Becoming a Teacher and teaching English as a foreign language can be a daunting experience for anyone. Especially if you have never professionally taught before or handled a class of 20+ students. Here’s some top tips I have learnt since becoming a TEFL teacher 6 months ago, hope they may help your experience too!
- Enjoy it! There’s nothing less motivating to children if their Teacher isn’t happy. I once had a student from a different grade tell me they didn’t like a particular lesson because their Teacher was always angry. Motivate your students by motivating yourself!
- Expect informality – In Thailand, Parent’s view Teachers very highly and are often happy to bring you gifts from their children or take you out for dinner. They want to let you know if their children aren’t coming into school so may ask for your phone number and email address, just give what you’re comfortable with.
- Dress appropriately – Thailand is a Buddhist country which includes a very respectable dress code. Males need to wear a shirt and tie to school and females are required to have their shoulders covered and wear skirts no shorter than knee length. Don’t turn up for school or interviews/demo lessons in your normal clothes, you need to make a good impression!
- Have good classroom management strategies – Nothing worse than have 30 children running around in the classroom or refusing to work and talking to their friends instead. Have some good management strategies lined up before you start. Don’t worry though, it takes a while to gain control over a class, just keep at it. I have a few strategies I’ve learnt since becoming a teacher that might help if your teaching Kindergarten to grade 3:
– Good job tickets reward scheme (if children do a good job for someone or do well in their work, they will get a good job ticket. After 5, they can exchange for a prize, be it a toy or some stickers. If they haven’t been on their best behaviour, give them a warning and then take away a good job ticket if they carry on – work’s wonders!
– Faces on the board (The green face is happy, yellow is a warning and red is the angry face. If children have done well, they go on the green, if they have been given 2 warnings about the same issue (such as talking whilst the teacher is) they will go on the yellow. If they are told a 3rd time, their name will be placed on the red face and they will lose out on golden time (free time) or short class games/activities.
– Classroom jobs. I’ve made a few class jobs for the children and they love the responsibility. The quiet crew, distributers (to hand out books), 5 minute warning, lights (my students love this one as they know they might be watching a video or playing a game!) and the cleaners (erasing the whiteboard and making sure everything is away ready for their next lesson). They have these duties for a week but if they haven’t been good, I will erase their name and choose someone else.
- Expect disorganisation – Thailand is known for being the ‘land of smiles’ but it’s also known to be very last minute. If you expect this before you come, you’ll fit right in. I struggled at the beginning, not being told about wearing a particular colour until the last minute of school the night before, therefore having to go out and buy something that night! There’s quite a separation being a Farang member of staff, in that Thai’s will often know important information before Farang’s. They will always let you know, it might just be right before something happens!
- Be prepared – Sometimes you may be given a class to teach without much notice. This can be difficult if the Teacher’s lesson plan is basic and you haven’t taught the class before. Be prepared by having a few back up lesson ideas for all ages or games children can play to help in the lesson.
- Be consistent – Children have a great ability to remember things you wouldn’t think they would. If a child misbehaves, explain your discipline method and why the child is being disciplined. Stick to it – if another child does the same thing, make sure to discipline them using the same method. Children will remember that you ‘didn’t punish him but your punishing me for the same thing!’
- Don’t be too harsh on the kids – Learning a new language is difficult, particularly one that is so different from your native language. Children in Thailand learn a foreign language from such a young age, they are incredible, don’t forget that! I have 5 year olds who can speak fluently in English and Thai and are learning Chinese too!
- Thai children can be timid – A lot of Thai children feel shy and timid in their lessons, often unwilling to put their hands up to answer questions aloud for fear of getting them wrong. Try and encourage them to get involved and that any answer is a good answer.
- Have fun! Nothing is worse than sitting behind a desk 6 hours a day and writing in books. This is important and their work has to be completed but try to teach the concepts in a fun way! Think of ways children can work with their friends or use objects to help them get creative! My class had to learn about patterns for maths, so instead of looking at different patterns in the books all lesson, I took them on a walk around the school to draw any patterns we see. Simple but effective!