What Should I Tell Students About My Training?

It can be an awkward moment when students want to know how you’ve been trained to teach them. Native speaker EFL teachers are hired to do work that is substantially different from that of university professors or, say, elementary school reading teachers, and as such, I don’t think a four-week intensive training course such as the CELTA is a poor choice of qualification at all. However, I wouldn’t want to respond with “Oh, I have a month of training.” Even though the qualification can be good, it may not sound like “enough.”

In many or most EFL situations, the native speaker teacher sets the tone of the class, elicits or guides students through some important points, and then facilitates their practice of those points. Experience certainly helps, as do of course advanced credentials, but I’d venture to say that many or most teachers learn more on their feet than in a formal classroom setting as students, and for these reasons, I don’t think you need to automatically feel that you’re lacking in qualifications, or that have to defend yourself when presenting your training.

Still, students – especially adults – have all sorts of ideas about what qualifications their teachers should or actually do have. One thing in your favor is if your school is clear about teachers’ qualifications with students – they have hired you with the qualifications you actually have and, number one, should not be passing you off to students as otherwise qualified or being evasive about it, and number two, the burden is not wholly on you to explain the value of your qualification. If a school believes in your qualification enough to hire you, their explicit support of that qualification puts you in a better situation when asked about it.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to go into detail about my qualifications, and I don’t like the possible debate that may ensue or the idea that “I’m a native speaker so I don’t need a qualification” which may come up. (I believe you still need training and everyone – native or non-native – needs practical classroom experience to improve). However, waiting to be asked may mean you’re caught off guard or feel on the defensive. Ultimately it makes sense to decide for yourself how you’ll deal with this potential question.

I think it’s fine to explain that you have a certificate from a methodology course that teaches how to look analytically at your own language, so you can help students think about grammar and also motivate them to speak and practice the grammar, vocabulary and other language they learn. Speaking a language is much more than understanding the nuts and bolts of the grammar or the stress in and spelling of vocabulary words – and I might go so far as to say sometimes separate from those things; speaking a language is about using those tools, and a good TEFL certificate will give you a foundation for enabling students to practice doing just that.