Teaching English Abroad is exactly what it says on the tin; teaching English in another country. It is immensely rewarding, yet at times it can be challenging, particularly for those with no previous experience. Don’t let it deter you though, the challenges are not ‘make or break’ and you’ll find yourself stronger after coming through them.
English lessons are different from those that you experienced yourself when going through school. For starters, your students’ first language is not English and you may not be able to speak their language. However, you are not expected to be able to speak their first language, in fact you are discouraged from doing so. This provides them with greater exposure to the English Language and reduces the chances of them just using their first language in lessons. This means you have to explain instructions and language points in a simpler format than you would with students who are native speakers; this is known as grading language. Grading language is something that gets easier with experience; so don’t panic if you find it difficult at first.
As someone who has been through the process myself, everything can seem very overwhelming to take in at first. It is important that you take a breath, relax, and take it one step at a time. I don’t feel that there is a set method as such, like students, every teacher has their own approaches and styles. However, below I have listed some advice that I hope you will find helpful with kick-starting your TEFL career.
Make yourself at home: Obviously, life abroad is a very different experience from living at home and it can seem terrifying at first. Don’t hide yourself away and immediately look at flights home; it’ll take time to settle of course, but look for all the best things your new city has to offer you, you’ll be surprised at how many wonderful things you can find. Remember, you have fellow teachers at your school that will become your family away from home, spend time with them and that homesick feeling will disappear in no time.
Keep things simple: Lesson planning and actual lessons don’t need to be complicated, they just need to be well thought with clear aims and objectives. Always remember to have back-up activities in case you need to make adaptations during the lesson. Whilst there are several planning templates available, you can write plans however you want to make it easier for you to show your ideas. Planning will become much easier once you become more familiar with your students.
Don’t beat yourself up: You will have some good lessons, and you will also have bad lessons. It’s natural to feel disappointed after a bad lesson, but don’t beat yourself up and let the feeling linger around. Even the best teachers have bad lessons sometimes. Whatever the reason, it is important that you reflect on what went wrong and how you could avoid a repeat of it in future lessons. Don’t just look at the negatives; also look at the positives – what went well? What are you good at?
Ask questions: If you’re not sure about something, just ask! There’s no shame in asking a question, even if you feel it may be a stupid question. Chances are you won’t be the first person who has asked that question. All teachers have been a new teacher at some point, so don’t be embarrassed, we are all here to help.
Give it a go: Want to try something different in your class? Then go for it! Ideas can appear at any time, even during the lessons, give it a go and see what happens. If it is successful, great! If not, then reflect on why perhaps it didn’t work and how you could change it. Creativity is not just encouraged in students, but also teachers!
Smile: Enjoy yourself in the classroom and there’s a high chance your students will too. Energy is contagious; students will feed off your energy and vice versa. It’s easier to smile than it is to frown. Smile at your students and you will likely get a smile in return. If you want an energetic and fun class, then make it an energetic and fun class; after all you are in charge!
I hope the above advice resonates with you in some capacity; there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to teaching English and I would not be able to write everything about it down. But, I promise you it is easier to do things in the classroom, than read about them in a book. Don’t be afraid, take that first step into your teaching career and never look back.
Are you ready to take the leap?
Teach, travel and train with EF English First
Post by George Collard
George has always been passionate about travel and learning languages. George is also particularly interested in Psychology and Sociology. He has explored many places and has also spent time studying in South Korea. He thoroughly enjoys his teaching life in China, and is now focusing on improving his Chinese skills and finding the best coffee in Shanghai. George also writes a personal blog where he shares his travel and life in China experiences.