What to expect in a TEFL interview.

TEFLAt the moment, there are hordes of job advertisings for TEFL teachers in Chengdu. Because the new semester started in March, many public and private schools are desperately looking for English teachers. If you know what type of school you want to work for, full or part time, and where in China you want to work at, now is the time for applying for a job.

If you are not in China but hoping to get a job, as you probably know, many employers will have a Skype interview. First they will ask you to send them your degree cert, you’re CV or resume and other TEFL related things, like a TEFL cert. Most employers prefer people with a TEFL certificate, but you can easily get jobs without one. But it is an advantage.

Also, being a native speaker is another plus, but if you are a non-native but have good English then you’ll be fine. Although some employers specifically only want natives speakers… oh and to be more picky, they have this idealised teacher who is white, blonde hair and beautiful. This to them, and to other Chinese people, is the ‘perfect’ foreign teacher.

After that, they will contact you for a Skype interview. In the interview you will be asked about yourself, if you like children, about classroom management (how would you deal with a rowdy student), how you would teach a certain topic, how would you give a lesson, if you have experience teaching English phonics,if you have an idea about teaching English grammar, and if you have any prior teaching experience.

In my case with my recent job interview, they asked me if I taught phonics before. My answer was simply no. I told them that I didn’t teach it much with my students because A; I’m not sure of the phonics myself, and B; I didn’t actually know where to begin with teaching it. I told the truth, simply because if I did tell them and if they tested me then I wouldn’t have a clue! The employer wont think any less of you if you cant do something, because at the end of the day you can learn this stuff.

An important question is about classroom management. How to deal with difficult students. This is important, as if you can’t control a classroom then nothing is going to get done. I still struggle with this, but different things work with different students. Rafa has found out that bribing a student with 1 jiao ( a tiny amount of money) works with one of his students. Others have found bribing them with sweets, stickers and balloons. But the employer wants to know that you can be strict with the students.

Another point about tefl teaching is personality. I’ve met one guy and his personality was well, not exactly suited to teaching. He was shy, didn’t speak much, and was very introverted. Unsurprisingly he quit teaching after a few weeks. With teaching, you need to be active, energised, motivated and confident with the kids. If you can’t be these things, then teaching isn’t for you. The students will complain that the class is boring, thus the parents will complain that their child is bored in class. So, in the interview you have to portray yourself as being fun, you can play loads of games, like teaching children, but can also be strict in class.

After the interview they will most likely set up a demo class for you. This is only if you’re already in China of course. Usually it’s just the employers in the classroom and yourself. With mine there were three people. They will give you the age of the students, maybe a topic you have to prepare for, and the duration of the demo. In my demo class, they gave me a book and I had a few minutes to prepare something short from a choice of two topics.

Each company may want you to focus on something that they specifically want; to focus on reading, writing, listening or speaking. Usually, because you are a foreigner they want you to practise listening and speaking. To me, this is easier to teach than reading and writing.

In the demo, they will be looking at your teaching style; if you prefer to move about with the kids or if you prefer to sit more with them. They’ll be looking at your personality, how you react with them, how you can manage the class. How you approach teaching a topic and what games you would play to help the kids with retention.

During it, they might throw some curveballs at you. in mine, we were playing a game and the lady said ‘I like apple’. After the game, I explained to her about plurals and gave examples. The man then asked me whats the difference between a flat and a house, so I had to explain in simple terms the difference and by drawing on the board. So they may do that to trick you.

Once it’s over, they might have a short discussion with you about your performance and what they liked and disliked.

Thats basically it. Because they’re so many foreign people in Chengdu, a lot of people will be looking for jobs. But because there are loads of students and schools needing teachers, there is still a good chance of getting job.

So in a nutshell, for a TEFL interview:

You need to be friendly, like working with children and active.

Preferably have TEFL experience already.

Know how to manage a classroom and students.

Have games that are entertaining for children.

Able to convey a point for students to understand clearly.

Can correct mistakes.

Good Luck!


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