The Power of being a New Teacher

The Power of being a New Teacher
It’s certainly one of the most intimidating things crossing paths with teachers who have been at your institution for a few years and who seem to know everything and have it all under control. They know the ins and outs of the system and if you ever feel lost, then you most probably are. So why is it a good thing?

If you are still unable to fully grasp the basics of the system your school/institute has in place, then obviously something needs to be addressed or changed. Whether it is the training manual you received, the mentor and his/her guidance (or lack thereof), the resources, the admin, etc., you have the power as a new teacher to see things with a fresh mind and see it in an objective manner. If you can bring it under the attention of your senior management or Director of Studies, your input will be incredibly valuable. Never forget it.

Power in Progress
What do I mean with your input being incredibly valuable? It’s quite simple – It helps contribute to the continuation of progress. If your management is open to listening to you, you will most likely find your opinions and input appreciated and taken at full value. You can see what is working and what isn’t. You bring new and fresh ideas to the table as a new teacher. If you struggle adjusting and understanding any of the systems, it could mean that there needs to be a closer inspection of the mentors and programs they have in place. Do not be afraid to voice your concerns. Without it, there will not be any advancement in the school or institution’s system. This ultimately leads to stagnation and that is something you do not want happening! A happy teacher makes for happy children and satisfied parents. If the parents see progress in class and that there is innovation and satisfaction amongst the teaching staff, they will be more than eager to pay for their children’s tuition fees in learning a second language.

Out with the Old, In with the New
As confident as those senior teachers are, they won’t always be there. Their contributions aren’t useless, and has definitely played a vital role in ensuring the continuation of the institute and its successful retention rate of students. However, with each new group of teachers, the “improved” version of the old ideas with be built upon and so on and so forth. This is how progress is ensured. Only once you speak up about your views and concerns, can you achieve an optimal learning and teaching environment.

A progressive learning environment will contribute to the overall success of the school/institute in the long run. Don’t be complacent with the system. Don’t be intimidated by your position as “newbie”. In a few months or so, other new teachers will come along and will also have different views about the system.

Persuading Management as the Newbie
Now I know that talking to higher management can sometimes seem like a daunting task. The people who check your progress and confirm your pay check isn’t necessarily the same people you head out with on a Sunday night after class to go party with until dawn.
My advice here would be to consult any senior teacher in the staff, preferably your own mentor if the school has assigned you one.

Being able to approach a senior teacher or mentor about critical issues in your school takes a lot of the stress off of your own back and as they have substantially more influence, it is more likely that your views will be regarded seriously. It’s hierarchy, yes, but it’s the name of the game. As long as such a hierarchy is not abused and overused, it can be a helpful structure for fresh, new teachers who ultimately will only benefit from extra guidance and tips!

As a new teacher at a school, you may stumble a bit and struggle now and again, but your fresh view, added creativity and ability to be objective counts for quite a lot if you are keen enough to utilize it! Progress in teaching leaves everybody richer.

A Kid for a Day in Thailand

The biggest difference between teaching in Thailand and anywhere else in the world, is the student body. You will never encounter students like the Thai. They are the biggest challenge and by far, the most fun you will ever have at school.

Kids Just Want to Have Fun
Thai students get to school early. They come and buy food from vendors, they all clean the school and they socialize. The Thai school is a place young people learn, a home where they have chores, a kitchen where they eat, and a playground where they laugh and rejoice with friends. Students love to be at school and because of that, their joy rubs off on all the faculty.

The students are required to show an abundance of respect to their teachers and their school. When they arrive to school they are required to greet the teachers by bowing to them. Teachers and students greet one another in preparation to an outstanding day. Teachers hug and say hello to students, inspecting them to ensure they are well nourished, dressed and cared for.

The teachers enjoy interacting with students and making them laugh, so as the students clean the school during their morning chores, the teachers chit-chat with them and get to know them very well. The students seem to enjoy their chores and music is played over the entire school to make it a cheery time.

In the classroom, it’s sheer chaos. Students run up to me and hug me. They hit my big hips and poke my white skin to see if I’m really all I appear to be. They laugh at my accent, my English words, my Thai words, even the noises I make. For example, if I drop something and say “uh ho” they all repeat it 100 times and giggle.

Thai Students

They wrestle each other, hit each other, push each other and that’s just after the bell rings. Trying to wrangle their energy is like herding cats on drugs.  It’s going to be different every time you try, and you will rarely succeed. But that’s part of the fun, it’s a real adventure.

