A breakdown on why you don’t need teaching experience
Teaching English as a gap year (potentially years!) seems to be an ever growing trendy choice. Of course, it would be amazing to live in a country that is completely different to what you know but what about the job part of it, could you actually be a teacher?
I was always hesitant about doing something like this, especially given the fact that I had not studied teaching and other than some scattered volunteering and tutoring, I did not have teaching experience.
There had to be method to the madness of advertising teaching jobs where the requirements consist of a degree in anything and completion of the TEFL course (Teaching English As A Foreign Language). If your mother tongue is English, you would be greatly surprised by how valued that alone is. You’ll also surprise yourself with how much you know about the English language, we tend to take it for granted because we speak it every day.
In completing the TEFL course, you will be exposed to how lessons should be structured and how to plan a lesson. This is a big part of the job so learning this covers a lot of ground. I went further than the online course and also completed a practical 20 hour TEFL course which consisted of me teaching 2 lessons and getting feedback on same.
This was illuminating in taking the theory I had learnt from the online course and translating that into how things work in a classroom setting. However I think that even if you only opt for the online course, you will still be well on your way to teaching.
When I arrived in Shanghai, I had a two day orientation introducing me (and the other new teachers) to the structure of the company we would be teaching for as well as a broad overview of our roles.
This was followed by a week of one-on-one training. I would describe this as very intensive with an exponential learning curve. It started off as observing classes and slowly being introduced to some day to day administration. However, it built up to me quickly teaching parts of a lesson and then eventually on the last 2 days teaching a lesson in its entirety.
It was utterly nerve wracking. To be in front of a classroom full of expectant 4 year olds and feel like you don’t know anything. Getting through the first few minutes is the hardest but you quickly realise you do know things. I had prepared a lesson plan so I just needed to refer to that to refresh myself and follow through. It was difficult to relax but I slowly realised that the students all saw me as the teacher – it was just time for me to see myself as one.
I am very lucky with the company that I work for in that we have monthly training on different topics relevant to our teaching.
This has proven to be so helpful in continually learning and improving in the teacher role. The school I work at is also well resourced in terms of materials as well as the other teachers that work there. There are detailed teaching guides and I know that I can always turn to one of the other teachers if I ever need any help with lesson planning or implementation.
Not having teaching experience doesn’t need to be an overwhelming idea as long as you have the right tools and a support system where you work. Completing the TEFL course will give you an idea of what you are getting into and start your teaching foundation. Hopefully, the teaching job you get doesn’t require you to teach right away but rather provides you with training and mentoring to ensure that you are equipped to handle a room full of expectant children!