Believe me, teaching English Abroad in China, Japan, South Korea, or another foreign country is a life-changing experience that will make you a better person and change the way you look at the world. However, getting the job is just the start of your adventure. Once you get there, the work of teaching begins. You might think, “Hey, I know how to speak English and I like kids, so what’s the big deal?”
Teaching requires more planning and energy than most new teachers expect. That is, GOOD teaching requires it. And you want to do a good job, right? Your precious students’ minds and lives have been put into your care, so don’t take that responsibility lightly. You may be the first and only foreigner that your students may know for years to come. The impression of English and of foreigners-in-general that you leave on them may make the difference in if they decide to go overseas for university or if they think they have a talent for languages or if they join the military and someday go to war against your country, heaven forbid.
Your adventure touches the lives of so many people besides yourself and if you work hard to be worthy of that great responsibility, you really can change the world, one student at a time. With that in mind, here are 10 things that good teachers do.
1) Inspire your students and allow yourself to be inspired by them. Most of your students have never traveled outside their country or explored different points of view about life and what it possible. You are their tour guide to the world of English and all it entails.
2) Make them laugh. They will learn better and everyone will have more fun. Yes, humor doesn’t always translate easily but slapstick humor is appreciated by almost all kids. Lighten up and show your students that learning can be enjoyable. Asian culture puts a lot of pressure on kids academically so the point that some of them equate their self worth with their GPA. Also, teaching styles are usually much more authoritarian overseas. Your smile and laughter can be the bright spot in you students’ day.
3) Cultivate magic in the classroom. You open the door and voila! You are in the magic kingdom of young people! Be creating in the way you teach. For a great book on this, read “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess.
4) Humble yourself. Sometimes kids may know more than you, sometimes they do prove you wrong. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make fun of yourself. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
5) This maxim is so true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Remember that these students are real people with real feelings. They yearn for love and acceptance just like we all do.
6) Never forget you are there to serve. Act accordingly. Listen to and respect what administrators, co-workers and parents have to offer. You don’t have to agree with them, but you should be respectful. Remember, you are a guest in their country. Always be polite.
7) Do not take for granted the smile of a child. Don’t disregard a simple note that says you are cared about. Save those notes and reread them on the days you’re feeling homesick. Post them on Wechat and Facebook for you to look back at someday. They are precious.
8) Remember that they are not just brains. Cultivate their hearts. It’s not just about the cognitive domain; nurture the affective domain. Learning social skills and intercultural communication skills can be just as valuable and knowing how to conjugate verbs.
9) Respect their country and culture. Despite how you feel about their country’s political leanings or cultural oddities, always be respectful. In some countries, if you don’t, you may find yourself without a job and on a plane back home.
10) Love them unconditionally. Don’t expect anything back, just love unselfishly and without conditions. You’ll be surprised at the impact you have.