Whether you’re getting your camera smiles ready for an online TEFL job, or swapping a headset for the chalkboard of a school classroom, each setting comes with first-day jitters. As a new teacher on the block, you’ll want to make a solid first impression as both a mentor and a colleague, which can be easily achieved by following these top tips (and leaving your ego at the physical or virtual door!).
For your first day as a TEFL teacher in an Online Classroom
1. Create an exciting background to engage younger students
In the world of online teaching, appearance is key, and nothing says “don’t worry, I’m an interesting teacher” to your students, quite like a colourful backdrop.
Instead of seeing this as a box to tick before your interview, view the blank canvas behind you as a chance to showcase your individualism and flare! I usually find an assortment of posters goes down well, and these are easy enough to find on websites such as Pinterest. You can even go a step further and search for printable reward systems, which will encourage some friendly competition among your students.
For a more personalised feel, and for those of you without access to a printer, family photos and postcards go down a treat and provide a level of relatability for students.
2. Expect to whizz through your activities!
One thing that will become clear on your first day as a TEFL teacher is that we cannot predict the future, as much as we try to through our creation of lesson plans. You might turn up to your first class having planned each part of your lesson down to the second, only to change it up on the spot depending on the needs of your students. On top of this, each game or activity will always fly by quicker than planned, especially if your class is high-energy (a nicer term than rowdy).
Thankfully, you can easily avoid standing in silence by making a note of some extra activities! When building a repertoire of games to include in your lesson plan, think back to your own school experience and ask- what made learning fun? Activities such as Simon Says are sure to make an unexpected comeback in your life. Similarly, the ABC song stands the test of time, and should be accompanied by dance moves- the sillier the better!
3. Plan interesting ways to introduce yourself and your home country
Don’t forget that as an English teacher, you’re an endless source of fascination, and students will love to hear about your life at home whether it’s your first day or your last. However, this is especially apt in your initial lessons, which will consist almost entirely of introductions and building rapport before the syllabus begins.
Thankfully, there are some brilliant online resources out there to accompany your introductory PowerPoint! Among the best are Bamboozle and Kahoot: which are both free, game-based learning platforms with enough quizzes to fill the entire semester! For your first day, you’ll be able to find countless quizzes to test your student’s knowledge of your home country. For me, this led to 10 minutes of my high school students gushing over Ed Sheeran!
4. Make sure all your tech is good to go
No TEFL teacher wants their student’s first impression of them to be a distant, wobbly echo or Minecraft-esque image (I’ll never underestimate the importance of a headset again). As such, it’s important to prepare all your devices before your first day, including trial runs over zoom or google meets with friends and family.
Pre-lesson internet speed checks can give you time to fix any problems, while WiFi boosters and webcam upgrades can help reduce the effects of temperamental internet. It’s also crucial to purchase a decent headset so that your students can actually hear your words of wisdom!
For your first day as a TEFL teacher in an Actual Classroom
1. Prepare your props!
Whether it’s your childhood teddy bear, a chocolate bar, or a pair of sunglasses, when it comes to teaching props, the possibilities are endless. Particularly on your first day in school, it’s important to set the standard by bringing realia into class. This will not only impress your teaching assistant, but it will also really engage your students and make sure their focus is in the right place!
Having a troupe of props will help you to break the ice, that might be particularly slippery on your first day. Even bringing an inflatable ball to class can be a useful tool to prompt dialogue from shy students and surpass language difficulties. This particular prop doubles up as a toy to use in breaks between lessons, where you can showcase your football skills to your students (or make them laugh at your lack thereof).
2. Arrive earlier to school than you ever did as a lazy teen!
While it’s always tempting to remain tucked up in bed surrounded by aircon until the last moment, you won’t want to rock up to your school a mere five minutes early, especially on your first day. I’d recommend getting to school at least 40 minutes before your first lesson of the day to familiarise yourself with your classroom locations and meet your colleagues.
Your teaching assistant will show you around the school, and not only to your classrooms but communal areas such as the canteen and teacher’s room, which every school has. This is an area where teachers congregate during break times and lunchtimes, and where you can chill out before going to your lessons.
3. Make an effort with your teaching assistant (TA), AKA: your greatest ally.
When I look back on my time teaching in Vietnam and Thailand, I’m not sure how I could’ve managed 50 hyperactive eight-year-olds without the support of my TA. They’ll be there through thick and thin, from each misinterpreted instruction to every small triumph.
As such, it’s important to make an effort with your teaching assistant and establish a friendly working relationship. Even though they’ll be able to speak English, make sure to learn “good morning” or “nice to meet you” in your host country’s language: your colleagues will really appreciate the effort! If you’re feeling particularly extra, you could bring some fruit or biscuits to school and offer them to your TA in the break: anything sweet goes down a treat, especially if you’re teaching in Asia!
Above all, regardless of where you’re starting your TEFL job, remember to smile and keep your energy levels high! First-day nerves are completely normal, and just show that you care about your new job: whether that’s with one of the BNOC’s of the online TEFL world or a school surrounded by jungle!
Molly is currently teaching in Thailand, which is an amazing place to TEFL! Want a supported way of travelling to Thailand to test out your teaching skills? Check out our Thailand Internships! And, if you have any questions, you can arrange a free call back with one of our TEFL experts – they’ll be happy to help.
Would you prefer to go it alone and find a job yourself? No problem! Check out the latest TEFL vacancies in Thailand, and multiple other locations, on the LoveTEFL jobs board. And, don’t forget, our amazing Jobs Team are on hand if you need any assistance perfecting your application! We also have loads of online roles on the jobs board, if you’d prefer to travel to multiple locations while you earn, or teach from the comfort of your own home!
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