For many TEFL teachers, when they first start teaching, there is an impulse to feel like an impostor. After all, the only requirement that most schools have is that you have a university degree of some sort and that you’ve completed a TEFL course or equivalent. I remember that feeling my first day of teaching. It was as if somebody had made some horrible mistake. Surely I couldn’t be entrusted with these students English language acquisition.
It’s a feeling that I’ve since observed in many new teachers that I’ve had the pleasure of training and/or teaching with. That first month or so can be a bit daunting turning theory into practice and constantly second guessing one’s self. Read on for five negative feelings that all, or at least most, TEFL teachers have when they first start teaching and some strategies for overcoming them.
If you’d like a free resource with some routines, rules and structures to set up on the first day with young learners or teens, you can download them by clicking on the link below.
My TEFL course didn’t prepare me for the courses I’m actually teaching.
It did. As long as it was a good course that went through credible TEFL methodology, it is a good base for real teaching. This doesn’t mean that your job, as a new teacher, is over. This is the start of your TEFL education.
If you’re going to be teaching young learners, consider doing a YL extension course. At the very least, read a few books about teaching young learners. There is a lot of overlap with teaching adults and young learners, it will just take a little practical experience and experimentation to make it work. My advice for overcoming this feeling is to observe as many teachers as possible who are teaching similar age groups and levels.
Also, after a few weeks of teaching, return to your core readings from the course. A lot of things that may not have made sense during the course will be a lot easier to understand after you’ve been teaching for a while.
The students miss their old teacher and don’t like me. I’ll never be as good as them.
True, they might miss their old teacher’s personality and specific way of doing things for a few weeks, but they will get over it. The sad truth, especially when it comes to children, is that they get over these transitions faster than the teacher who left them. As children, the world is in a constant state of change and flux. Soon, they’ll barely remember who the last teacher even was.
One way to speed this process and make it less awkward is to work on transitioning the class with the help of the previous teacher. Try to get as much information as possible regarding the types of routines and activities they used in class. If possible, try to be introduced by the leaving teacher so that they aren’t as shocked that first day.
I am planning all the time.
Good for you. This means that you are taking your classes seriously and not trying to just skate on by. The first month or two, it’s reasonable that it might take you as long to plan the class as to teach the class. You are learning a new skill and are rightfully terrified about going into the classroom without a plan.
This will pass. Eventually, you’ll be teaching things that you’ve taught before and you’ll have built up a sizable chest of activities. Until that time, it will take a bit longer.
I don’t have enough games and activities. My students are getting bored.
Like the previous point, this too will get easier. Eventually, you’ll be walking around town constantly thinking of ways to gamify aspects of your life. Sitting down and looking at a page in the book will instantly fill your mind with fun ideas for role-plays, projects and games. But, what do you do in the meantime?
There are a number of strategies for creating new games and other types of classroom activities. In the coming weeks I will be writing a post specifically about this issue. For new teachers, I think the best way to come up with classroom activities is by observing and talking with your peers. When you observe a fellow teacher, make sure to note different classroom activities. Don’t merely write the type of game, make note of how they introduced the game and facilitated it throughout.
Another good source of games is you. Think back to your childhood and different activities you played at different phases of your life. Many of these can be adapted to a language classroom (yes, some will even work with adults). Another place of revery that will guide you to game ideas are drinking games that you may have heard of…or perhaps even played. Obviously you’ll want to remove the drinking aspect, but the game itself might work in a classroom setting.
One such game that I’ve used is “Never Ending Sentence”. It’s a relatively simple idea that works great as a warmer for higher level young learners or pre-intermediate adult students and above. The basic idea is that the first player says a word. The person next to them says the next word in a sentence. The game ends when the next player can’t think of a way to extend the sentence. Usually this is followed the command “DRINK”, but in a classroom you can change the penalty to whatever you’d like.
Another place to look is online on websites and blogs (much like this one). Go online from time to time and set a goal for yourself to come up with five activities you’ve never tried before. This will last you for weeks, possibly a month or so when combined with activities your students are already familiar with.
These textbooks are crazy. They don’t reflect real spoken English.
I understand the basic idea here. You look at the language being taught and think that you’ve never said those exact words in your life. It’s important to remember that language learning is a process. You can’t start all the way at the finish line where you are talking to your students at a natural pace without grading your language at all. The start, quite often is simply learning to say hello and introduce yourself in the most basic way.
After that, it’s useful to learn a few basic questions (not in regional slang) and slowly build up vocabulary. Whether or not you make sure to be grammatically correct with everything you say in a casual setting, it is important that your students learn these rules. You can’t teach past perfect without having taught present perfect. You can’t teach present perfect without having taught past simple. It’s a process.
If you are a new teacher, a few items from the above list have likely struck a chord. The most important thing is to be patient; it will get easier. Also, as you are the one in front of the class and are looked at as being in charge of the classroom, I advise you to feign confidence until you actually feel it. Trust me, it will make things go more smoothly.
If you’d like a few routines, rules and tips for starting a new class of young learners or teens, you can download a free resource by clicking on the button below.