On a scale from 1 to 10, how confusing is your first job? You just got out of college, but you have to deal with real-life responsibilities – bills, budgeting, and tons of daily tasks that require full attention. When you’re dealing with students, stress levels get really high.
TEFL jobs are fun and noble! You help your students surpass different obstacles on the path towards fluency, and they will be forever grateful if you play the role of a teacher well enough. However, the first month on a TEFL job can get really intimidating.
I worked as an EFL teacher in South Korea for almost two years. The confused faces of my students were cute, but they challenged me in ways I never predicted. I was shocked by the new culture, language, and way of life, so it took quite some time for me to adapt my lifestyle to those surroundings. After a long period of adaptation, I finally learned how to enjoy the experience.
Once you get the job, you can continue implementing the following strategies:
Create a comfortable living space
It took me a lot of time for me to realize that living in a motel was not the brightest ideas. That place was the main culprit for my inability to deal with the culture shock. As soon as I rented an apartment and started cooking for myself, I made a shift: I started viewing South Korea as my temporary home.
Here is how you can learn from my experience: rent an apartment as soon as you get that job. Don’t eat at restaurants and don’t act like a tourist. Of course you will meet new people and you’ll visit the landmarks of your destination, but you need to make an effort to create a home there.
Learn everything you can about your students
Since you’re teaching English, it’s easy for you to get some personal information from your students. Ask them to write short papers about their interests, passions, and dreams. Ask them what they want to be in future. Remember this information, since it will help you craft your lectures in a way that’s suitable for the class you’re dealing with.
The curriculum you prepare in advance won’t necessarily fit into the new environment. You will have to observe the culture in order to tailor a specific program. The information you get from your students will help you do that.
Be a student, too
You will have some free time on your hands, so sign up for a language course to pick up some words and phrases that will help you get around.
This knowledge will also make you a better teacher. English teachers always insist on explaining the terms and concepts in English, but knowing the native language of your students is certainly helpful, especially when they are beginners.
Keep the students engaged with fun activities
Before I went to South Korea, I had tons of activities on my mind. However, I soon realized that my students didn’t like the classic ESL games. It was a different culture, so I had to think of activities suitable for these students. Do you know what they loved? Walks! When I had a chance, I transferred the classes into the nearby park. In such relaxed environment, I could easily get the students enthusiastic with different activities.
During the first month on your new job, you need to understand what teaching style your students like. Experiment with the lesson format until you discover the most suitable activities. Your job will be much easier after that.
Go over the technicalities
It’s important for you to get health insurance and understand what exactly it covers. Inform yourself about the payment schedule, vacations, and all other technicalities related to the job. Visiting offices in a foreign country is not a fun activity, but it’s something you must do as soon as you get there.
You also need to know the rules of the school. Talk to your colleagues to get such information, since you need to fit into the new culture as soon as possible.
That’s the most important piece of advice I can give. You are the only one responsible for turning this chance into a memorable experience. The first month won’t be easy, but it will make you a stronger person. The five tips above will give you a nice starting point.