How to Handle Nerves in the TEFL Classroom

Once you’ve become a fully accredited teaching English as a Foreign language (TEFL) teacher, there is the small task of actually teaching which follows. Whilst securing that first job is undoubtedly an exciting thing, it’s not uncommon for a few nerves to creep in along the way.

Whether it’s teaching English abroad, or online, it’s completely natural to worry about everything from the wifi to whether your class is going to respect you; thankfully, we’re here to give you the scoop on how to handle nerves in a TEFL classroom. 

Fail to prepare (and all that) 

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” might have been one of those old clichés your parents used to say, but it is an important motto to keep in mind when it comes to entering a new job with the best possible approach.

After all, waking up and starting your first day as a teacher with no idea what’s going on is bound to leave you feeling scrambled.

Instead, take the time to plan ahead and think about what you’re going to do each lesson, especially in the early days. On your first day, getting-to-know-you activities can be a great way of learning more about your students as well as breaking the ice on both sides. 

Also, don’t be afraid to keep a lesson plan noted down somewhere near you to refer to throughout — this will keep you on track. Bear in mind, a lesson plan doesn’t need to be a novel! It can be a few pages or a sticky note, whatever will remind you of your lesson aims and objectives.


Read more: Top Tips for Effective Lesson Planning

Dress to impress, and keep smiling

In almost every culture around the world, dressing is a hugely important factor in getting respect from others, especially in the classroom. Our TEFL Factbook has all the resources you need to understand the country you’re visiting. Some schools have a uniform, others prefer dresses for women and ties for men. Keep in mind too, the Latin phrase “vestis virum facit” — clothes make the man – so think about how you want to present yourself to your students and colleagues.

Now you are dressed to impress, you will feel like a rockstar standing in front of your class. Relax into your role, and don’t forget to smile.

Ultimately, teaching is all about finding that perfect balance between being liked, and being respected. A good tactic we’ve found to keep things calm is to write a list of 5 – 10 ‘Golden Rules’ on a board for students to refer to, helping to establish expectations of behaviour in your classroom. Depending on the age of the class, some good Golden Rules to consider could be: 

  • Ask if you don’t understand
  • Raise your hand before speaking
  • Listen carefully to others
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated
  • Keep the classroom tidy
  • Follow the teacher’s instructions
  • Respect other people’s property
  • Have fun! 

How to develop a rapport with your ESL students e1649936728883

Talk to others 

And finally, perhaps the best piece of advice we can give is to remember that you’re never alone! Teaching any class is a tough gig, but teaching in a foreign country to students with a language barrier introduces an extra unknown — it is okay to feel nervous.

Hop online and begin chatting to the dozens of online communities set up to help and support people just like you. And check out The TEFL Academy Alumni community on Facebook. 

It is also a good idea to keep your ties back home so you can unload from time to time, and don’t be afraid to get out and meet some expats or fellow TEFL friends in your local area.

Read more: How to Find Your Community as a TEFL Teacher

Above all, stay positive and you will get the most out of your new challenge. Good luck!

Finally, don’t miss a whole bunch of features and resources for battling those classroom nerves in our TEFL Learning Centre

I have been traveling and teaching ESL abroad ever since I graduated university. This life choice has taken me around the world and allowed me to experience cultures and meet people that I did not know existed.

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