Posted on April 1, 2019 | By Isabelle Sudron
All Things TEFL
29th Mar 2019
Your first day of TEFL teaching is likely to be a roller-coaster of emotions with a spattering of confusion and probably a few details lost in translation. But don’t worry, all the silly little mistakes you make will be fond memories (or will at least make for a good story) in a few weeks’ time.
Don’t leave preparation to the last minute
At the risk of sounding like your parents, it does really help to get everything you need ready the day before you start work. Prepare your first lessons, print out your timetable, pack your bag and lay out your outfit. It’ll be like your first day of school all over again – except without the awkward school uniform and oversized backpack. On top of that, it’s a good idea to do a practice run to work and make sure you’ve got your employer’s phone number. You don’t want to be wandering the streets with no idea where to go when the school bell is ringing!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Your colleagues will probably have had lots of TEFL teachers come and go over the years. They will have repeated the same information over and over again – and most of them won’t mind repeating these answers one more time! Plus, to do a great job, you need to have the right information. If you’re not quite sure where your classroom is, or you don’t know what topic you’re teaching, things can spiral pretty quickly. So, go ahead and be that person that asks a ton of questions – and you’ll also get to be that English teacher that does a great job on their first day!
We know, we know – easier said than done. It’s easy to panic about a new job, especially when that new job is in front of an audience. However, it’s important to remember that your first day teaching abroad is likely to be many others’ first day back at school too. Every other teacher and student is likely to be worrying about their own timetable or class. In other words, the attention isn’t all on you, so don’t fret too much!
Don’t make promises (or threats) you can’t keep
This is a great rule for teaching in general, not just for your first day. However, it’s particularly important to keep your promises when you first start to Teach English as a Foreign Language. Students both young and old will remember the promises you make and hold you to them! If you break promises, your students may not trust your word next time. This goes for any threats of punishment or discipline you make too – so, don’t say you’ll send students to the office unless you’re serious about it!
Don’t worry about nailing your ‘teacher persona’
If it’s your very first day on the job, you may be struggling to imagine yourself as a TEFL teacher. But never fear, you’ll work that out as you go along. Give yourself a few days or weeks on the job, and you’ll quickly find your stride. Perhaps you’ll realise you’re the stern, strict teacher, or you may find that you’re the fun, friendly one. But whatever kind of teacher you end up being, there’s no rush to find out.
Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself
It comes with the territory that sometimes you will embarrass yourself as a teacher. This is especially true if you teach teenagers, who will be sure to quiz you on your life or use terms that you have no understanding of. Alternatively, if you teach very young children, you may have to embarrass yourself by singing the occasional song – and perhaps even doing a dance too!
Don’t underestimate a good back-up plan
Whether it’s a stash of learning materials, a list of teaching games or extra whiteboard pens, you need a back-up plan for when things go wrong. Sometimes resources will disappear, the printer will run out of ink or technology will have a mind of its own. But if you have a great plan for when disaster strikes, none of this will matter. Dare we sound a little parental again: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!
On your first day, you may feel yourself beginning to nervously ramble and babble. Remember that teaching English means allowing your students to practise their own English – so you’ll need to let them speak too! Plus, every time you give your students an activity, it gives you a chance to catch your breath and work out what you’re doing next.
Don’t forget to learn students’ names
We know it’s only your first day, so you won’t be able to remember everyone’s names. However, it’s a good time to start learning, and making an effort to use your students’ names immediately will gain you their respect. Consider handing out name labels or making a seating plan so that you can pick up names easily.
Hopefully these tips will help you get through your first day of teaching abroad with ease. We’re sure you’ll have plenty more of your own tips to share soon enough. If you need a little more help before you start, take a look at our blog: 5 warmers every TEFL teacher should know.