Are you a first time English teacher in Asia (or are you planning to be)? Check out these tips to make the transition that little bit easier!
Make a good first impression
The first impression I made in Taiwan was not a strong one. The day after training, the new teachers were supposed to make a visit to their respective branches for the first time. Still drunk from celebrating the night before, I woke up to an angry “where are you?” phone call. I didn’t make it to the branch at all and I’m pretty sure some of the management never really forgot it.
Go in strong
Just like prison, sometimes the key to survival in the classroom is to find the biggest, baddest kid in class and kick him in the teeth. Not literally of course, but there is often one kid in a new class who will challenge you, and it’s important to quash that rebellion straight away. Bring them down a notch or two and the rest of the class should fall into line.
There was a bit of an expectation in Taiwan to be the all singing, all dancing clown teacher. This isn’t my style. There is no point trying to be something you aren’t and as long as you find your own way to connect with the kids you’ll be fine.
Be bad at drawing
A five year old can draw better than I can, a fact that the children I teach constantly remind me of. They find it hilarious trying to decipher what I am trying to draw and it is always a source of entertainment for them.
Can you guess what these are?
Give nicknames to your students
Especially with older children, the lengthening or shortening of a name can work wonders. I had one student, Cindy, who was a bit surly and never really talked. After a while I started calling her Cinderella, and every time I did she’d laugh. Eventually she warmed up and started enjoying class.
Have good games
Kids love playing games and their enjoyment of a class sometimes hinges on whether they enjoy the games you come up with. Look online, talk to other teachers and even discuss it with your class and come up with games that everyone enjoys.
Use a good reward system
I think it is better to motivate rather than discipline, so if the kids have a good reward system that spurs them on, there will be less problems in class. Sweets and stickers always work well as a reward and sometimes just a simple star next to their name is enough.
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Get to know the parents
If you are teaching at a private school or tuition centre this is very important. Teachers are judged mostly on return/withdrawal rates, so if the parents like and trust you they are more likely to continue sending their child to your class.
Get to know what the children like
I know far more about Strawberry Shortcake, Ben 10 and Dora the Explorer than any 28 year old man with no children of his own should know. Kids love to talk about these sorts of things, and it’s a good way to connect if you also take some kind of interest in them as well (don’t worry, I don’t go home and watch Ben 10, feigning interest can be just as effective)
I’m a pretty even person anyway, and I think it really helps if you draw a line in the sand and stick to it. There is nothing more confusing for kids than being allowed to do something one day and getting punished for it the next. Keep calm and try to be in as consistent an emotional state as you can, and the children should follow suit.
I have only taught children so this list is probably useless if you are teaching adults (talking about Dora the Explorer to people in their mid 20s won’t get you far) but I guess some of it still might apply. Do you have any more tips for a first time English teacher in Asia? Let me know!
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