Got your first TEFL job lined up? Ticket booked? Make sure you’ve packed these too.
- A sense of humour – laugh at yourself, laugh at your students, laugh at the pay, laugh at the materials. I made the mistake of being too serious and taking the ‘methods’ too literally – you soon find that you either lighten up or go crazy.
- Savings – for the love of Mumm-Ra, take some money! Getting set up in another country will empty your bank account. There are the usual fees involved with moving house, as well procuring furnishings, plus there will be lots of hidden expenses (especially if you come to Japan). You never know when you might need an emergency flight home – the collapse of NOVA is a warning to all.
- TEFL Tradesman – it might not be the most PC website out there, but the TEFL Tradesman is a hive of brazen, dirt-dishing investigative b(l)og writing. The rather amusing follow-up to the author’s attempts to uncover the shysters in the TEFL world is this hilariously lame and quite frankly odd website that tries to reveal the true identity of the author. It’s a live TEFL drama!
- English language games/discussion topics – priceless when you’re either too tired or lazy to have planned thoroughly. Falling back on a reserve of games or conversation tasks can get you out of almost any sticky situation.
- An exercise routine – is it just me, or does teaching somehow make you fat? Maybe it’s just that my metabolism slowed down when I passed the big ol’ double-2 (22), or perhaps it’s the hours of sedentary lesson planning. Teaching isn’t the most active job yet it seems to take a lot of adrenalin. Despite that, my ever-growing gut is a warning to all of you English teachers to establish an exercise routine.
- A hobby – particularly in the first year of teaching, things can be quite intense. You’re still learning the ropes and everything’s new both in and out of work. A hobby is a way to relax and switch off – just make sure it’s legal.
- A “native” girlfriend/boyfriend – see the above. Also, it’s a great way to learn the language, and to get to know the culture of the land you are in. Plus you have the ‘foreigner appeal’, which always goes down well with a select group of weirdos.
- A holiday abroad – I’ve yet to leave Japan since I got here almost a year and a half ago. That seems like a mistake. I’m quite desperate now to get out of here for a few weeks and see somewhere new. The change would no doubt be refreshing and invigorating.
- Aspirations of becoming an author/musician/film star – it seems almost everyone uses TEFL as a stop-gap on the way to bigger and better things (it just so happens for most people that the stop-gap becomes their life). As for me, I dream of one day being a farmer in Cornwall and forgetting I ever taught English… yep, I’m aiming pretty low.
- A blog – There are so many TEFL blogs out there that it’s doubtful that anyone will read your blog apart from your mother (Hi Mum!). In fact, it seems that blogging is almost mandatory for new teachers as a way of documenting one’s life abroad and tracking one’s progress as a teacher.
Anything to add? Leave a comment below!