A question I hear a lot from new teachers of English who want to go abroad is, “How do I find a job?”
The answer, of course, is the same for English teaching as it is for many other professions nowadays—you look for job listings on the Internet and through a network of contacts that you build up. But, there’s a larger dimension to this question that I’d like to address in this post. And that is, how do you get your first job as a teacher when your potential employer doesn’t know anything about you?”
We had a recent post on writing your TEFL resume, which gives some helpful tips on how to prepare a knockout summary of the skills, qualifications and abilities that will make you a good teacher. A good cover letter and a decent resume should be able to garner you some interest from schools or training centers in your target country. Letters of recommendation, and a clear, attractive photo of yourself in business attire are all good ideas to send out as well. But, in the last few years, there’s another tool that new teachers can use to show that they’d be a good choice when filling a vacancy: video.
Making a short demonstration video of your teaching and uploading it to the Internet where potential employers can take a look at it is a smart move for any jobseeker in TEFL. When you apply for a job, or when you reach the interview stage, you can send a link of your video to your contact at the school or training center. They’ll be able to see your confidence, hear your voice and experience your delivery style.
A good demo video is much like a good demo lesson, but shorter and sweeter. You want it to be polished and interesting and you want it to show your professionalism with a hint of personality. A video that’s five minutes or less is ideal—it can be tempting to show an entire lesson in your video, but it’s not necessary and will take up a lot of the viewer’s time.
Be careful! I can’t tell you how many HORRIBLE videos people have proudly sent. Remember this video is about your TEACHING skills and what you have to offer a potential employer. It is not about what you don’t like about your current situation. Keep this 100% positive.
Plan Your Lesson
Just because it’s going to be short, though, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan it. You should plan every minute of the video, and storyboarding it, like feature film production teams do, isn’t a bad idea either.
Because it’s a demonstration, you can choose any topic you want to teach. However, I’d advise keeping it familiar and focused. Teach target language you’re familiar with and don’t wander too far in your explanations.
Think carefully about the activities you want to showcase in the lesson. Pick something that has visual appeal as well as educational value, as it will make a more lasting impression in this format. Remember to carefully consider the “whys” as well as the “whats.” If an employer does watch your video, they may ask you about it in the interview, and you’ll look silly if you can’t tell them exactly why you chose each segment of the mock lesson and how it would benefit your erstwhile students.
Practice Your Lesson
Before you switch on your camera to start recording, you’d better rehearse your sample lesson a few times in front of a mirror or a trusted friend. Take note of your facial expressions, and your teacher talk time. Of course, unless you can rope in some pals to pretend to be students, the video is going to be mostly “teacher talk time” segments of a lesson. However, don’t take this as an excuse to blather on. Keep your teacher talk concise and focused, as you would in a real classroom environment.
Do a Tech Run-Through
Next, do a few trial shoots with your camera setup. Is your video quality good enough, or will you need to borrow a better camera? Does the microphone pick up everything you’re saying, or will you need to find a quieter place to film? Is there enough light to illuminate your face? Is your camera outputting the video in a format you’ll be able to upload to YouTube, your blog or another service? Have you charged the battery and cleaned off the memory card?
Shoot Yourself (With a Camera, of Course!)
Have a tripod (or a friend with steady hands) film your lesson. While filming, be sure to make eye contact with the camera as you would if it were a student. Smile, be confident, and be aware of your hand gestures or nervous movements like adjusting your clothes and hair needlessly. It’s fine if you need to retake a few segments or the whole thing. Expect every minute of video footage to take much longer than 60 seconds to produce, so schedule enough time for it.
Shine and Polish
Once you’ve shot each segment of your video and are satisfied with how you look and sound in each, you’ll want to edit out any extra bits that weren’t quite so polished, and stitch the pieces together. If you’ve never used film editing software before, there are plenty of intro guides and how-to pages about it, and it shouldn’t take you long to figure out the basics of cutting and stitching, which is all you really need to do. Adding an introduction slide, as well as slides that focus on or explain your teaching points are good too. Don’t forget an ending slide or clip that thanks the viewer for watching your video and mentions how to get in contact with you.
Ted’s Tips No. 1: Keep your demonstration video under five minutes. This should give enough time for a feel of how you teach, without taking up a lot of your potential employers’ time. If you can only expect a hiring manager to look at your resume for about 30 seconds, then in terms of selecting candidates to hire, five minutes is an eternity.
Ted’s Tips No. 2: Don’t be nervous. Get familiar with your lesson plan and practice it until it feels natural. Then, shoot the video. If you have to be nervous, remember that excited is a good synonym for nervous and be excited about what you are teaching.