Starting out as a new teacher of English can be challenging, and it can take you a while to find your feet. Chelsea Wunneberger is sharing six tips she wishes she had been given when she embarked on her ELT journey eight years ago.
In 2014, I started teaching English in Madrid in a secondary school and with no experience. It’s my hope that new teachers will have an easier time adjusting to their new jobs than I did. Here are my top tips for new teachers – the pearls of wisdom I picked up on the way.
1. Sometimes we must be flexible
Some classes will go according to plan, and others will be a disaster. The best way to handle these moments is to adjust your lesson to your students’ needs . If the lesson is too easy, ask supplementary questions or have additional activities to get your students to think deeper. If they are having a tough time, adjust your plans to keep them interested. You can make an activity easier or change/take away parts, so your students enjoy learning English. You don’t always have to follow the plan. As a teacher, you have the (magic) authority to change things to satisfy your students.
2. Always have extra speaking activities on hand
Speaking is key! I am a firm believer in speaking more, so learners can apply the language naturally. For me, speaking can happen at any level – it is about finding speaking devices that meet your students’ needs. Teachers should have copies of tongue twisters, songs, poems, role plays, and practical questions to encourage speaking. These extra tools are fascinating for everyone because they break away from the normal textbook model. There are many ways to use them in class: competitions, karaoke, speaking training, skits and more. These extra activities can be useful when you have a few minutes left. The bottom line is to get your class to speak.
3. Get to know your students
When you know your students by name, they will show more respect and interest towards you. Teachers must give each learner personalised attention, so they feel that they are part of the class. You can ask them about their hobbies and daily life. If you take the time to invest in the relationship with your students, you’ll make them feel more valued as individuals. If you know some facts about them, you can apply these to classes with them. When educators personalise the learning experience, they can leave an impression on students that may last for years.
4. Find some teacher mentors
It is vital for teachers to have mentors because these people will help you get through the hard times. It is smart to reach out to veteran teachers who are qualified, experienced and can act as a support line, lunch buddy or sounding board. They will have lots of tips, ideas and suggestions to share. When you start a new job, try to reach out to coworkers and connect with them. These connections will make your job more enjoyable.
5. Find ways to bring culture into your lessons
Another part of language learning is understanding a different culture. Languages have strong ties to culture, so learning a language opens the door to the culture and customs of a people. When culture is part of the class, students gain knowledge about another country, about how the locals think, and understand deeper roots of the language. With some cultural knowledge, students will be able to communicate better with native speakers of a different language. It will also help them become culturally sensitive to people from different cultural backgrounds.
6. Take care of your mind and body
Always make time to take care of yourself. Sleep. Rest. Eat well. Exercise. You’ve been told these tips a thousand times before, but they really matter during your first year of teaching when the stress hits a high level. Stress will affect your immune system and can make you stay home sick. Start keeping your health at a good level: you can always go for a walk, cook a nice healthy meal or do other grounding activities to promote your wellbeing. If you have a sound mind and body, you will have fewer health issues to worry about. How about getting a good night’s sleep tonight or going for a thirty-minute walk?
Teaching is like driving or riding a bike. Time in the classroom will help you improve. Remember, you are an amazing teacher and you can do this job!
Chelsea Wunneburger holds a BA in English and an MA in Technical Communications. She has taught in both Europe and Asia and has over 8 years of classroom experience. Chelsea has worked with students of all ages. She finds joy in teaching both speaking and writing. She has her own blog, and you can find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.