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Case Study: Teacher of English as a Foreign Language - Mohamed

What do you do?

I teach English to people whose first language isn't English. Most of my students come to the UK to live and work, and I help to give them survival skills in English, including lessons on UK culture so they understand their new surroundings better.

As well as teaching students, I train people who want to become teachers of English as a foreign language.

What is your background?

For several years I was an actor. My background is in theatre. I've performed in theatres and at festivals across the country. I struggled as an actor and decided that I would like to teach. I thought that teaching English as a foreign language would give me great experience.

I completed my training as a teacher of English as a foreign language, known as TEFL. After three years' work, I was offered the position of teacher trainer, which has given me more responsibility. Now I teach trainee teachers, not just students.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

Teachers of English as a foreign language must be culturally aware, as it is important to relate in a sensitive manner to people from different backgrounds. They each have their own concerns about moving to a new country, so students must be treated as an individual.

Teachers must also be creative to come up with new and interesting ways of teaching.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Some teachers of English as a foreign language move on to become teacher trainers. Or, they can tutor children who need help learning to read. They could also do voluntary work for charities.

What changes will there be in the future?

Travel will increase because business and social life is global. People are travelling more, so they will need to know English because it's used in more countries than any other language.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

This job requires attention to detail in marking students' written work. You have to look for every grammatical error [if looking for accuracy rather than fluency], which requires patience and commitment when a student doesn't seem to be catching on.

What do you like about your job?

I like being a teacher of English as a foreign language because I work in a culturally diverse, international environment. Every day I meet people who come from other parts of the world.

I also like the fact that I'm constantly learning while I teach others. As my students learn about the UK, I learn about Thailand and West Africa, for example.

Also, I get immediate feedback after playing a positive role in someone's life. I've received cards, letters, and sometimes even chocolates from appreciative students.

What do you dislike about your job?

It can be psychologically draining at times to teach a language to absolute beginners. As I've lived with English all my life, it's sometimes difficult to teach students words that are so familiar to me.

One other thing I find difficult is teaching classes with students who are at different levels. It's a challenge to design lessons that will benefit all of the students.

Teaching also requires a lot of energy.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

You need excellent English skills. Develop the skills through reading, writing and studying. Also, practice teaching English to a friend whose first language isn't English. You'll get an idea of what it's like and your friend will appreciate the free lessons.

A day in the life

8:30 am - 9:00 am

Opening the office, making coffee and beginning to look at paperwork.

9:00 am - 10:15 am

Teaching six students conversational English with constant repetition and only a small amount of writing. Answering students' questions.

10:15 am - 10:30 am


10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Continuing to teach the same class conversational English.

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Eating lunch.

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Monitoring teachers and classes by listening closely and taking notes on various teachers' techniques and learning tools. Maintaining files on each teacher in order to improve their teaching methods.

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Interviewing a potential teaching candidate.

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Answering phones, talking to people who come in asking about our services and doing paperwork.

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