tired eyes and a hangover. Your students expect you to be a professional.
5. Use inappropriate and challenging language
Your students will have a varying understanding of English. Do not use language they will not understand. Do not speak too quickly. Never swear. Understanding your students’ capabilities is part of your job. If you do not understand their capabilities, you are not doing your job. If they do not know what you are saying, they will complain.
6. Talk too much
Do not talk more than your students do. Never cut off a student who is making an effort to speak so that you can speak. You will have to speak to explain/present things and interact with your students, but the objective is to learn to speak and use English. The classroom is not a platform for showing off your speaking skills.
7. Make careless remarks
Never ridicule a student. Never favour some students over others. Never bluntly tell a student to their face and in front of the rest of the class, “You are wrong!” As a teacher, you should empathise with your style and encourage them to learn even when they make big mistakes.
8. Say, “I do not know” or bluff an answer
Never say, “I do not know.” This tells your students that you are not a master of your subject. It also indicates that you did not prepare. If you had trained properly, you would have anticipated question areas that you needed to clarify for your peace of mind. Never bluff. All humans can bluff, and most can spot when someone bluffs an answer. Sideline the question for the next class but do not forget to bring the answer to the next class.
9. React negatively to something a student says and start an argument
Never get into a fight with your students. It does not matter if they started it and said something that you strongly disagree with. Turn these situations into conversation exercises, e.g., “That is an interesting thought. Do you see any alternatives?” or whatever else you feel will reduce the question’s controversial nature to something that you can manage.
10. Play the dating game
Never establish a romantic relationship with one of your students. This is indeed playing with fire.
A final word
The majority of the points on our list are about personal behaviour. We have more about classroom management and technical knowledge, but these are not on this list.
All of our ten great ways to lose your English teaching job points open the door to complaints about you. The more objections raised, the higher the possibility of losing your job.
One could argue that in a traditional K-18 structure, many of these situations will go unnoticed because the students are children. This is a fallacy. Even if your students do not raise issues with you, they will almost certainly tell their parents or other teachers in the school about what is happening. Sooner or later, something negative will happen.
Our ten great ways to lose your English teaching job apply to all teaching environments.