Taking a job overseas is a life-altering change and it will leave a lasting impression on you no matter the length of time you decide to stay abroad. Here are 9 things you should know to help you adapt to your new way of life teaching English abroad.
Be Patient & Flexible
You are going to have setbacks. Living abroad is an exciting thing to do and it can present its own unique set of fresh challenges, which can quickly become incredibly frustrating. Simple tasks that you might feel are so easy to complete back home like figuring out transportation to and from work and going to the bank can become incredibly stressful things to figure out, especially when something goes wrong. You will have to learn how to be patient and figure out how to overcome such challenges when they occur, which they will.
You Will Find It Hard
Being a TEFL teacher is a tough gig and no-one is comfortable doing it at the start. The English language is extremely complicated and there are so many grammatical rules that you have to be aware of. It can be an extremely daunting prospect to stand in a classroom in front of 30 students who can’t understand what you’re saying and trying to teach them English.
You’re Not Expected to Know Everything
You will feel the expectation of having to have all of the answers when faced with a question and you just won’t. You’ll suddenly feel anxious and wonder if you’re up to the task of teaching English as a foreign language. Relax and take a deep breath and remember that you are not expected to know everything. Even experienced TEFL teachers will refer to reference books when they are faced with a question they’re not certain about.
You’re the Expert
While it is important that you don’t put the pressure on your shoulders of having to know everything, you do have to remember that you are the expert in that room when it comes to the English language. It is okay to tell your students that you’re not sure of the answer. Don’t lie though in an attempt to save face if they ask you a challenging question. Remember, your word is gold in that classroom. You do not want those students leaving your classroom with the wrong answer because you wanted to save your pride.
Plan Your Lessons
You’ve been speaking English all of your life. You’re a native-English speaker, so teaching English as a foreign language to a classroom full of students who don’t know any better is going to be simple, right? Wrong! You can’t just go into a classroom and wing it. The most experienced of TEFL teachers plan their lessons because they want their classes to be successful learning environments. The TEFL course gives you a lot of lesson planning advice so don’t worry if the prospect of creating a lesson plan intimidates you. Creating your lesson plans might take you a long time, which might make you think you’re doing it wrong – don’t worry, you’re likely not. Lesson planning can be quite time consuming at the start, but as with everything, the more you do it, the more efficient and effective you will become.
Teaching Should be Fun
Underneath all of those challenges and nerves, remember that teaching should be fun. You should be having fun helping your students overcome the difficulties of the English language, just as they should be having fun in your classroom. If no-one is enjoying your classes, then you need to revaluate how you’re doing things. Try to think of ways to instil the fun element into your classroom.
You Will Miss Life Events
Okay, this is something about teaching English abroad that just plain sucks. You are going to be working abroad and living your best life when something happens all the way back home. It might be that your best friend is getting married, the family pet has died or someone close to you has lost a relative, and you can’t be there for them. There are so many things that will tempt you to go back to where you feel like you are needed. Don’t be impulsive and do anything rash like pack your bags and quit your job on the spot. Figure out if you can take the required time off and think carefully if you being there is honestly necessary. Your first instinct is to say yes, it is, but life does tend to move on..
You Can’t Change the System
Everything is wrong! That’s not how things are done! You know better and if you were given the power you could change things and make everything work better!
Those are the feelings you’ll probably have when you’re teaching English abroad in a foreign country. Their rules, culture and regulations are extremely different to what you’re used to. No matter how strange they might seem to you, you have to be respectful of the customs of your host country.
You Will Get Lonely
You will get a little lonely when you first start the challenging job of being a TEFL teacher. Not knowing the language can be tough. Even if you know the language, you will have to deal with culture shock too. Those first few weeks might make you question your life choices if you don’t embrace your new environment. Setting a routine and making friends with your colleagues and students will help any bouts of loneliness pass.
Being a new TEFL teacher can be tough transition. The TEFL teaching career is one that requires patience, understanding, acceptance and a strong will to overcome challenges. Check out our blog post on traits you need to teach English abroad so you can fully prepare yourself for your awaiting adventure.