People across the world dream of having the opportunity to travel endlessly with an income, and many have found that Teaching English Abroad is the balance of work and play they’ve been seeking. Though not all TEFL graduates end up with lifelong teaching careers, most do take the opportunity to teach abroad at some point in their lives gaining new skills, learning new languages, making new friends, and exploring lands unknown to them. Here are some statements made by new EFL teachers and how to maneuver the stresses of being a first time English teacher.
“Do I even know English?!”
“When I first decided I’d teach English abroad, I didn’t realize how little of the language I actually knew. During the grammar week of my TEFL course, I felt like an ESL student myself. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, oh my! I’ve always considered myself to be educated and speak properly, but I couldn’t explain why “many clothes” and not “much clothes” is correct. Because it just is? I doubted I could ever be an English teacher at this point, but you soon learn that all you need to really do is study! During my practical teaching week, ready or not, I was expected to stand in front of real ESL students and conduct a class. Every night during that week, myself and my peers spent hours preparing lessons that were both fun and engaging, and educational! I quickly learned intermediate-advanced English grammar, and coordinated with other EFL teachers on the best ways to present complex lessons. Not only was I successful at teaching English to my students, but I was learning along with them everyday.”
“I don’t have the patience for this!”
Yes, you do. And if you don’t, add it to the list of skills you will gain while teaching English abroad. Patience is one key you don’t realize will catapult your success as a teacher until you are in the classroom. As a new teacher, you should expect that your first few lessons might not go perfectly. You might become discouraged or even frustrated, and that’s fine! But don’t let these negative feelings stop you! Every teacher has strategies and methods that work for them, but everyone is different. Be patient and you will figure out your own style for dealing with disruptions, clarifying lessons, and resolving various situations as an EFL teacher!
“Culture Shock is Real”
While researching a TEFL program, you’ll likely come across the term “culture shock” Though it can be a hard term to grasp while at home, culture shock isn’t something to take lightly. Lots of determined EFL teachers pack their bags to teach in some far away foreign land only to leave weeks later because they couldn’t adapt to the culture.
Although there’s no way to avoid culture shock, there are a few surefire ways to prevent its effects. Firstly, do as much research as possible about your chosen destination. Read up on the local customs, traditions, and beliefs so as not to offend anyone or feel embarrassed about a social faux pas. Read blogs of current teachers living there, connect with expats on social media forums, review country guides, or take a language class.
“I’m so confused”
Living and working abroad will definitely put you in a place where you’ll be confronted with situations you won’t understand, and that’s completely understandable! The best way to deal with these awkward encounters is to be super open with the locals.
Don’t try to convince others that the way you do things is “the right way”. Afterall, you’re a guest in their country, and you should be respectful of their routines and traditions. At the same time, don’t compromise your own beliefs or morals. Be respectful, play it cool, abide by local laws, but remember to stay true to your own values. It’s all about finding a balance.
Awkward silence refers to the phone conversations you might have with family and friends. Though it’s always going to be a sweet feeling to catch up with people back home, you realize a level of disconnect can take place. As you rant about the difficulties of your daily life abroad, don’t expect your network from home to be completely understanding. Not having the experience of living abroad first hand makes it hard for others to relate.
Others might bombard you with questions like “When are you coming home?” But realize that this is only because they can’t imagine half the things you’re learning and experiencing. Also, some people might just be jealous and that’s another aspect you’ll have to accept about the evolution of your relationships back home.
Having baffling, or even discouraging moments as a first time English Teacher is completely normal. With support from more seasoned professionals, the guidance of a TEFL course, time in your new home country, and experience in the classroom you’ll gain the confidence and knowledge to teach English to all levels of students in countries all over the world, helping you to establish your dream of traveling with an income.