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5 tips to survive your first day teaching English abroad


Most people’s first day at a new job is daunting, but for those starting a new career in another country it can be even more so. I remember my first day teaching in China and the nerves I felt before stepping into the classroom for the first time. I’m not fond of being the centre of attention so was more than a little apprehensive, but after only one month I found myself standing in university lecture halls in front of 60 students and feeling intensely proud of myself. If I can do it, anyone can! So, without further ado here are my 5 top tips to help calm those first-day nerves for new English teachers!

1. Spend a good deal of time going over your first lesson plan in advance

Being well prepared is key to any endeavour and teaching is no different. Prepare your lesson plan early in advance and have a colleague check over it. Rehearse it with others if possible and learn it inside out so when you are in the classroom you won’t have to keep referring to it (though even if you need to refer back, no one will blame you for the first few weeks while you find your rhythm).

Note: I find it very useful to have one or two “emergency” activities in case you finish more quickly than you had anticipated. This can be anything from a simple speaking activity to drawing, question and answer or word games like hangman.

2. Talk to other teachers

Everyone at your school will have been in the same position at one point so it can be comforting to talk to your new colleagues to get some practical advice. If you are lucky enough to be starting at the same time as other new teachers then you can compare lesson plans and talk over your different strategies. It always helps to have a second or even third opinion and this will leave you feeling more confident. After the class talk over your performance with others too as they will be able to offer advice and constructive criticism about any concerns you might have. 

3. Don’t worry

Even the best teachers start out somewhere and everyone has a tale about one of their early classes going badly. Even if things don’t go exactly to plan, no one will blame you, so don’t worry! Make sure you are well prepared, get some good rest the night before (don’t be tempted to go out partying or stay up late before class) and get up early so you can run through your lesson plan. Go for a walk and get some fresh air so your mind is sharp and clear.

4. Let your students get to know a little bit about you

If you are teaching youngsters, then they will be very interested to learn about their new teacher. Why not start by asking them if they have any questions about you (they always do)? This will break the ice and you can naturally tell them about yourself, your family, your country and so forth with ease. The same applies to adult students, but if you are teaching pre-school age children then obviously this isn’t going to work so just prepare some fun games to play.

5. Have fun

Teaching English is an intensely rewarding job and above all it can be very fun. If you are relaxed and smiling the students will reciprocate and you will find it makes the class a lot more enjoyable for both teacher and students. As stated above, have some fun games ready to put everyone at ease. If students are having fun they will be more open to learning and won’t see it as a chore. Start off well and the students will be looking forward to your next class.

And that’s it! If you are reading this in anticipation of your first day teaching English abroad, then I wish you luck! I’ve been doing the job for two years now and still love every day of it! 

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