Many teachers of English as a foreign language (TEFL) will tell you that they are living the dream by living and working abroad. They will tell you about their travels and the incredible people they have met. They will also tell you funny anecdotes that have happened during their lessons.
Some might also share with you their challenges while TEFLing abroad and what strategies and techniques they used to make the most of this wonderful adventure. Here are some tips that an experienced TEFLer might share with you.
- Ups and downs
Accept that there will be some downs, as well as many ups, especially in your lessons. Whether you are an experienced teacher or not, and regardless of how well prepared your classes are, it will happen that a lesson won’t go as planned. If you get stuck in this kind of situation, be flexible. Learn to adapt, adjust, amend, edit your lesson plan as and when needed. The ability to think on your feet is the greatest skill you will develop as a teacher.
- Spice up your lesson
This will become your motto and variety will prevent your lessons from becoming unengaging and dull. Remember that your students are investing in your classes and want to feel that their time and money is well spent. Depending on the type of lesson, think about including quiet activities for reading and writing, mingling activities for speaking practice, pair work to share opinions, and group work for bigger projects. You can always add a short game at any point in the lesson, but make sure it is relevant and doesn’t feel like a waste of time.
- Every lesson has a purpose
Learning objectives (LO) or lesson aims are the soul of your classes. They are what gives your lessons purpose. Start by deciding what you want your students to learn or practice. If you have a very quiet group, get them to come up with some interesting interview questions on a topic of interest. To expand the activity, they can collate their answers and present them as a report. Are they confident speakers but weak writers? Get them in groups to write an opinion essay. The success of your lesson is (almost) guaranteed if you have a strong and clearly defined learning objective to focus on.
- Get to know your learners
This is important if you want to create meaningful and personalized lessons. When your students come from different countries and have different cultural backgrounds, for example, you teach in South Korea, you might find it easy to spot the differences in their classroom behavior. In some cultures, in some cases, it is OK to share your opinions loudly and proudly, while in others it is better to keep them to yourself to avoid offending your interlocutor. You will also see that some learners are happy to answer ALL of the questions you ask, while others avoid speaking unless they are directly spoken to. In any case, it is up to you to find a balance so that no one is left out and every individual in your classroom has equal chances of learning and participating. You might find it useful to plan some group work in every lesson and assign specific roles to your learners: the talkative ones will be responsible for listening and taking notes – therefore being quiet—while those who don’t usually speak much will be responsible for reporting information and sharing ideas with the members of the other groups.
- Prepare for the culture shock
While it is often believed that it affects only those who travel to faraway countries, those with a very different culture from their own, culture shock can affect anyone anywhere. Before you leave your country, do your homework and learn as much as you can about the country you are traveling to. It is also helpful to keep an open mind wherever you go – you might not always be able to understand or accept another culture’s traditions. Culture shock can have a massive effect on your TEFL experience, and it can spoil your chances of getting hired or progressing in your career.
Teaching English around the world is meaningful and fulfilling. It teaches you about the world and its people, but most importantly, it teaches you about yourself. You will learn to become (or become more) flexible and understanding, and this experience will teach you to accept this incredible TEFL adventure as it comes.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org