There is no such thing as being too prepared. Being prepared and even better, being over-prepared can be a very comforting thing in the first days of your teaching career.
A few years ago, while working as a head teacher at a private school I was responsible for observing new teachers. A recently hired teacher was going to be conducting a lesson on one of his first days in the classroom. He was to give me his lesson plan and I would quietly sit in the back of his classroom watching him teach and interact with his students. I was looking for many things while I observed. Was his lesson meeting curriculum needs? Was his lesson well planned and engaging for the students? Did he transition well between different activities? Did he manage the students well? How did the students respond to his teaching style and delivery? The list goes on.
What I saw was a nervous teacher speed through his lesson in half the time he had planned and then freeze. He quickly raced through his class material, not stopping to see if the students were understanding and when he reached the end of his lesson, or should I say his lesson plan (there were still 30 minutes left in class), he literally stopped speaking. He nervously looked at the students and then me before rummaging through his teacher resource basket for a few moments. He then looked at me and said, “That’s all I have. I don’t know what to do.” His class was confused and looked at me. I told him he had 30 minutes to go and he had to do something for that time since it was his class. He panicked and I had to step in front of the class and off the cuff, create a writing exercise for them to do for the remaining time in that class period.
Although that teacher had clearly spent a lot of time planning his lesson, he wasn’t able to execute it the way he had hoped because he was simply too nervous. This is of course a very normal thing for someone who doesn’t have experience. The problem was that he didn’t have the experience necessary in order to have a good set of teaching activities to fall back on. He wasn’t able to think of something off the cuff when his lesson didn’t go the way he had planned.
That teacher and many others out there in both Japan and Korea could save themselves from this uncomfortable if not terrifying experience if they just “over-plan” before their first few lessons. You might want to even do it for the first few weeks until you start to get more familiar with your new role as a teacher.
That teacher I observed should have created extra teaching material aside from his language lesson. Maybe he could have created or found a journal worksheet online. The students could have drawn a picture and written about whatever the class topic was. Maybe he could have had a few puzzles in his resource basket. He could have gone online and researched a few ESL or phonics games he could play with the children if his planned lesson came to an end faster than expected. All of these extra activities would have been a small “teaching activity resource base” for him in a time of need.
Another great thing about planning too much in the beginning of your teaching career is that those lessons or activities that you planned, and did not use, are by no means a waste of time. You can create and label some folders and store them away for later use. You might not use them today, but you may want to next week or next month. In time, as you become more experienced and capable as a teacher, you might even want to share those resources with newer staff members in your school. You may be new to your job, but near the end of your first contract, you will be the veteran teacher helping someone new who has started working for your school.
In time, and you will know when, you won’t need to prepare as much. As you become better at managing a class and creating effective lessons and lesson pacing, you won’t have to spend so much time preparing. Again, you will know when this happens. Some people very quickly become comfortable in a classroom environment while other teachers may take some more time.
I always felt more relaxed when I knew I had more than enough activities prepared for my class. You definitely will too.
(This is a brief exerpt from my eBook “Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal.” If you find this useful, why not download a copy!?)
Here is a video I shot today about the topic of preparing for your lessons:
You can get your copy today! Just download it from the Amazon Kindle Store here! For now it is only an eBook. I am looking into paper versions, but honestly, as a self-published writer, I don’t think I can afford that route for now.
REMEMBER…if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it! Download a free Kindle reader for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or Android device here.
If you are planning to head to Japan or Korea to teach, you definitely have to spend some time researching. Packing up your life and moving half way across the world shouldn’t be an unplanned endeavour.
Obviously there are so many blogs and websites you can read. there are also many video bloggers You Tube who can help you learn a thing or two about your future home.
Another great way to research is by listening to podcasts. At the moment there are few active podcasts by teachers in Korea or Japan. A few years ago there were more, but as teachers come and go, so do the podcasts.
One great podcast that will help you learn more about South Korea and teaching there is the Qiranger Adventures Podcast by Steve Miller. Go check it out!
Here is a video I made about his podcast:
I of course cannot go without mentioning the Seoul Podcast. This one has been around for several years and takes a look at current news and social topics in Korea.
*NOTE* I spent almost 8 hours in the past two days doing final proof reads on the book. I should be able to upload it t the Kindle Store early next week and then preview it and make any formatting changes necessary.
I made a video today because I wanted to share a little advice with people who are new to teaching or who are aspiring to teach.
When you move abroad for the first time to work in a school, you will meet people who really enjoy life in that country. You will meet people who like teaching, work hard at it and get a lot out of their situation.
You have been planning this move to Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, etc., for a really long time and have been so excited to move. You finally get there after months or even years of anticipation and when you arrive at your new school, you have a coworker who simply complains about everything around them.
We all have bad days. I have been living abroad for almost ten years and I definitely get them from time to time. I have bouts of homesickness when I wish I was back in Canada teaching in a Canadian school. I also have days when I may complain about my job or other aspects of life in Japan. I have those days, but they don’t come often.
Some future coworkers may have days like that everyday. They always seem to be
bitching negative. Their personalities make them seem like “human rain clouds.” They are almost like a cartoon character walking around with that little cloud above their heads at all time dumping rain and misery on them.
These are the people you need to try to avoid. If you cannot avoid them, take what they say with a grain of salt. People who are unhappy, for whatever reason seem to make their voices heard the most. Being unhappy about life abroad occasionally is normal. If someone is unhappy all the time, something is wrong. They are obviously not cut out for life abroad or life in the classroom!
You are starting your new adventure in the classroom and must be optomistic and enjoy it!
Check out my video on the topic:
The latest addition in my son’s toy collection. I though it appropriate to add to this blog! You won’t see a school bus like this in Korea or Japan, but kids do indeed have to take buses to their private schools.
Many people who come abroad every year to Japan or Korea to work as teachers take their new jobs seriously. They Show up early for work to prepare their lessons and work hard to give their students great educational experience.
There are those of course who come abroad expecting their teaching experience to be an extended holiday with pay. They have come to Asia to travel and seek “adventure” and their teaching jobs are merely a means to an end. Working at an eikaiwa, hagown or as an ALT is simply a way to fund their good time abroad.
If you were a school owner, you obviously are making a huge financial investment to bring a foreign teacher to work at your school. The biggest investments are made in Korea where schools pay for a teacher’s airfare, apartment key money and rent as well as their salary. they have paid a lot to have you come over and the very least they expect is a person to act in a professional manner and take their work seriously.
Sadly, each year, “slacker” teacher can give the hard-working ones a bad name.
Check out a video I made on this very topic: