No matter how good your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification is – (even if it’s from The TEFL Academy!) – you are likely to have those butterflies in the pit of your stomach before you walk in the classroom. This is normal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. Here are our top survival tips for your first day in the EFL classroom – even if you don’t have any experience!
Punctuality is key
There is no excuse for being late when you’re the teacher. And by punctuality we mean being early. Basically this means you need to be prepared for all of your lessons. Make sure you know where you are going, who you are teaching and what you need to take to class.
Preparation is half the battle. If you are ready to go when it’s lesson time, you’ll be more prepared to deal with whatever your class throws at you.
Being prepared might seem like a blanket term but when it comes to teaching English as a foreign language, there are few ways you can make sure you are prepared. The obvious one is that you have prepared an adequate and appropriate lesson plan.
Lesson planning is key to successful lessons – even if that means a dogme-style lesson. It doesn’t matter what your lesson plan looks like, as long as you can understand it. Some teachers write their plan on a post-it, others write a full-blown lesson plan for each lesson. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you know exactly what you are doing, with what, why and with who.
One thing you will realise soon enough, is that even in the most serious of contexts, English as a foreign language lessons always have an element of fun in them. TEFL teachers are known to be very relaxed and easy-going, with a big emphasis on communication. This means that games are often the order of the day.
Whether you are looking for a warmer, a cooler, a brain break or an activity to fill the last five minutes of your lesson, games are your friend. If you have no experience in the classroom, don’t worry: soon enough you’ll have an arsenal of teaching games up your sleeve.
Get to know each other
A good rapport both between yourself and your students, as well as between the students themselves, is vital for successful lessons. Did you ever have a teacher you didn’t like or you thought was boring? Did you dread going to those lessons or were you bored for the entire duration of the lesson? That’s exactly what we want to avoid!
The easiest way to increase the motivation of your students so that they will look forward to your lessons and participate fully, is to get to know your students. Your first lesson can include an activity in which your students ask you questions, or you show them photos from your life. You can even make it a guessing game.
By the same token, you need to get to know your students. This can be done by students interviewing each other, while you keep a close ear on them. Another option is to design an activity where the class (including yourself) finds out what, if anything, they have in common.
Exercise your brain
An important part of building rapport and getting to know your students is using their names. Understandably, it is more challenging for the teacher to learn the possibly hundreds of names of their learners, who only have to learn one. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t even try. Research has shown that students respond more favourably to teachers who call them by their names. In fact, students are more likely to engage in these classes and ask for help when needed.
For ideas on easy ways you can train your brain to learn names easily, check out our blog post: The Importance of Learning Names in the Classroom.
Do your homework
Getting to know your students can also entail doing a needs analysis. A needs analysis allows you to get to know the learning strategies and preferences of your students. While the theory of different learning styles has largely been debunked, it is still useful to know why your students are learning English – for what purpose – and how they enjoy learning.
Fake it til you make it
Confidence is a big thing. Teaching English as a foreign language is basically the same as public speaking. You are faced with a classroom of expectant faces waiting on your every move, and you’re not even sure they can understand you!
This is when ‘fake it til you make it’ comes in. Students can smell fear. And it’s often pretty easy to see fear too, when you’re sweating and flustered. Take a breath, remind yourself that you’re fully qualified and totally capable, and never, ever tell your students if it’s your first lesson!
Read more: 7 Awesome Tips for Newbie TEFL Teachers
In a nutshell, relax but make sure you know what you’re going to do. Easy, huh? And remember, every teacher has to have a first day. Every time you walk into a classroom you will feel more comfortable and more confident, so take it easy on yourself on the first day – and know that you will only get better!