Your first day on a new job can be tough, regardless of what the job is. As a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, you might feel apprehensive about actually stepping into the classroom and putting the theory you’ve learned on your TEFL course into practice.
Being a TEFL teacher means you need to have a good grasp of teaching methods and theories of learning, classroom management and time management skills, and a thorough knowledge of the English language. New TEFL teachers can feel quite overwhelmed trying to juggle it all while still coming across as cool, calm, and collected.
We know this. We’ve been there. So we’ve collated some of the best advice for new TEFL teachers from TEFL teachers themselves, to help settle your nerves.
1. Embrace the nerves
Everyone is nervous when they start teaching. Don’t feel like you’re anxious because you’re not good enough. Accept that you’re going to be nervous and work through those nerves, using that nervous energy to your advantage. Expect that you might make mistakes or you might not know the answers to all the questions, and accept that.
As long as you’re prepared and you’ve got a positive attitude, know that you’ll be fine. So get to class a few minutes early for every lesson to set up so you’ll be ready when your students arrive. Make sure you have a good lesson plan, as well as a Plan B. And walk into that classroom with confidence – students can smell fear!
2. Connection is key
The most important thing in your classroom is not your lesson plan, your language aim, or your coursebook. The most important thing is connecting with your students. Work on your rapport and getting to know your students, and your lessons will naturally run more smoothly because you will all be relaxed.
Don’t forget to do a needs analysis when you first meet your students. This will help you identify their learning styles and personality types, as well as their learning goals and linguistic needs. Plan learner-centred lessons, and remember to relate any language point, discussion, or topic back to your learners’ lives outside the classroom.
3. Build up a teaching toolkit
As you get more experienced, you will find different ideas for lessons, activities, and games which work well in the EFL classroom. This might be because they are particularly interactive or because they work well with a particular language structure or topic. Take note of these.
Write them down in a notebook or create a logical system for storing your lesson plans, worksheets, and photocopies on your computer. This will help you plan lessons more quickly and will also give you some handy last-minute ideas up your sleeve if you need to fill ten minutes in a lesson.
4. Don’t stop learning
You might be the teacher but you are still learning every day. You could be learning from your teaching colleagues or even from your students, who will show you which teaching methods work and which don’t. Teachers need to be on the ball, and this means constantly evolving as teachers.
Take control of your continuous professional development. Get involved if your school has workshops, attend conferences, observe your teaching colleagues if possible, watch webinars, read blogs. There are so many ways you can keep up to date with all the latest developments in the field of English language teaching, but it is up to you to make sure you do.
5. Take a break
One thing you will figure out soon enough is that teaching is exhausting. TEFL teachers are usually on their feet for most of the lesson, monitoring, chatting to individual students, checking work – and if you’ve got five lessons in a row, that’s a lot of standing. Plus there’s the mental load involved in planning lessons every day and sourcing materials, and then the stress of trying to carry out your lesson plan with as few hiccups as possible. It’s a lot.
In the beginning, planning your lessons might take a while – that’s normal. Soon you will get the hang of it and it won’t take too long. If you find you don’t have any free time between your classes and your planning then you need to make changes. You need to be sure that you have a decent amount of time off every day, or else you risk experiencing burnout.
Read more: How to Avoid Burnout as a TEFL Teacher
6. Expect culture shock
Think about it: you have just moved to a new country. You are starting a new job, in a new career. You might not have any friends or family close by. You don’t speak the local language. It is a struggle just to find the supermarket – and then find your way back home! These are all very stressful events in our lives and you are experiencing all of them at the same time. It is normal to experience culture shock.
If you expect it, you won’t be caught by surprise, and you’ll be able to deal with it better. Culture shock happens to most of us. You are likely to go through a period of discontent or even unhappiness when you wish you were at home where everything is easier. We’ll say it again: this is totally normal. Try not to jump on the first plane home, because it’ll go away soon enough.
Read more: Culture Shock
7. Enjoy yourself
If you’re not enjoying yourself in the classroom, neither are your students. If you’re bored in your lessons, so are your students. Bear this in mind and try to incorporate activities and games which are enjoyable into every lesson. Every. Single. Lesson. This could be as simple as closing the coursebooks and having a casual chat at the end of the lesson, or using authentic texts, or going on a field trip.
Find out what the rules and regulations are regarding your lessons – what you can and cannot do. Then be creative and think outside the box to make sure your lessons are engaging, interactive, and fun for everyone involved.
Yes, being a new TEFL teacher can be daunting, but it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do. We hope you find these tips helpful as you start out your TEFL career. Good luck and happy teaching!