Teach Yourself Out of a Job
Teach skills, not content.
We should teach learners the skills they need to learn a language, not just the language itself. When students are too young to understand this, we should motivate them to want to ‘do stuff’ at home in English.
According to the Common European Framework, students take 700–800 hours of guided language learning to achieve C1 level (i.e. being relatively competent). However, the quantity and quality of self-study the students engage in massively affects this number.
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If learners only have two hours a week with you, that’s nearly seven years of study. That’s assuming that they’re motivated and on top form every single lesson (ha!), otherwise, it’ll take even longer (or, more likely, the students will give up).
So as well as giving them the motivation to want to learn, we need to provide them with the skills to learn outside of our supervision. Anything less is a disservice.
How do we teach learning skills?
Have you ever learned a language? I know most TEFL teachers I meet like to at least dabble in learning the language of the country they’re teaching in. Some I’ve met are hard-core linguists with multiple languages in their arsenal.
So teach them to learn how you like to learn.
Teach them how to :
Learn vocabulary at home
Reading exciting stuff (that they’re interested in); reading books, magazines and comics for fun, e.g. skimming for gist.
Watch movies and TV in English (without worrying about understanding every detail). Show them how to download English subtitles.
Listen to music and podcasts (there are lots designed for English language learners on iTunes)
Play computer games in English
Where to find great resources for free on the internet
Get in touch with native speakers online (language exchange)
How to construct an English language environment at home
Teach them how to have fun in English.
Objections to Teaching Skills
From a managerial point of view, creating self-sufficient learners sounds counter-intuitive. Why would they come back if you give them what you’re selling for free? Won’t all teachers lose their jobs?
You create a deep trust with your customers, also known as ‘education-based selling’. By teaching them the skills to do the very thing you’re selling, you become a credible ‘expert’ they’ll come to first for further instruction.
Think about how students feel when they’re learning. If you create a deep rapport and trust with students (and their parents), then they’ll keep coming back to you.
Your focus is now different — you’re selling an environment to practice in and ongoing motivation, not just language knowledge. Anyone can get language knowledge for free online.
Motivate your students by giving them the skills to learn a language and the motivation to do so. Then pat yourself on the back for changing someone’s life.
See you again in two weeks.
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