TEFL teachers, like all teachers, have the added challenge of the additional hours outside of the classroom needed to bring lessons to life in the first place.
Good time management is the difference between the looming shadow of a rushed Monday morning to get a jump on the prep for the rest of the week and leaving work at the door on Friday afternoons. You don’t need to give those various exam boards, or that interesting new podcast for higher-level learners a second thought if you’re well organized.
And what better motivation is there, as a TEFL teacher than knowing that you would be wasting precious time to travel and adventure if you’re not?
So, how exactly do we shake off those Monday blues and stay on top of it all?
Prepare to plan…
The key to succeeding in any teaching role is the planning that you put into it. The time that you invest will eventually pay off in the form of not having to sweat your 9 am lesson on the Present Perfect because you’ve been there, and done that already.
Once you have that material to hand, there is no reason that your lessons can’t be recycled and reused!
Whilst the grammar may never change, the students will, and every lesson will continue to feel different because of that. You’ll eventually be able to recite the resources by heart, and ultimately be one step closer to never dreading a Monday again.
As a new teacher, you may often feel envious of the more seasoned teachers who can rock up and wing it. But there’s more to that than meets the eye.
The longer you teach, the more you’ll start to understand that they never stopped putting in time and effort, but that they had already put that time in years earlier. It’s one thing to recycle and reuse your lessons; it’s another to meticulously order those lessons in folders on your pen drive. And never, ever forget to back them up.
Follow all the above steps, and you can say goodbye to those additional hours slaving over your computer, and ‘wing it’ like those before us, with all that extra time now on our hands.
If it ain’t broke…
Don’t be afraid to utilise the most important tool that a TEFL teacher has: the Internet.
From free, downloadable sheets from websites like iSLCollective, to paid subscriptions for more detailed lesson plans and resources from linguahouse.com, TEFL teachers can find everything they could possibly need for every level.
Often, these resources are also rated by fellow teachers who have downloaded and used them in classes, so you can narrow down the most useful ones with ease and knock even more time off those initial hours of planning.
It’s important to remember that even though you’re the one leading a class through a specific grammar point, you will be surrounded by a community of teachers doing the exact same thing in a different classroom.
If you find yourself stuck when planning a lesson, or hunting for a resource to no avail, ask those who have probably been in your shoes before. Teaching is a community of people who are always happy to share resources and exchange ideas on the different ways to approach teaching certain elements of English.
You’ll get to return the favour, somewhere along the line, and save that teacher time in the same way that another saved you some.
If you don’t ask…
Beyond your own time management, if you’re working for a school, your director of studies will play a key role in deciding the hours that you’ll be teaching.
Managing your time to the best of your ability should start with a conversation about those hours. Usually, private language schools will ask you for your availability and give you hours based on that.
Figure out a schedule that works for you: if you know you’re not a morning person, and want to spend your days exploring, then take the evenings. If they need you to cover some evenings because that’s typically a TEFL teacher’s busiest time of the day, then organize a fixed schedule so you know what to expect each week. It’s always better to ask in advance so you can get down to planning your next hiking, or sightseeing trip, with no unexpected scheduling hiccups.
If you’ve decided to go freelance, then the ball is very much in your court. You know what works for you, and once you’ve built up a solid and reliable client base of students, then you can schedule lessons whenever you want from the comfort of your own home. And if you have an internet connection, that home can be anywhere you want it to be in the world.
Lean into it…
It doesn’t have to be all work and no play. There are other ways of living. That being said, if you love to teach, it doesn’t hurt to lean into those busy periods. The busiest time of the year for a TEFL teacher is usually from October until the end of June.
The rest of that time you’re free to hop from country to country and catch up with old friends, with the entire summer at your disposal. If you view those chaotic months as an investment, those hours you put in to become your summer spending money.
Those that choose not to lean in will find themselves continuing the grind through July, and sometimes even August, at summer camps. Why not embrace a few crazy months of work, with your agreed fixed schedule, and already-prepped lessons to finally check off those dream destinations on your bucket list?
TEFL teaching is not your typical 9 – 5 job. If you learn to lean into its quirks, then that becomes the real key to managing your time well so that you can do what all TEFL teachers love to do the most: travel, and there are so many ways to travel smarter and cheaper.
Good time management is a valuable skill that can be used in any field of work, but as a TEFL teacher with the world at your feet, why would you want to use it any other way? And so, armed with the knowledge needed to manage your time to the utmost of your ability, all that’s left is to obtain your TEFL certification. These tips are one part of the puzzle, and The TEFL Org can help with the rest as The TEFL Org is explaining in its blog post. Being a TEFL teacher will open the world up to you. Being an organized TEFL teacher will free up your days to see as much of that world as you can.