The (mildly) autistic TEFL teacher

While adding two new articles and a list of useful phrases to my rapidly expanding small talk for EFL learners page, it suddenly struck me how ironic people who know me would find it that I’m teaching small talk, let alone trying to tell people how to teach it. I’ve always been happier memorising lines of dialogue from obscure TV shows and answering questions in pub quizzes than I’ve been with actual conversations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my physics degree course was full of people who were like or much worse than me. Perhaps more surprisingly, I’ve also found the same to be true of TEFL. I was initially surprised that us social-skills-free teachers seem to do okay in the TEFL classroom, but come to think of it the (mildly) autistic teacher has some distinct advantages:

  • Had to consciously learn the rules of social interactions and so perhaps better at teaching them than someone who just naturally picked them up
  • Loves the clear rules of classroom communication (despite, or perhaps because of, finding interactions outside the classroom more uncomfortable)
  • Can learn grammar rules and the phonemic alphabet as easily as learning Star Trek trivia
  • Can understand our top students, who often share the same characteristics

I’m not sure there are any huge implications to what I’m saying, seeing as such people are probably as happy with the clear rules of engagement in job interviews as they are in the classroom. Maybe this is just another reason not to confuse the ability to chat in the teacher’s room and down the pub with ability in the classroom. In fact, knowing hundreds of Monty Python routines off by heart could be a good sign for someone’s future TEFL career!

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

1 Response to The (mildly) autistic TEFL teacher

  1. alexcase says:

    Before anyone else comments, I should probably point out as clearly as possible that this post is just about people who might match the colloquial use of the word “autistic”, and has nothing to do with people who have had medical diagnoses of autism, let alone with the kinds of people with severe autism that I sometimes helped back in my care worker days.

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