10 great ways to lose your English teaching job

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Be prepared to protect your English teaching job

This article, “10 great ways to lose your English teaching job”, highlights key risk areas that you should understand.

We agree with “forewarned is forearmed” so we feel it is only fair to highlight some of the ways to lose your English teaching job.

Some people view English teaching as a fun thing to do while travelling. English teaching should be fun but it is also serious. As an English teacher, you are imparting 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 is a result of 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 have ignored what we told them and learned the hard way when they were fired.

As long as you avoid what is on the list, you will have a long and fruitful English teaching career.

10 great ways to lose your English teaching job

1. Arrive late for class on a regular basis

Never arrive late for a class. If you do, you had better have a very good excuse. Lateness shows a total lack of respect for your students. Lateness shows a lack of dedication.

2. Look like a backpacker

Never dress in a sloppy manner. 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. Your appearance and behaviour are usually interpreted by others a statement 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 completely avoid potential “image” problems, your personal appearance should be neat and tidy 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. Just to clarify about piercings, earrings and single nose studs are usually not a problem. Multiple facial piercings (lips, eyebrows, chin, etc.) usually are.

3. Do not prepare your classes

Never start a class for which you have done no preparation. If you have not prepared, it will quickly become obvious to your students. As with lateness, not being 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 bleary eyes and a hangover. Your students expect you to be a professional.

5. Use difficult and inappropriate 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 understand 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 talk in order to explain/present things and interact with your students, but the objective is for them to learn to speak and use English. The classroom is not a platform for you to show off your speaking skills.

7. Make careless remarks

Never ridicule a student. Never favour some students over others. Never bluntly tell a student to his/her face and in front of the rest of the class, “You are wrong!” As a teacher, you should have empathy with your class 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 prepared properly, you would have anticipated question areas that you needed to clarify for your own peace of mind. Never bluff. All humans can bluff and most can spot when someone is bluffing 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 an argument with your students. It does not matter if they started it and they 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 truly 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 10 great ways to lose your English teaching job points open the door to complaints about you. The more complaints that are 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 10 great ways to lose your English teaching job apply to all teaching environments.

Extra advice for choosing the best countries to teach English abroad

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