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When I started applying for English Teacher positions two months ago, I noticed that TEFL was listed as a requirement on most, if not all, job descriptions and, admittedly, that was the only reason why I enrolled for a TEFL course in the first place. I expected it to be one of those courses you have to knock out without being able to apply a single one of its lessons to your real-life profession. But when I reached halfway into Unit 2, I completely forgot this certification was mandatory for the positions I applied for. I started vigorously jotting down simple but brilliant ideas that would have made my life so much easier when I taught ESL in Mexico (over a decade ago). I now have many pages of notes that I will put into action in the Republic of China this Spring. Virtually all of the ideas I jotted down deal with tools and strategies to build confidence for both students and teachers alike. Two months ago I did my first demo presentation at a cram school in Taiwan. I had only 15 minutes to read a unit from the course book and then I had to present it to all the teachers working on-site. I tried to cram every word and picture into my brain and I remember constantly looking at the clock to check how many minutes remained before presentation time. When it was time to present I could not let go of the course book because I felt that I would not launch without it (it was literally glued to my hand). Needless to say I didn’t get the job but I learned an important lesson: Teachers shouldn’t use the course book in the first lesson. This course expanded on the tough lesson I learned and emphasized that teachers should focus on building strong relationships with students across different cultural and language barriers. In this course, learned that one suitable way to build relationships and establish rapport with students is to play a game of pass the ball. Before this course, it never crossed my mind that such a game would be effective for such a critical necessity in teaching. I also learned that a game of hangman (which I’m crazy competitive over) is a suitable warmer activity before diving into the class lesson(s) of the day. When I taught English in Mexico, I often had difficulty building classroom momentum when starting the lessons prescribed in the course book. Since I tried to be very structured, I often battled with trying to keep the lesson interesting and relevant without deviating from the authors’ instructions. This TEFL course taught me how important it is for teachers to adapt the materials to the needs of their students (even if it means deviating from course book instructions). I also learned to take this flexibility to another level and supplement the course book with extra materials that I feel will reinforce the lesson for my particular class. Another experience I had when I taught young learners in Mexico, was confronting the reality of attention seeking and boredom. There was never more than 4 of these little troublemakers in any of my classes but their actions created a profound set of challenges when other students would emulate them. I never quite got the right approach to managing the class effectively when it came to these behavioral issues. One lesson I learned from this TEFL course is opening up a little bit and giving my class ease by poking fun at myself a little. I think that would make me relatable for my students and perhaps they’d open up to me more when I need to keep their behavior under control (as opposed to getting after them without mutual understanding of each other’s roles) This course gave me a huge relief when it covered a technique I have always sworn by and believed in: Task-based learning. I always believed that the best lessons learned are the journeys where you don’t obsess on its purpose but later come to understand when you’ve completed the tasks. Task-based learning method focuses on activity completion (which in my experience boosts student’s confidence and motivation to further study the language) rather than strict language forms. I’m thankful to have learned about the Engage, Study, and Activation (ESA) phases because they will play an enormous role in my classes this year. I will have some higher level students where I’ll use the Boomerang ESA structure since these students will utilize much more language for their Activate stages. One of the challenges I’ll likely confront with this structure is predicting ahead-of-time what problems the students are likely to face in the Activate stage in order to prepare the materials needed for helping them in their Study phase. For these upper level classes, I’ll also make use of the Patchwork ESA structure since it allows for more flexibility than the Boomerang ESA structure and can potentially provide a nice balance between the study and activation phases. During Engage Stages I will use plenty of visual aids to elicit and prompt discussion. I will focus on accuracy and making corrections during the Study Stage and I will let them get creative with the language to develop fluency during the Activate stage. So why should teachers complete a TEFL course? Because you get to understand another dimension of learning that goes beyond languages and cultures. You learn principles that I, for lack of a better word, would label as “universal” because they apply to all groups of people learning a new language. TEFL covers not just the linguistic element of language acquisition but the behavioral and psychological elements as well. This combination of perspectives results in an education that I was never taught in my US University classes. I am so pumped to put my TEFL ideas into the classroom and can’t wait to see my students faces when these ideas lead them to those eureka moments!