I never planned on teaching on my year abroad. Never once did I consider doing British Council, and I was utterly adamant that I wanted to undertake a very business-oriented work placement. I never thought of myself as someone who was cut out for teaching, having always believed that I lack the patience, energy, and enthusiasm that I admired in my good teachers from school. However, I have ended up teaching English as part of my internship here in Paris, and the learning curve has been steep to say the least.
1) There is no amount of preparation you can do for your first ever lesson
My first ever lesson was a two-and-a-half-hour long class with twelve five-year olds. Not as the teaching assistant, but as the only teacher in the classroom. Being thrown in at the deep end doesn’t even come close to describing it. I think the best advice to come out of this is to fake it until you make it; as all children will assume you are much older and wiser than you really are. Use that against them and act like you know what you are doing.
2) Always have a plan
There have been a couple of times when I have turned up to a lesson without a relatively solid structure for the class, hoping that I can just riff on a theme. While they didn’t go completely disastrously, I would highly recommend being well prepared, even if only to save yourself the stress of having to think on the spot. Lessons run much more smoothly if you know exactly what you are going to move on to, and if you have plenty of back up activities in case children start to get bored, or don’t particularly get on with a task.
3) Discipline is key
It felt incredibly unnatural to have to discipline children. As I still feel so young and unqualified myself, at the beginning I always felt like I was going to get in trouble for the way I had told off a child. The more I spent time in French schools, the more I realised how incredibly strict (and terrifying!) French teachers can be – suffice to say they are not at all embarrassed about shouting at, or even sometimes physically manhandling children who were misbehaving. This made me less afraid to impose myself, remembering as I said earlier, that children will assume that you are much older and scarier than you really are.
4) There is no one-size fits all approach
Despite all the training, preparation, or even just weeks spent getting to know a class, sometimes your methods just don’t work. I have some classes that I was warned beforehand were prone to misbehaving that I have incredibly productive lessons with, and some supposedly ‘good’ classes that I really struggle with controlling. Don't beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go to plan, and remember that you are always going to have more difficulty than a fully qualified teacher with 20 years of experience. Try and enjoy it, focus on the fun bits, and don’t take it personally when children misbehave.