So you’ve pulled the trigger and decided to teach in China. You’ve hopped on a plane, signed a contract, and gotten settled in your new apartment. You’ve probably also gone to teacher orientation, sat in on a class or two, and made a lesson plan for your first class. Congratulations! But what now? What are the final things you can do to prepare for the beginning of your teaching journey? Worry not, and follow this handy guide to get through the final steps of preparing for your very first day of class.
Go Over Your Class
Practice multiple times! Don’t just look over your notes – actually teach the whole class in real time, out loud, probably more than once. Ask a friend to ask as a student, even. You are going to feel really silly doing this, but it’s going to help you out tons when you actually get up in front of students on the first day of class. And besides, it’s better to feel silly in the comfort of your bathroom mirror than in front of dozens of gawking elementary schoolers.
Going over your material is helpful for a number of reasons. First, it will help you work out exactly what you want to say, and how you want to explain different concepts. You might realize that something that seemed obvious in your head is a lot more complicated when you’re trying to explain it out loud. And don’t worry about sounding stilted from practicing too much. You’re much more likely to sound confident and breezy knowing what will come next in your presentation than you would worrying about timing and the structure of your class.
Anticipate Your Audience
As you’re going over your class, try to imagine a room of students in front of you. What questions might they ask? How will you remember names, pick on students, and make sure the class is engaged? How will you respond to interruptions or bad behavior?
Anticipating the students’ reaction will make you more confident in the class itself, and it will help you anticipate any questions or bumps that might occur.
Embrace the Stress
Your first day of class is going to be stressful, plain and simple. Whether your class is comprised of 50+ rowdy 11-year-olds, 25 kindergarteners who don’t have a clue what’s going on, or 6 kids staring you down in a training center, you are probably going to feel some amount of anxiety. And that’s perfectly normal! Being anxious doesn’t mean that you’re weak or a bad teacher; it means that you’re having a perfectly normal reaction to an unfamiliar situation. So assume that you will be nervous (assuming you’re not some type of superhuman who never gets stressed, in which case WOW and please tell me your secret), and think about strategies for channeling those nerves.
Do a power pose in the bathroom before class, listen to pump-up jams, dance around your bedroom, yell. Turn your stress into energy to make your class fun and engaging. And if you feel overwhelmed in class, allow yourself a moment to breathe and refocus. Remember that you’re actually doing a great job, even if you feel like you’re getting run over by a truck over and over.
Double and Triple Check All of Your Props
When I was teaching kindergarten, I made a very fun and exciting large box that the children could climb in, under, and around for parents’ open day. I was so excited for the kids to see the box and want to play with it, and for the parents to see what a creative and committed teacher I was. Imagine my chagrin, then, when the box broke within moments of a student trying to climb in it. Instead of looking like a fun and prepared teacher, I looked kind of silly and was left to scramble for an alternate prop to use.
While these things do happen and they’re absolutely not the end of the world, you can mitigate disaster by testing all materials thoroughly before class. If you’re using props, do everything the kids might do with them before class to make sure they’re fully functional and sturdy. Another important thing to do is test your PowerPoint on the actual computer you’ll be using in class, if you have a PowerPoint. Make sure the projector works, that any videos you have play properly, that the sound is on and you know where everything is on the computer. It’s also a good idea to have everything downloaded on a thumb drive so you’re not reliant on spotty WIFI in the classroom.
Tuck your shirt in, smile in the mirror, and relax. Whatever happens in the first class will not make or break your teaching career. Yes, you should prepare, but your school knows that this is your first day of teaching. Something will go wrong, and it is not your job to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. So don’t let the job overwhelm you. You will learn and improve as you get more teaching experience, and you’ll become more familiar with your class. So relax, have fun, and good luck with it!