Published 10th November 2015
You’ve got the TEFL certificate, you’ve signed the contract, and now the fun is about to begin: your first TEFL job. If you are freaking out under the pressure, or revelling in the adventure, here are some tips and advice on how to survive that first job.
First of all, don’t panic. Being alone in the classroom, in charge of the classroom can be intimidating, but accept the responsibility and run with it. Even if you are nervous in front of your students or if you feel like everyone is just waiting for you to mess up, relax – your students think of you as a teacher (because you are!) and they expect you to know what you’re doing (because you do!). They don’t know this is your first job – and there’s no need to tell them – so they will believe that you know what you’re doing. Your TEFL training has prepared you for exactly this moment so you should know what you’re supposed to be doing, but if you don’t…fake it ‘til you make it!
Secondly, don’t let planning take over your life. In the beginning, planning lessons will take time. You’ll need to spend time looking at the materials you are working with and thinking of the best ways to teach the language. This is completely normal. However, if you find that you are working all day and planning all night, then something is not right. Planning a 90 – 120 minute lesson should only take you about 20 minutes, so if you find you are spending almost as much time planning your lessons as giving them, there’s definitely a better way to do it.
Don’t forget to take some time off. Even if you think that teaching is just standing in a classroom all day, it’s exhausting, and then you have to plan for the next day. You need to look after yourself both physically and emotionally. Don’t spend all your time thinking about your lessons or talking about your students. Take some time and do things completely unrelated to work. It’s very common for teachers to get sick and this puts extra pressure on you because you need to think about who will cover your lessons for you and then when you go back to work you’ll need to rethink all your plans based on what was done while you were away. Burnout is a very real possibility, so if you find that you are always feeling exhausted or overwhelmed and stressed, do something nice for yourself that is not related to work.
Finally, keep some perspective. If a lesson crashes and burns for some reason, that’s ok; it happens. Your students probably didn’t notice as much as you did and by the next lesson they will have forgotten all about it. If your lesson turns out to be one of your top ten ever, pat yourself on the back but don’t get too comfortable. Chances are that lesson probably won’t work so well with another class and again, it will probably be forgotten by the next lesson. While our lessons are of course an important part of our students’ lives, there is a whole world outside our classrooms which take up more of our student’s attention than our lessons. Regardless of what happens in the classroom today, there will always be tomorrow.