What you shouldn’t do in your first week with new class as a TEFL teacher

Following on from my last blog about things you should do in your first week with a new class as a TEFL teacher, here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t do, and smile is not on the list.

cool tefl

Don’t be too kool for skool! Photo by Mosieur J

Play any sort of game

If your students are in Spain, or anywhere in Western Europe, then they’ve probably had a summer long enough to improve their Play Station and snap playing skills, so why do they need more games straight away?

The main reason I don’t play games in the first week, or even month if the class are a bit rebellious, is that once you let them have a bit of fun, then that’s all they’ll want to have. That’s not to say your lessons shouldn’t bring that emotion called happiness, of course students should be motivated. I find that games at the start tend to make a class competitive and rowdy and unless you’ve got really good classroom management skills then I’d lay off the games for a bit.

Try to be too cool

Yeah, have a laugh, maybe tell an anecdote and give some information about yourself, but try to keep your real side disguised for a while. You don’t want to play your ace just yet, keep the real, fun, cool, and trendy side for a bit later once you’ve earned their respect. They need to know you are the boss, there to work, and being too cool or funny will probably ruin that tough image that you’ll need later on if things start to go pear shaped.

Show your weak side

I’d try to keep this up for most of term, but especially at the start. When I first started teaching my weak side was grammar. I basically didn’t have a clue how to go about it, how to teach the rules, and was useless at on the spot questions. I’m much better now, but I still get that odd moment when I get nervous teaching high level grammar. Anyway, if you know you’re not too good at grammar, then do some skills work or general speaking practise to start with, without a real emphasis on grammar, just to get your confidence up and show them your experience in other areas.

Tell them you’re new to the book, level, or even teaching

Even if you are, there’s no point coming across as an amateur in the first week and giving students plenty of ammunition to kick you down at the first hurdle. If you are using a new book, then I’d steer clear of it for the first week, so you can get an idea of what they can do and what they know. Maybe use some other materials you have or do some general activities to start off.

New levels can be tricky too as you won’t really know what to expect until you’ve seen the students in action a couple of times. I remember a few years back I had a group of 7 year-olds. I hadn’t taught that age for a while and had forgotten just how long it takes to get them to take their books out and sit down, and stay sitting down.

If it’s your very first class ever, then I’d also avoid saying that to your students too. I mean, technically if you have a CELTA then it’s not your first class, but they don’t have to know that. If they did, then they’d surely start trying it on.

Let anyone get away with anything they shouldn’t

Even the slightest thing, like blowing a raspberry when you are taking the register, using a pen when you’ve asked them to use a pencil, or even looking out the window while you are speaking. Start as you mean to go on. If you set homework in the first week and someone doesn’t do it, then you need a punishment (which you should have set in the first class just before you gave the homework).

As I said in my last post, I try to send someone out in the first week, just to show them that I can and that I’m the boss. It only needs a couple of minutes to let them know what you can do, when you want. If you see kids messing about the separate them straight away, friends are not as strong when they are separated.

Speak too much

I always try to take the back seat in the first week, observe, facilitate, show students what they are capable of and let them do the work. By setting tasks and allowing them do the speaking, writing, or listening, then you can see their level and also show them that they are going to learn something and practise their English.

You are there to guide and help them, and also teach them a few words and some confusing grammar rules, so the less you speak the more they speak, which at the end of the day will benefit them more.

Ask their ex teacher what they were like

It’s easy to find out the studious ones, and the less up for it students, in a new class by asking their ex-teacher, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that before your first class. Firstly because kids change a lot, quickly, so one kid who was a pain in June could have turned into a nice boy by September (I have to emphasis the use of ‘could’).

Also, some kids bond with and behave differently with different teachers, especially boys and men and girls and women. For instance, I got on really well with a bunch of boys in a class last term, and sure they’ll find it trickier with a woman this year, and so will she, especially if she doesn’t like footy. Saying that, I find that teaching mostly girl classes trickier to start with, but in the end I find some kind of bond, even if it is just talking about shopping and boys.

Not enjoy yourself

Teaching English is a great job, so just enjoy it. If you’re happy, confident, and smiling, then your students will know that you want to be there, and so will they. So have some fun, without smiling or playing games or trying to be cool. There, easy as pie.

So that’s what you shouldn’t do in your first week, if it’s coming up soon then best of luck. What other tips would you give a new TEFL teacher starting their new class?

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