You’ve taken the course, you’ve hopped on an airplane and flown to another continent, you’re about to walk into your first classroom and you’re terrified. I know how this feels because that was me a year ago. For me it was also even scarier because I had taken an online course to teach English as a foreign language, and therefore had yet to step into a classroom. At the time I thought it was insane that someone was letting me teach; my only asset was the fact that I was a native English speaker. This year is my second year of teaching, so I thought I would share some tips for those just starting out on their paths as EFL teachers. (Friendly reminder that I myself am still learning!)
1. Stay As Calm As You Can
You’re heart will be thumping against your ribcage and you will be convinced it’s about to jump out, but you’re just going to have to breathe. Like all of those posters say: Keep Calm And Carry On. Stay calm when the kids start talking over each other, when you make a mistake while explaining grammar, and when you get tongue tied. I always get nervous when I have to meet a new group or when I have to teach grammar. All I can do is remind myself to breathe and stay calm.
2. Remember To Laugh It Off
With the above in mind, try to remember to laugh it off. Whenever you do make a mistake, laugh it off and correct yourself – that’s all you can do. Plus, laughing is reminder that learning English doesn’t have to be a strict process, it can be fun. Everyone makes mistakes and the best thing you can do is laugh and learn from them.
3. Ask The Students What They Want
I work in a private school that has after-school classes for children, as well as many contracts with local businesses – so this is extremely applicable. As the teacher you have an obligation to teach certain things based on the curriculum you’ve been given, however you should remember to be aware of what your students want. Your students know the best ways that they learn. This could be less grammar instruction and more speaking activities. It could also mean less vocabulary memorization and more games. Ask your students what they want and how they want to learn then try to incorporate this into your curriculum plan. Doing this can increase how much they enjoy the course, and for private schools it can encourage students to keep attending the school.
4. Remember To Find The Balance
When you read #3, this doesn’t mean just play games and forget about grammar. It’s a suggestion to find balance between fun and learning. In my situation, the children are often very tired and have no interest in learning. However, this can quickly change when I make the learning fun. There are many games you can incorporate in your lessons that get the children interested, excited, and learning at the same time. I try to incorporate games with flashcards and other physical objects. Children also love to play games where someone wins – these games always peak their interest.
5. Remember To Ask For Help
When you first start teaching English there will be a lot of things you may not know. This could be about the school, the students, or some grammar rule. In these cases ask for help. Don’t be afraid. As a new EFL teacher you’re not expected to know everything on the first day. Ask for help. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your teaching abilities.
6. You Will Learn The Most From Experience
The only way you become a great teacher is through experience. Nothing really, truly prepares you for teaching EFL like actually teaching does. One day you’ll probably look back at your first days of teaching and think, “Oh my goodness, I was horrible.” Which is okay, because everyone thinks this way. I know I do. And in a few years, I’ll probably think the same about myself now. This is a good thing because it means you’re learning and becoming better. So when you start teaching always remember that you’re just going to get better with each lesson.
7. Believe In Yourself
This may seem cheesy, but it’s true. Remember to believe in yourself, even when you feel like you’re the worst English teacher in the world. Believe in what you already know and believe that you will only get better as time goes on.
Happy teaching! And if you have any more tips, feel free to comment below! 🙂
-A. V. Sz.