Becoming a Good English Teacher Abroad

  • In Asia, students are more accustomed to seeing their teachers dressed semi-formally. At the beginning, you will be much more likely to gain their respect (and the respect of the school director) if you follow this custom. In almost every case, wearing clothes associated with the country’s cultural festivals or with peasant peoples is considered worthy of ridicule (imagine if you were studying Japanese in North America, and your native Japanese teacher showed up in cowboy clothes!)
  • As soon as possible, try to start learning the local language. Knowing some of the local language will make you more aware of why certain grammatical or pronunciation problems seem so difficult to overcome. It will also make you more able to determine what topics of discussion will be of interest to your students – even though you may not know enough of the language to tune into a popular television show, knowing enough of the language to realize which advertisements are aired twenty times per day or that something is a popular topic of conversation will help you to realize that the topic may be a good English conversation starter in the classroom. Plus, your experience of teaching English abroad will be more worthwhile.
  • Provide your students with initial and ongoing assessment. Find out what it is that your students want to study as well as their actual abilities in English. From time to time reassess their abilities and help them to become aware of the progress they are making. Check in with your students to see how they feel about the class and if there is anything new they wish to study.
  • Check for real understanding. Students may look at you and nod their head without really understanding. Make sure they understand you by asking them a question using the language you wish to target.
  • Try to recognize boredom. Student boredom can indicate that students don’t understand you, you’ve been talking for too long, or that they need to get out of their seats and do something different.
  • Bring real objects into your classroom. It is more interesting to talk about an authentic box of cereal than simply to look at a picture of a box of cereal.
  • Give your students homework to do, including those grammar worksheets. Don’t waste class time doing work that students could do on their own. Their class time is better spent listening to your English and participating in real communication.
  • Allow for occasional translation. If all but a few students understand an abstract word or a particular phrase, allow for a quick translation. It saves time and will help to keep everyone up to speed.
  • Allow your students to speak freely without correcting their mistakes. Let your students know that you will be correcting their mistakes during grammar time but not outside of it.
  • Put your students into small groups to practice what they have learned, to carry out tasks, and to exchange information.
  • Accommodate a variety of learning styles in your classroom. Some people learn best by reading, others by hearing, others by doing. In addition to providing your students with plenty of comprehensible input, be sure to write new vocabulary, grammar points, and phrases on the board for those students who absorb information best by seeing it. To accommodate those in your classroom who learn best by doing, incorporate role-play, physical response activities, and get your students to talk to one another standing up. Moving around also relieves tension.


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