I’m coming towards the end of my time in Singapore and, as such, the end of my first job in the world of teaching.
It’s been an absolute blast. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot and I’ve realised that, at least for the foreseeable future, teaching is the career path that I want to follow. I went into the role rather blind apart from the advice I received from my friend Sophie before starting and along the way, but here are a few more things I wish I’d known before I started the job.
Kids will laugh at anything
Now, I’m quite immature when it comes to laughing at silly things, but I’m pretty sure at no point when I was a child did I laugh at words such as “bikini”, “underwear” and the like. I’ve even had students in fits of laughter this week at the mention of “dresses” and “skirts”! Safe to say the clothing module hasn’t been the easiest to teach.
I’m forever amazed at the order in which some of my students have learnt certain parts of the English language. I’ve mentioned in the past that some of my Mongolian students who barely knew a word of English knew how to say “what the f*ck?!”, and I’m now having a similar experience with a student who can barely say hello yet can recite almost every piece of female clothing. Truly bizarre.
You can never be too prepared
There will be times when you think you’ve got it all in hand. You’ve planned your lesson to perfection; you’ve got a great warm up to get everyone switched on, some good grammar work, a bit of comprehension, and so on. You are absolutely covered for the whole lesson, what could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, as it happens. You know that great warm up you mentioned? Yeah, they hate it. Remember that grammar quiz you prepared on PowerPoint? Well, the projector just won’t switch on. Your students might just be having one of those days where they flat out won’t cooperate with you, or are working so well that they’ve finished everything with half an hour to spare.
You need to be prepared for every possible outcome. Flexibility is the name of the game here – if it’s broke, fix it! Websites such as Busy Teacher, ESL Cafe and ESL Games Plus can be absolute lifesavers when things get a bit stale!
Mr Bean solves everything
In 20 years from now, I like to think that there will be a generation of Asian fathers and daughters showing Mr Bean to their children, and reminiscing about the great English teachers who introduced them to this comedy genius. Me…optimistic? Never!
Seriously though, Mr Bean is an absolute gift for EFL teachers. Granted; he doesn’t say a great deal, but his actions and the situations he gets himself into make for perfect ‘watch and learn’ style activities. I do feel we’ve created something of a monster though, as the most regularly used English phrase for most of my students is: “Can we watch Mr Bean?”.
As an aside, it also makes for great blackmail. In other words; do your work or we don’t watch Mr Bean!
You are never off duty
This post has been far too positive – time for a bit of a rant.
When you tell someone that you’re an English teacher, you will regularly be greeted with the response: “Oh great, you can help me improve my English!”. More often than not, this will be followed up with inane chit chat which you have zero interest in listening to – never mind correcting.
Why yes, after a long day teaching and dealing with (occasionally) mardy kids, there’s nothing I’d like more than to spend my spare time helping someone I’ve just met improve their English for free! I love my job, but there is a limit!
Would you ask a shelf stacker in a supermarket to pop round after work and put your shopping away for you? Of course you wouldn’t! The same applies to me and teaching English.
My advice to any prospective EFL teachers; make up an elaborate backstory!