With the new school year fast approaching, many of us will shortly be starting a new TEFL job. It is always a nerve-racking experience starting something new and the more prepared you are the better. This article will outline the main tips and suggestions to make your new transition as smooth as possible.
Check the route to work and practice if possible
Traffic in Vietnam is unpredictable and chaotic – a road that seems relatively easy one afternoon may quickly turn into a non-moveable traffic jam the next morning so if at all possible try to take the route to your new TEFL job at the same time that you will be traveling so that you are able to judge the time needed. Also, bear in mind that traffic dramatically increases when public schools are open.
If this is not possible, then at least try to take the route so that you are familiar with the directions and will be able to navigate your way. This is applicable both if you are riding your own bike or taking a Grab – all too often Grab drivers rely on the passenger having some idea of where they are trying to get to.
Make sure that you allow yourself more than enough to arrive and sort yourself out upon arrival. You will need to arrive and be directed to your room / collect materials / organise yourself etc. – leave more than enough time for these basic tasks.
Be prepared to listen and do not be afraid to ask
When starting a new TEFL job, everything is new – the environment, the people, the students, the curriculum – the list is endless. The key to adapting quickly and easily is to listen well. If you are afraid that you will forget, things then do not be embarrassed to get out a notebook and simply explain that you wish to write things down so that you can remember. This applies to everything from the head teacher’s name – your room number and schedule – to the dress code.
As well as listening, it is important to ask – you are not expected to know everything immediately and it is better to ask in the first few days than pretend you know and then be too embarrassed later on, as you really should know by then.
The following outlines the essential things that you should know or find out as soon as possible when starting a new TEFL job:
- The hierarchy of the school/language school –is there a headteacher/deputy head? Head of studies?
- Who is your direct line manager?
- Whom do you contact in case of difficulties or questions? –both in relation to the academic side as well as the HR side for pay etc.
- The yearly calendar – along with holidays
- What to do if you are sick and unable to attend class
- How to book annual leave
- Resources – whether there is a resource room
- The location of the bathrooms
- Staffroom rules – e.g. whether eating is allowed in the room / whether you need to bring your own cup / whether you need to contribute to a tea/coffee fund / whether there is free seating or allocated seating
- Peer observation – if it possible for you to go in and observe some other classes so that you are able to gain more knowledge of the school/language centres expectations
Within the classroom
- Whether you can move the furniture around in your classroom
- The policy for putting things on the walls
- Homework policy
- Textbooks used and how to obtain your own copies
- Stationary use (both for your own use and for pupils)
- Additional materials – if you need additional materials is there a school budget for this?
- Discipline policy
- How to take the register and where to submit it
- The lesson plan format and where, who and how to submit it
- Communication with parents – how, when and where is this allowed?
- Exam schedules and policies (if necessary)
- How to use the technical items in the classroom e.g… Overhead projector / interactive whiteboard etc.
Over prepare for the classes of your new TEFL job
In the beginning, you are unaware of the speed and ability of your students. As a result, it is best to over-plan so that you have more activities than you think the lesson will accommodate. You can always use these ideas in your next lesson so they will not be wasted!
Have a good variety of activities planned instead of relying on one aspect – for example, have some group activities, written and spoken activities as well as some individual activities. Not only will this ensure that you have a good range of tasks, it will also enable you to experiment and see which sorts of activities are effective with your students.
Make notes immediately after your class
It is easy to forget things with the thrill of completing your first lesson so it is best to immediately write down key things whilst they are fresh in your mind. For example:
- Key students of note – those who are always willing to answer questions / those who need support / those who may have the potential to have discipline issues
- The general level of the class – was the class pitched at the right level or too high/ low?
- Things that were successful and things that were not
- Seating – whether there is a need to rearrange (if possible )
- Resources – did you have everything you need or did you need additional things?
A new job is the start of a new beginning – so be ready to adapt and be flexible. Even if things on the first day do not seem to be as you expected then simply try to work out the reasoning behind this – are there cultural differences contributing to this? Is it that you are simply not used to it yet and things will become clearer and easier in time? Do not be afraid to ask – communication is the key to a new job and everyone does understand – everyone had to be new at the beginning!