This wonderful guest post comes courtesy of Lindsay Clandfield, an English teacher, teacher trainer and author. He is the co-author of the award-winning Dealing with Difficulties (Delta Publishing), The Language Teacher’s Survival Handbook (iT’s magazines publishing) and lead author of Macmillan’s new course series for adults Global. Lindsay is also an avid blogger, you can follow him at www.sixthings.net.
1. “I am not a real teacher.”
This is actually a very common worry people have, especially if you have taken a short course in becoming a teacher. It seems to be almost more common in English teachers, who in some cases are rather low down on the prestige scale of education. Entry into English teaching is quite accessible too, as compared to many other professions. This contributes to an impression that “anyone can do it.”
How to cope: Keep teaching, you will learn so much and gain valuable teaching experience. Try to find a job with a supportive professional atmosphere. Take advantage of further training you can do. After a couple of years, think about getting a higher qualification (a diploma in English teaching, or an MA).
2. “I don’t know my grammar.”
This is one of the main worries, even with native speaker English teachers, and also contributes to worry #1 above. It can result in either ignoring English grammar completely (and just doing “conversation classes”) or obsessing over tiny grammatical points with students and on one’s own – neither which is very beneficial in the long run.
How to cope: Purchase a good grammar book for teachers and use it to freshen up on the grammar points that you will be teaching. Don’t avoid teaching a piece of grammar because you’re afraid of it. On the contrary, the best way for you to improve your grammar is by teaching others. On the other hand, don’t “overteach” a point of grammar that you are particularly proud of learning yourself
If all else fails, reach for the colouring books!
3. “I can’t control them.”
This is often the case of new teachers of young learners, or large classes. One can argue that the teacher is never 100% in control of the class, but the sense of feeling out of control is unnerving and very very stressful.
How to cope: You should develop a teaching routine. Give clear indications on when you will be moving from one activity to another. Plan your lessons thoroughly, but always have some back-up activities that you can use if anything goes wrong. Getting feedback from your collegagues can be really useful, ask someone to observe your class and then give you feedback or sit in on someone elses class, preferable a teacher who has a reputation of been able to control their class well!
4. “There are too many levels in the class”
This actually isn’t just a worry of new teachers, it’s a problem for language teachers all across the world! It’s virtually impossible to have a class where every single student is at exactly the same level!
How to cope: vary your teaching style to include whole class as well as pair or small group work. Include “open-ended” activities in your teaching: these are activities that allow students to do more or less according to their ability (for example, “write as many sentences as you can during the time limit”). There have been whole books written on dealing with this difficulty (the author of this blogpost actually wrote one!) so it may be worth investigating further.
5. “What am I going to do tomorrow?”
New teachers tend to spend too much time planning, and when the number of teaching hours goes up there is not enough time to plan each and every lesson as you may have done in your practice teaching (if indeed you had any). This results often in a situation in which the teacher comes to class feeling rather unprepared.
How to cope: Don’t just stick to the coursebook day in day out. Set aside a specific time during the week to plan your lessons. Get a hold of a few teacher resource books (like this free one here http://www.onlinetefl.com/activities-book/) or find some good websites with lots of teaching activities. Start making a collection of favourite warmers and fillers to spice up your lessons.
6 “My English isn’t good enough”
This worry is often more common of the non-native speaker but can happen with native speakers. You may think your accent is not standard or “posh” enough. Or you may be worried about expressions that you use, or even your spelling.
How to cope: In terms of standard written English (spelling and grammar and so on) you should really be careful. Have a colleague check your written feedback, instructions or anything you will be giving to the students. Prepare things beforehand and check them. In terms of pronunciation, as long as you are comprehensible then don’t worry too much. In these days of global English, students should be getting exposure to lots of different accents in English, not just a prestige RP accent. If you have a non-native accent but are comprehensible in English then you are actually serving as a good and achievable model for students to emulate.