When an EFL teacher takes his/her first position, it can be a nerve wracking experience. You have just landed in a new country, you have just arrived at the school for the first time, been shown your desk, given some teaching resources and now the school director is telling you that your first class is about to begin.
This can be a scary situation. You may have taken a TEFL course before you left, but now you are actually about to teach, it all seems irrelevant. You may not have even had time to prepare a first lesson plan. Your hands get sweaty and as you walk into the classroom with fewer notes you have been given, you see the expectant look on the students' faces.
There is no need to lose your cool and jump from the nearest window. We all experience that initial “Oh, so that’s what this is like” moment when we walk into a new classroom, and you can rest assured that this is not the first time these students have met a new teacher.
If you work for a good, responsible school, you will have some time to prepare before the lesson and talk to the other teachers about what you need to do. In other cases, you may not have this opportunity, so a good thing to do is prepare a simple “getting to know you” lesson that you can use on this first day, and every first class you walk into. Teaching well is something that comes from experience as well as training, so don’t be surprised if you find that your initial expectations are quickly broken.
Preparing a “getting to know you” lesson that relies very little on students producing accurate language is a good start for any class. Students may get excited and almost inundate you with questions, so remember that this is also an opportunity to learn, and ask the students just as many questions. Talk about your past experiences, and why you came to the country, but also find out what a typical lesson involves and what parts of English study they enjoy.
For this “getting to know you lesson”, prepare some simple games so that you have plenty to do without running out of material. You can also use these to gauge how much students can draw on English when they are not studying it directly. Remember, however, that you don’t want to push students and that this first impression will stick with them as long as you teach them. Keep the mood light and friendly.
Use this time to identify strong and mild personalities in the class and do your best to learn the students’ names. Allow them to speak freely and don’t worry too much about trying to correct their language. You will have plenty of time in later classes in work through language material. In this first class it is much more important that you get comfortable with the class.
Also, remember that it is just one class. In your English teaching career, you will teach hundreds of lessons and dozens of ‘first lessons’ and if this one is not so successful, you will have plenty of opportunities to improve your tactics. Students are also quite forgiving, and can understand that you are adjusting to a new environment. They will usually walk into each class with a fresh perspective and be ready to learn. They will also look to you as a leader and authority figure, so it is important to be professional, yet friendly.
Finally, have fun. Every new experience is an opportunity to learn something new. By reading this article, you are already more well equipped than some teachers. If you are calm, approachable and open to your students, you will not have anything to get sweaty palms over.