Were you hoping to teach English abroad this year but ultimately had to put your plans on hold as a result of COVID-19? Whilst this can be disappointing, now is a great time to start preparing for the challenges ahead that come with starting a new job, settling into a new country and getting used to a whole new culture.
So how do you make the most of your first TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) experience? Here are some top tips on teaching and expanding your own personal journey.
Outside the classroom
Moving to a new country can be intimidating, but it can be even more so if you fail to integrate culturally. While you may find spending time with other expats enjoyable, the real benefit of TEFL is the opportunity to explore and immerse yourself in a new culture and lifestyle. So be sure to make the effort to speak the local language, get involved in events and discover the local community. Not only will your colleagues and students appreciate your effort, but it will also help you make friends and become settled in your new environment that much faster.
Relocating to a new country comes with its own share of risks, so be sure that you are prepared. This means knowing how and where to reach a doctor should you require one and ensuring you have ongoing prescriptions signed off for the duration of your trip. Many countries have a mix of public and private healthcare systems. As you are not a resident, it is vital to find out which treatments you are entitled to before moving. For added peace of mind, you should also consider some form of global healthcare policy to make sure that you aren’t faced with a large medical bill if you were to require medical assistance.
You have probably spent weeks looking up the best places to visit, the essential tourist attractions and best markets, but you may not have thought about how you will actually get there. Take some time to look into the transport options available to you. Find out how much seasonal passes cost on public transport, if the bus is quicker than the train, and which stops are closest to your school. Answering these questions will make you more confident about exploring and will certainly help you to save money on taxis when you have gone out, only to find the bus service stops early on weekends.
If you decide you need a car, many countries will require permits or licence checks which could take some time to process, so make sure these are set in motion in good time.
Inside the classroom
When you first arrive in the country, settling in and getting your bearings should be your first priority. That said, lesson planning can be surprisingly time consuming, which is why you need to make sure you prioritise it as soon as possible.
Coupled with first-day nerves, not having lesson plans you are confident in will only make you feel less assured. So, a few days before you start work, spend as long as you need to contructing resources and getting familiar with your lesson plans. Even if you are anxious at first, knowing your lessons inside out will make sure the class runs smoothly and conveys confidence to your students. Nervousness can often affect your timings, so make sure that you also prepare some spare activities just in case a lesson runs short.
Learning from others is vital for new TEFL teachers, especially if they do not have a great deal of their own teaching experiences. You will learn while you’re abroad, but this does not mean you shouldn’t prepare before you leave by taking on as much teacher training as you can.
Having an idea of how to plan lessons and run a classroom are skills that will improve with practice, so get as much practical experience as you can from talking to teachers, shadowing lessons and volunteering.
Depending on which countries you teach in, the syllabus of a local education system could have a wildly different focus than you are used to. So take the time to research online and better understand the local school’s priorities, weaknesses and expectations so that you can come prepared.
This research could be anything from news reports about school performance to accounts of the challenges other TEFL teachers have faced when working in the same region. By completing this research before you arrive, it will reduce the chances of you having to face unexpected issues.
Ultimately, lesson planning will only get you so far. The real connection between you and your students will be the result of your personality. Do not be afraid to be yourself, make changes if you feel something isn’t working in the room and get verbal feedback to make sure concepts are getting across. This is why having a good understanding of the local culture is essential, because the more you understand the students’ perspective and cultural context, the more your lessons will resonate with them.
If a lesson doesn’t go to plan, don’t dwell on it. Learn what you can from the experience and put that into your next class. Very soon, your students will get to know you, your confidence will grow and your lessons will become more successful as a result.
Moving abroad to teach English is a great way to gain professional experience as well as live in exciting locations you’ve always dreamed of travelling to. Take this time to do some more research so that, when you are able to finally set off on your adventure, you will be well equipped for the challenges ahead.
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