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Teaching your students is the first priority

Many foreign language teachers choose to pursue the career as a feasible means of satisfying their traveling dreams. While there is nothing wrong with that idea in theory, it can prove to be too big of a distraction if not properly focused. Yes, traveling while you are teaching abroad is an exciting opportunity that should not be missed. However, you have to keep in mind that you are in the position you are in, first and foremost, to teach your students. You will need to develop a proper work-life balance in order to maturely handle your professional responsibilities with your extracurricular and social activities.

Teaching tips that newcomers and veterans should consider

The language barrier is an undeniable hurdle when it comes to teaching English as a foreign language. Fortunately, there are several ways to work around the obvious obstacles it presents. For starters, find creative and logical ways to avoid using oral language as your sole means of communication with your students. For example, they may not understand when you say a certain term or phrase, but they will understand when you show it to them. Take the word “apple.” Young students are more likely to understand what you mean when you use the word if you show them a picture of it at the same time. Better yet, bring a real apple to class. Allow the students to pass it around, feel it, smell it. Another simple and fun solution is to have your students act out new terms and phrases whenever possible. If action words such as “run,” “jump,” “fly,” etc. appear during our lessons, I often allow the class to take a moment to act out that action. It serves as a fun break for them and is a useful trick for having them remember the words. Get creative!

Using resources to help create an effective lesson plan

Beyond the language barrier, many new foreign language teachers stress about developing lesson plans. It can be difficult to know where to begin and what to include in your presentations. The first thing you should do is get a hold of your school’s English textbook; it will be a useful reference for you in developing your own plans but should not be something you are entirely beholden to. Use it for the sake of knowing what topics your students are learning and as a starting point for creative ideas of your own. There are also endless resources and fully-developed plans that can be found online. Don’t be shy about using these as references for your own plans, but do be sure to personalize them to you and your classes. Further, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Yes, creativity and fun ideas are certainly encouraged, but don’t forget that simplicity holds value as well. With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas. You should always be asking yourself, “Is this working? Are my students learning what they need to learn? If not, what should I adjust?” Perhaps most importantly, plan more than you think you’ll need. You never want to get through all of your material in a lesson only to realize you still have ten minutes of class time remaining and nothing for your students to do. I like to reward my well-behaved classes with fun videos in English if we finish early, or occasionally games such as “Teacher (Simon) Says.”

Practical things to consider beyond teaching

TEFL encompasses so much more than just teaching. Below is a list of things to bear in mind as you enter into a career in TEFL:
– What salary are you being offered; how does it fit within the region’s cost of living?
– How difficult/easy will it be to obtain your visa?
– Does your school/company reimburse you for airfare? Visa costs? Rent?
– Are you offered health insurance?
– Is your apartment conveniently located? Near your school? Near public transport? Near the city’s social spots?
– How many teaching hours will you be expected to do per work? How many office hours?
– What kinds of professional development opportunities will be available?
– What grade level(s) will you be teaching?
– Will you be teaching oral English? Reading? Anything else?
– What extra responsibilities will be expected of you?
– What is your pay schedule?

Prioritize your students’ education, use creative methods, and prepare more materials than necessary. Doing all of this while keeping the above questions in mind will allow you to be off to a great start in your TEFL career!

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SDE International - Shenzhen

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About the Author:

Brendan O'Shea
Brendan O'Shea is an EFL teacher, freelance writer, and wannabe world traveler living in Shenzhen, China. Between exploring new destinations, Brendan enjoys reading, playing chess, and following sports. Follow his teaching and traveling journey on Twitter and Instagram, or read up on his experiences on his personal blog: Teach and Travels!
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