“Better late than never….but never late…is unrealistic” -Evelyn From The Internets
Happy 2016!! Today I thought I would share a few tips on teaching abroad. This upcoming year marks one year and three months living abroad and boy it has brought both joy and pain. I was fresh out of college with my TEFL certificate and a dream to travel abroad and work with kids. Since then, I’ve learned and is still learning how to do so and I thought I would share a few tips.
I. It’s not about making you feel comfortable, it’s about making them comfortable.
This one can be quite tricky. Whether you’re in posh Gangnam or the straight boonies, anything and everything, you have to take with a grain of salt in those situations. To be frank, sometimes there’ll be days you’re tested because your co teacher just doesn’t like foreigners and then you’ll have days where they put complete faith into everything you do. Sometimes you’ll see things that make you wonder why and days when you’re just completely over living in a foreign country. All I’m saying is, don’t let those days get the best of you. Pick and choose your battles.
II. Kids will be kids.
I’ve heard the notion of South Koreans kids being super polite and easy to handle. I’m just going to pop your bubble now so you don’t walk in with that assumption. Kids will be kids!! I have over 30 students in one class and it’s middle school which means constant hormone imbalance. One minute we’re ok, the next I just want to take a rope and tie them up, out them in a closet and turn off the lights. Kids will be kids. Students here are under a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. Whether its from academics, parents, even abuse happening at home. A lash out is something anyone would do when you crack under pressure. I don’t excuse this but it is something you have to think about when it comes to your students.
III. It’s not difficult, but it’s not easy.
Another thing I always hear is teaching, especially Korea, is “easy”. Now if I got a dollar for every time I heard this, trust and believe I would’ve paid off Great Lakes in a heart beat. Think about it, moving to a new country where you don’t know the language, the culture let alone where you’re going boiling down to being “easy”? Yes, I admit, teaching here is easy BUT my best advice to you is to go in with a open mind. Save yourself the trouble of making your experience for into the stereotype imaginary box because it will never fit. For the most part , your job is easy and it’s a good way to make an income. HOWEVER, it doesn’t mean you should sail through and leave. Find some way to help make some sort of impact with your students even in the slightest way. Yes, there will be shitty days but if it’s one thing I ask, it is don’t end your year with, “I just came for the money because it was super easy.” That ish really grinds my gears.
IV. Patience is a virtue.
When you first arrive, the first thing you’re probably wondering is what level are your students? Save your breath because you’ll never know. This takes time with a lot of trial and errors with lesson planning. Your first year I’d say is basically you trying to find our way around. You’ll soon find out that teaching is easy but understanding the culture and how things work can be difficult. Even if you don’t get things done how you would like the first year is ok. So long as you tried and have no regrets instead of throwing your hands up and cruise.
Second, sometimes or most of the time, it takes you making the first move for your students to feel comfortable around you. When I first arrived, the majority of my students were very timid and shy, some not having a care in the world about me being there. I remember teaching one day and walking around helping each student, making interactions,just trying to get close to them. The following week, the attitude of the class shifted. Ever since then all my students would come up and say something. May not be much but it’s better than when I first started. That happened after four months of knowing my students. Patience is a virtue.
V. “Fun” isn’t a bad word.
Now this one is always a constant battle depending on who you speak with. Nine times out of ten, your co teacher will ask you to do something ‘fun’. Won’t lie to you, hearing that for one year straight will drive you crazy. For me, this is how I see it. Imagine your co teacher asking you about something. You know the answer but you can’t explain it because it would be overwhelming for them because of the language barrier. Think of this the same way when your co teacher says they want you to make the class fun. I’m sure if their english was good, they would give tell you what they want but that’s not the case. For me, teaching simple parts of speech and using a lot of hands on activity is “fun”. That’s what helps your students, at least in my case. I don’t just stand in front of the class and talk, it’s too tiring. Instead I make my students try different activities. Takes the stress of you and makes the class go faster.
I hope these help when you’re thinking about teaching abroad. Let me know your thoughts as well as tips on what you do. Until next time.