What I think about TEFL on my most cynical days

“It’s really not difficult to learn a language on your own if you are motivated.

And if you aren’t motivated, why waste my time and your money coming to class?”


Anyone want to convince Cynical Alex that he’s wrong, or alternatively add your own cynical thoughts to make mine not quite so bad?

This entry was posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What I think about TEFL on my most cynical days

  1. Often – the worst students are being sent to class by their parents/employers so their lack of motivation is understandable.

    I am now in a position to avoid both types of students and that I think is key to avoiding the occupational hazard of cynicism and burn out.

    I think many motivated students can learn alone BUT not in the most effective manner. There are also the semi-motivated who can learn if ‘led’ to the water so to speak. Both types of students are fairly common and benefit greatly from a good TEFL type course.

  2. smittenness says:

    I have those thoughts too. It’s tricky to not take lack of motivation personally, I do a lot of muttering to the whiteboard to release those feelings. I may have even told my class ‘turning up to class, not engaging, not doing any work outside of class and expecting to be proficient is like paying for a gym membership and never going in’

  3. S.V. Lowery says:

    Externally set goals and camaraderie/competition with classmates help keep motivation alive. People generally think they can do less than they can. Classmates may actually help the student figure out why engaging is worthwhile and we, as teachers, can also nudge a student toward more interest–even if it isn’t the student’s idea to be in the class. That’s part of the challenge, isn’t it?

  4. CrEAP says:

    Some reasons for going to language classes:

    1. People have different learning styles and can be better motivated by being with other people in a classroom and going through the learning process together.

    2. They might not have other opportunities to practise the language outside of class e.g. speaking, or might not get the same kind of feedback (native speakers who aren’t English teachers might be more tolerant of errors and not point them out, for example, or might not know how to correct them as they don’t have the metalanguage).

    3. Students might not know good strategies for learning a language and the classroom can provide skills + tools for this.

    Personally, I despise the classroom as a place for my own learning. I hate any kind of group work, in any context, and I hate anyone else setting my agenda/study plan. The only useful thing is feedback from peers + teachers, but if for example I can find criteria, past papers, example answers + markers’ comments etc for some kind of task e.g. the Delta, I’d rather do it on my own.

    I learnt Italian to a very high level without going to any classes, because I both needed and wanted to in order for my life to be meaningful, so I know it can be done. I think discovering a language by oneself is a lot more rewarding, as are many things, if the resources are there. It’s also a weird thing to study formally, as language learning itself is natural – it’s not as if people have to go to classes to learn how to eat + walk. What I do in my job, except promoting autonomous learning, basically contradicts everything I believe about learning a language.

    Another cynical thing I think is that the kind of English I’m selling (i.e. ‘British’ EAP) is pretty much obsolete. Way more NNSs use it than do NSs, Most of my students’ future course mates will be NNSs, as will some of their lecturers. So, what’s the point? Also, I’m contributing to the demise of other cultures’ academic discourse communities by reinforcing English’s dominance over the academy, so I don’t even know if it’s ethical. Same goes for other TEFL contexts.

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