DEFINITION: Anx·i·e·ty: (noun) a feeling of nervousness worry about something in the future with an uncertain outcome.
Anxiety. Something many of us teachers suffer from before the start of a new year, a new class, a new school….basically, a new anything. So, when you are a new teacher and all of these things are new…the anxiety can seem unbearable!
The first time doing anything can cause anyone to have anxiety. Your first day of kindergarten, first time riding a bike, first time swimming without floaties – all of these “firsts” can cause anxiety to arise. This doesn’t change when you become a TEFL teacher. Yes, you are about to stand in front of a room with 10, 20 maybe 30 students staring at you. Of course, you’ll have some anxiety before teaching your first English class. But don’t let the anxiety take over because when that happens, you can lose control of the class, or set an example of how the rest of the semester may go.
There are ways to deal with this anxiety in order to help your first class go a bit smoother. Let’s make a note of the fact that things aren’t going to go perfectly. They just won’t. And if, in the rare case they do, you are one in a million. This fact shouldn’t get you down or cause you to feel more anxious, but rather, do just the opposite. Realize that you are not the only newbie TEFL teacher feeling this way.
I’ll remember teaching my first class for the rest of my life. It was AWFUL! Oh god, I had everything all planned out. From icebreaker games to groups to activities. I had an abundance of print-outs. I was excited and nervous. And as the class started, silence set in. I had suddenly lost my voice. It took me a few minutes before I found it again, but then it felt as though everyone else had lot their voices too! And it was just one big room of awkward silence. Luckily, this didn’t last long and as the 60 minutes came to an end, there was much more chatter than there was at the beginning. And over the course of the year, you can bet, there were times I had to ring a bell in order for [English] chatter to calm down. So as a forewarning, don’t let your first class make you think that’s what it will be like all year long. Things get easier and better.
Some Things to Keep in Mind to Ease Your Anxiety
In my opinion, there are 3 main things to keep in mind when preparing for your first class.
With these 3 things, you can take on any TEFL classroom and beat that TEFL teacher anxiety.
Let’s start with number 1: Preparation.
In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of the TEFL classroom. Being prepared is absolutely necessary for having success in the classroom. Students can recognize when a teacher in unprepared. When they recognize this, they see it as a weakness in the teacher and can use it against you.
Therefore you have to be prepared to be unprepared. Have more activities planned than you think you will use. You never know how an activity is going to go. There may be something you think will take 25 minutes, which ends up only taking 10. Meaning you have 15 more minutes of class left – so you better have something to do with your students or else they will get bored and become restless.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I was prepared for my first class and it still wasn’t great. Just acknowledge this and realize there are other things that can go wrong. They won’t necessarily, but preparation is just 1 part of a multi-step process.
Next, number 2: Confidence.
Just as important as preparation so important when teaching English. You have to exude confidence in order to make your students believe in you. You are the boss of the classroom. You are in charge. You must convince yourself of this in order to convince your students. One way to practice this is to just repeat a mantra in your head right before class. It could be something as simple as “I am the best TEFL teacher I know” or “I am a confident and knowledgeable English teacher”.
Confidence will naturally come more and more as you gain experience. Of course, on your first day of teaching, the only experience you have is from your certification practicum teaching, which, is barely anything. So, on this first day, you’ve got to fake it ’til you make it! Once you convince yourself, you can convince your students 🙂
Lastly, number 3: Knowledge
You have to be knowledgeable about TEFL teaching. Pay attention during your certification. Go the extra mile. Ask your TEFL instructors questions about anything (English, teaching in general, living abroad, etc) The more you know, the better you’ll do. If it’s been a while since you’ve finished your course, think about taking a quick refresher course to brush up on some key things. By being knowledgeable in the field, your anxiety will melt away.
Another note on knowledge, in a different sense, is this: use the knowledge of the world to guide you through your class. Use your common sense, use your life experience and trust yourself. By doing this, both before and during class, your anxiety will diminish.
Last but certainly not least, here’s a tip that has helped me beat anxiety through the years. This actually may be my best advice for you during this time of your life. Start a meditation practice. It’s like the world’s best anxiety medication. All it requires is you and some peace and quiet. Do this regularly in the days leading up to your first class. It will help you. I promise
And on the first day of class, try to relax and it will go great! Remember: You are the best TEFL teacher there ever was!