Recently I’ve been putting in some pretty long teaching days at my center. On these days I’ve had to get up at 6:30 am and finish at about 8 pm. Many of my classes on these days have been young learners, which, for any of you who teach kids know, can be exhausting. Luckily, at this phase in my teaching career, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve (wink).
A lot of my tricks are common sense, but some of the others have been developed over the course of my career. Read on to get my survival tips for the long TEFL teaching day.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
Any teacher worth their salt will create a lesson plan, but I put particular care into mine on long teaching days. Some people feel that it’s best to plan during breaks, but I disagree. A break is a break and should be used to recoup, a lesson plan should be created far in advance of the class. That way, when the class is about to happen, you can reconsider what will and won’t work. This will likewise leave you with plenty of time to get your materials ready and set up your board. Why needlessly make a long and difficult day more stressful?
If you want a lesson plan template that will make your planning even easier, you can download the one I’ve created for myself by clicking on the button below.
Other ways that I prepare for a long day is to make sure that I have a spare shirt (in case I get too sweaty). I also bring along a toothbrush and toothpaste; to me, a quick brushing between classes is incredibly refreshing. Everybody’s different, but I always make sure I have plenty of little treats to look forward to. At my school, there’s a twenty-minute break between classes. So on this past Sunday, I had a treat planned between each of my classes.
Treat #1: A cup of coffee
Treat #2: A large sparkling water
Treat #3: A change of shirt and brushing my teeth
Treat #4: Another coffee and a cigarette
Post work treat: Pizza on the beach!
For me, having something to look forward to makes the day go a lot faster and keeps me in a good mood.
Take Care of Yourself: Before Class
“Relax your body, and the rest of you will lighten up.” -Haruki Murakami
As a TEFL teacher of YL, I find that I need to keep my energy up. Nothing helps with this like regular exercise. I’m by no means a health nut, but I am a believer in the old adage that one needs to spend energy to get energy. When I exercise on a regular basis my body feels better, but I also find that I can think more clearly.
In any classroom, one important skill is awareness. There are always numerous things going on at the same time: the actual class plan, timing, each individual’s attention and ability, instant adjustments in lesson plans, etc. I believe this is one of the reasons that time goes by so quickly when teaching. To be on top of all the things going on at a time and to put the appropriate amount of energy into my classes, I need to be healthy both in body and mind.
A rather obvious piece of advice that some teachers don’t heed is not to drink heavily the night before a big teaching day. I imagine there are some jobs that one can probably do effectively with a hangover; teaching isn’t one of them. Also, just imagine how horrible you’d feel looking into the eyes of young students while smelling of booze…shameful. DON’T DO IT.
Take Care of Yourself During Class
“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” -John Wooden
Currently, I am losing my voice. This is undoubtedly because I was speaking at too high a volume for 15 hours last weekend. With effective TEFL teaching, a teacher should aim to reduce the amount of teacher talking time and increase student talking time. The punishment for speaking too much for too long is a sore throat and a class that should have been implemented more efficiently.
Another thing that I try and monitor is my energy levels. In the early days, every time I would get my young students to do something physical like TPR (total physical response) I would do the actions for as long as the students and with more energy than them. I still do this, but cheat a little. For example, if I tell them to jump ten times, I will get them started but I don’t need to jump ten times. Another example of this type of “cheat” is to have a little teacher help. After I’ve led the class in the words and actions, why not have one of your strongest students lead it the second time?
“If You Aren’t Taking Notes, You Aren’t Learning” -Ben Casnocha
So you’ve just finished a very long teaching day that likely had a lot of high points and low points. If you’re like me there were probably a lot of things that you feel you could have done better. However, it is now the end of the day and you’re tired. The last thing you feel like doing is reflecting on your weak points and basically reliving the whole day.
Self-reflection is an important part of getting better. In order to do this, one should ideally ask themselves three questions after each class: What went well and why? What didn’t go well and why? What could I have changed to make the lesson more effective?
The key to actually doing this is to make a few notes directly after the class while it’s still fresh in your mind. If you make this a habit, you won’t have the points of improvement blur in your head. Also, you’ll find that planning for the students next lesson will be easier.
To help you with this, check out the lesson plan template that I’ve created for myself. It has a small section for self-reflection. The idea is that you keep both the lesson plan and your thoughts on how to improve on the same sheet. You can download the template for free by clicking on the button below. *Note* this is the same template as the one mentioned in the “Be Prepared” section.