So, you’ve decided to pack your bags and move across the world. Not only are you just moving across the world to a completely different culture, but you are about to teach the youth of that culture. Most likely you’ve come to terms with the fact that this move is terrifying, whilst being incredibly exciting. After almost three years of teaching abroad (both in Spain and Thailand), here are my biggest pieces of advice for you first-year teachers to help make this move a little easier. To answer your question, yes the students will be crazy, but yes it will be so worth it.
1) Get to know your students
This is so so so important. When I student taught, this was the first piece of advice my cooperating teacher gave me and I’ve ran with it ever since.
When a student notices that you have a genuine interest in them, they will have a genuine interest in you, and in return will have higher respect for you. Really take the time to learn their names, no matter if you have 30 students a day or 200. I was also always told that those few minutes before class starts are some of the most important minutes of the day, and little things like standing outside the door and greeting every student before they come in make a bigger difference than you will even realize.
I’m not saying this is a foolproof plan, but it definitely makes the job easier and worth it. This is especially true when you’re crying at the end of the year at the fact that you have to leave them!
2) Work with your colleagues
As hard as this can be when you’re an outsider to the culture you are working in, make it a point to work with your colleagues. Whether this be other native English speakers like yourself or teachers that have worked there 20+ years, listen to their ideas and bounce ideas off of each other. You will learn so much and in return become a better educator.
3) Have a back up plan
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve looked at the clock after a lesson I thought was going to last the full 50 minutes but only lasted 20. Students can sense panic right away, so it’s crucial to have a back up plan if your lesson is cut short. Games, riddles, trivia, etc will save you a lot of awkward silence, or in Spain and Thailand’s case, students that bounce off the wall once there’s any sign of a lesson finishing. My number one go-to’s are Green Glass Door, Taboo, Head’s Up, idioms, and these whiteboard activities. My students in Thailand also LOVE to draw, and its the only thing that keeps them silent. As seen below, I literally make up things as I go (please excuse my drawings). What the kids don’t know won’t hurt them.
Google is also your friend in this case, because there are thousands of resources out there! 🙂
4) Keep an open mind
Whether you went to college to become a teacher or this will be your first classroom ever, there is a high chance that the classroom you enter when you first teach abroad will be shockingly different from the classrooms you grew up in/are used to. While working within Spain and Thailand’s education systems, I have constantly found myself saying with eyes wide-open, “this would never fly in the States”. I have had to slowly teach myself that this isn’t the States and never will be the States. With that, I stopped comparing the three education systems and started accepting what ultimately has ended up being my job for almost 3 years. Prepared to be overly frustrated, angry, annoyed…but also to laugh more than you ever have in any other classroom.
5) Remember where you came from and how you got there
Remember, you have packed up and moved 3000+ miles away from your home. I feel like this gets lost in hindsight when you’re trying to keep your head above water your first year teaching abroad but always keep this in mind because no one can take that away from you. Be proud of your accomplishments, all the decisions you made to get to that point, and how far you have come to be in that exact classroom. Most of all, have fun and get excited for the best, life-changing year of your life! You’re there for a reason, and at the end of the year it makes it all worth it.
Teaching abroad soon and have questions? I’d love to answer them! Leave me a comment in the section below 🙂
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