Hearing other teachers talk about their students in other countries makes me really appreciate the Thai spirit. In some other countries, the students have so much pressure, they are often working on school work for more than twelve hours a day. Some aren’t allowed to make eye contact with the teacher or have a playful relationship with any of the faculty. This is not the case in Thailand.

While it proves challenging to gain control of a class, at least the students are playful. All the teacher has to do is harness that energy and use it toward learning. In my experience, if I can create a competitive game, the students will choose to participate and with full force. This is easier than trying to motivate students to want to interact, instead one must just convince them to learn while interacting.

If You Are Happy, They Are Happy
Thai StudentsBeing a foreigner is about being weird. They look at me like I am a totally different species, and I remember seeing foreigners as a child and feeling the same way. To them I sound funny, look funny, smell funny, and it’s just a spectacle to watch me jiggle as I hurry from class to class. But being laughed at is all part of the fun. The more I am vulnerable and speak poor Thai and look like a hot mess, the more my students see that I am only asking them to do what I’m doing, step outside their comfort zone and learn a little bit. The concept of allowing others to laugh at me for their enjoyment is freeing and funny to me too. We all laugh at each other all day long.

Thailand is all about being happy. They attain joy from each other and those around them. If the teacher is enjoying the lesson and is being silly, the students are much more comfortable to be silly too. Soon everyone in class wants to be laughed at. We dance and sing and exaggerate words all in the hopes that in the midst of the fun, something will stick, and it usually does!

So go back in time, re live the glory days of your youth, and be happy.

Do You Like the Job?

Last article I wrote about what is China like. “Do you like the job?” is the second most frequent question I’ve heard from the people in my life, as well as my fellow colleagues.

Education is a BIG DEAL in China

While I’ve only been here a month, I can tell you that “Yes, I like the job”. It’s nothing like I expected. Well to be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I think I expected the South African school system in China, which is ridiculous, but that’s the frame of reference I was equipped with.  However, when it comes to Education in China, it’s something they take incredibly seriously.

Just tonight I discovered a little 24-hour Self-Service Library. I was beyond stunned. Talk about education being available to everyone!
Just like any job, it has its perks and cons.  In China, the perks are really good.  Perks should include housing allowance and assistance, flight reimbursement, assistance in setting yourself up with a bank account, taking you for medical checks, applying for the resident permit, and also covering the costs thereof.  You can check this page for more information about my job packages and visa process.  I also received internationally recognized insurance as part of my package.

Cons might differ depending on where you are placed, but if you use a reputable recruiting agency, such as On the Mark for example, they will most likely link you up with a school or language institute that has a good reputation and a solid, well-rounded foreign teacher program. The company I work for has a track record of more than 50 years and in my book, that means they are trustworthy, dependable, on time with the payment of salaries, and most importantly, they have the experience needed in dealing with foreign teachers.

Having a good experience teaching in China depends on various factors. From a good Director of Studies, to well-trained Chinese Teaching Assistants, helpful colleagues and HR Staff and most importantly, good teaching materials, it will all influence how well prepared you will be to start teaching in China.

ESL Teachers

You Need to Work in a Professional School

Being able to work for such a great company, I have so many resources at my disposal when planning and conducting lessons. Higher level students and teachers use iPad Minis to conduct and complete exams. Using Interactive touch screen “White Boards” engages students and helps them learn in a time-efficient and modern manner. Of course, not everything will always be sunshine and daisies. Sometimes technology will let you down, and then you need to think on your own two feet and come up with exciting activities that doesn’t involve the usage of technology and whip out the old black whiteboard marker! Using Flashcards is a staple resource for any teacher and works like a bomb when teaching little ones.

Speak to fellow teachers and hear which types of games they like to implement. When the Touch Screen TV doesn’t work you need to have a backup plan! This is where good school resources come in handy. Be sure to ask a potential employer what kind of resources they have available so that you can be prepared and know what you might need for any lesson planning.

TEFL Teachers

If you work through a good recruiter, you won’t sit with any of the so-called horror stories you’ve been reading about while surfing the web for information on teaching abroad. Stories of not being paid on time or receiving a housing allowance shouldn’t be one of your worries. I was offered a company loan upon arrival if costs became too great for me to cover, which I thought was super helpful and kind.

Looking at the broad picture in order to answer the question on whether or not I like my job, I would answer it as “Yes, Yes and a thousand times over again, Yes!”