While teaching abroad is exciting, challenging and well just pretty awesome, moving to a new job, house and country at the same time can be a bit overwhelming. So, if you’re feeling a little nervous about the whole thing, try doing some of these – they’ll help to put your mind at rest…
1) Do a TEFL course
While doing a TEFL course won’t prepare you for every classroom eventuality (for example, there’s no module on what to do when a student starts eating pencils!), however, it will prepare you for the realities of life in the classroom, including how to plan lessons, what a past participle is and how to prevent an all out rebellion against you! Do a TEFL course and, not only will your employment prospects rocket, but it will also help you to feel confident to step into your first first classroom.
2) Do your research
There’s nothing more frightening than heading into the unknown, so it’s going to help you if you do your research before! Free eBooks like TEFL Uncovered: How to Teach Your Way Abroad with TEFL (http://www.onlinetefl.com/contact-tefl-team/tefl-ebook.html) will give you a great overview of what teaching is like in different countries and what you can expect in the classroom. Once you get offered a job, it’s really tempting to accept it straight away. Research the school first! It’s a good idea to Google the name of the school and ‘review’ – you may find out why there is such a high staff turnover. In addition to this get to know the area you’ll be working – read some guidebooks or simply get on Google Earth for a bird’s eye view. It’ll all help to put your mind at rest.
See it doesn’t look that scary does it???
3) Take part in a supported program
If you would love to teach overseas, but you’re not quite confident enough to do it alone, a supported program, such as i-to-i’s Teach in China Internship (http://www.onlinetefl.com/teaching-internships/china/) might just be what you need. You get full training, a 14-day orientation period which is great to ease you into Chinese culture, on top of that you get 24-hour support throughout your time in-country. In addition, your accommodation and food is included in the internship fee, meaning you just have to concentrate on becoming a great teacher, and having the experience of a lifetime of course!
4) Have some resources tucked up your sleeve
Any experienced teacher will tell you that, no matter how well thought out your lesson plans, there will always be times when you have to resort to plan B, C or maybe even D! So, before you step foot in the classroom for the first time, make sure you have some tried and tested activities to fall back on if and when things start getting a little hectic. The activities in i-to-i tutor Emma Foers’s free eBook, 20 Classroom Activities for Elementary Learners are a great start. Download your free copy here: http://www.onlinetefl.com/activities-book/
If you’re feeling nervous about moving to a new country, the best people to talk to are those who are currently living and working there. And with the wonders of the internet it’s now easier than ever to do just that! Sign-up to i-to-i’s online TEFL community, Chalkboard, to meet thousands of people who are teaching all over the world: http://www.onlinetefl.com/tefl-chalkboard/ – they’ll be able to give you a great idea of what life out there is really like and hopefully calm some of those niggling worries.
6) Learn a bit of the local language before you go
While you don’t need to know the local language in order to teach overseas (schools will want an English-speaking atmosphere in their classroom), it’s handy to know a few words of the local lingo so you’re not totally overwhelmed when you touch down. The BBC website has a free ‘Quickfix’ section of essential phrases: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/other/quickfix/ or sites like LiveMocha enable you to learn the basics of a language online for free: http://www.livemocha.com/.
7) Keep an open mind
Most major TEFL destinations (China, South Korea, Thailand etc) have cultures that can feel very, very alien to most westerners: you may be confronted with things that seem frustrating, strange or just plain wrong. The only remedy for this is keeping an open mind and remembering that you decided to go overseas to experience another culture, not make everyone behave in a way that’s acceptable to your own.
What do you think? How did you make going abroad less scary?