You’re already teaching abroad and having a rad time. Awesome! But you don’t just want to be O-K at your job, do you? Here’s not only how to be a better English teacher… here’s how to be a GREAT English teacher.
How to teach English effectively
Students quickly recognize the difference between a teacher who loves what they do and a teacher who is doing what they have to do. Be passionate in your work; as Alfred Thompson puts it:
“Teachers with passion inspire students. They get students interested and even excited about what they are learning. Passion is what makes students decide to study more.”
Inspire deeper learning by being excited about English and passionate about sharing that skill with others.
Create a safe learning environment—one where failures aren’t as scary
One of the biggest hangups in learning the English language—or any language, for that matter—is the nervousness around “messing up” when utilizing the target language. No one wants to sound stupid, right? But practicing, and making errors, is an inevitable part of the learning process.
You can learn how to teach English effectively when you create a learning environment conducive to trying instead of getting things right. Encourage “failure” amongst your students; its the only way they’ll get better!
Manage classroom behavior
Annoying students with no interest in paying attention to the day’s English lesson can quickly get in the way of the learning process for your other, more studious students. And we all know how quickly even the “good” students’ attention spans can wane once distracted by the class clown or class troublemaker.
An effective English teacher abroad knows how to nip bad behavior in the bud early on—not only to save their sanity, but also to maintain control of the classroom as a whole.
Get to know your students
Treat your students with respect, dignity, and positivity—don’t just act like you care. Actually care! Students will be more willing to show up and try hard for the teachers they feel are invested in them as individuals.
What’s more, this is one of the best perks of teaching English abroad. You will figure out how to be a better English teacher when you actively connect with your students and their culture. You’ll learn a ton, not only about them, but about yourself (and your culture) along the way!
Lesson plan in advance, and have backup activities at-the-ready
We can’t tell you how many times English teachers abroad get lazy about prepping their lessons and show up with no actual plan for the classroom. While it can be tempting to have your students color (again) or play a video from your laptop (again), we highly advise that TEFLers serious about being an English teacher have a lesson plan—every. time.
Beyond what you’ll do in the classroom that day, come armed with a few back up activities for when things take less time than expected (happens a lot) or your students just aren’t feeling your activities (also happens a lot!).
It’s called “work” and travel for a reason. Focus!
Effective language teaching is the result of a focused, purposeful teacher. We know there are weekend trips you want to take and clubs you want to dance at til dawn, but remember that you’re there to work—and do right by your students.
Stay positive and keep things humorous
Bring fun into the classroom! Avoid being an overly serious or stuffy TEFL teacher. A lighthearted energy brought to your lessons will attract more students.
Consistency is key to being an English teacher abroad. Having a standardized structure will help students manage their behavior and focus more intently. Another area to master consistency is in behavioral management (see tip #3). Sometimes punishment is inevitable for poor behavior, and you, as the leader of the classroom, need to be consistent in how you deliver it.
“Students do not welcome surprises or embrace disorganization, especially those who come from a disorganized home life.” —Scholastic
Adapt to student needs
While you might walk into a classroom thinking you’re working with intermediate English speakers, you may come to find that their skills aren’t up to par—or, alternatively, they’re way more advanced. Be willing to adapt to student needs, not only for their capabilities but also for their activity and lesson preferences. Adaptability is like a magical skill that will help you learn how to be a better English teacher.
Never stop learning yourself
Pop open that TEFL certificate workbook every now and then! Keep googling for new ideas or networking with other teachers abroad to keep your skills fresh. Why should your students be the only ones getting to learn?
Be a better English teacher!
Learning how to be an effective English teacher takes some serious thought and commitment, but it is not out of reach for most TEFL teachers abroad. With the right combination of passion, follow-through, and a willingness to laugh along the way, you’ll be well on your way to not only being an English teacher but being an English teacher your students LOVE.
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