There are many ways you can treat your precious days teaching English abroad. You can have a bit of a laugh, pound endless pints at the local expat pub, or simply fill your social media with a dazzling array of spectacular or sloppy photos intended to make your cubicle-bound friends back home jealous. You can also use the time to acquire new skills and languages, learn about yourself and other cultures, get your mind and body in shape, become a better teacher all the while posting amazing photos on all of your social media outlets. Most likely your time will end up somewhere in between, but let’s take a look at how you can spend your time teaching more wisely.
Strengthen the Foundations of Your Own Language Skills
1) Embrace Public Speaking and Improved Articulation and Presence
These days there are numerous formats for teaching English. Whatever structure you are using it is helpful to remember that all the world is a stage, and that each class should be a performance. The more you speak and the more you stand in front of a class the more comfortable you will get. Speak to individuals in each group and pay attention to the body language and verbal signals they display. If something is not working in class, retreat or modify. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. Do some research on strong body language, get feedback from students or colleagues, and watch a video of yourself teaching. Learning to speak articulately, how to command an audience and read a room. These tactics will prove invaluable no matter what endeavors you take on for the rest of your days.
2) Become a Grammar Ninja
If you have ever studied the martial arts or at least watched a good kung fu movie, you know that the philosophy of a good warrior is to be so lethal that you rarely need to engage in battle. Take the same approach with learning the exquisite grammar of the English language. Get a notebook or a set of flash cards and master grammar. Before each lesson attack each grammar point. Be able to explain the third conditional, past perfect and the definite article in your sleep. The deeper your grammar arsenal, the calmer and clearer your explanations will become. As with speaking, improving your grammar will strengthen your writing and ability to communicate effectively. A person who can speak and write well can tell any story they wish. People who can write and speak well hold more influence and can convey their ideas effectively. Teaching gives you the perfect platform to hone your chops. These are indispensable skills. Get after it. Hiding from the grammar monster in the closet is a game that will end with a definitive nightmare or two.
Learning New Skills and Personal Discipline
3) Develop a New Skill
You are abroad and the opportunities are endless. It is absolutely the most perfect time to learn a new skill and to keep yourself sharp. You can learn to write and speak Mandarin, master the Russian language or its literature, become a master photographer, painter, or guitar player or emerge as the foremost expert on the history of a war or monarchy in your new country. You can learn to sew, do your CELTA, DELTA or acquire other accreditation, make clothing, design web sites, get your MA in literature or even an MBA. The choice is yours. You will most likely have some free time and some rare opportunities, so use them wisely. Learning new skills will give you practical value, make you a more interesting person, you will become more integrated, and you will be able to connect with more people on many different levels.
4) Take Personal Inventory
You are away from home. You are away from the city and country you grew up in. You are away from mommy and daddy. At times you may feel frightened and scared, and this is normal. Use the fear and new surroundings to learn about yourself and to strengthen your resolve. Step outside yourself and observe how you truly act. Are you eating well? Do you take care of yourself? Is your appearance presentable before each class? Is smoking or drinking wearing you down? Would colleagues look to you as a reliable person who could be trusted with a project? Do you take care of your flat? Are you responsible financially? Teaching abroad gives you, yet again, a tremendous platform to take personal inventory. Keep a daily journal and see what you can learn.
Cultural Diplomacy & Cultural Awareness
5) Become a Cultural Diplomat
If you are a native speaker of the English language the people you teach, and the people of the city or country you live in will often associate your entire nation with your personal behavior. This may not be fair or accurate, but that is the way many people process such interactions. Hence, you have a sterling choice. You can be a loud-mouthed drunk, you can hide under a shady tree, or you can be a stellar example. Follow the law and respect local traditions and customs. Take part in volunteer efforts if it is acceptable and legal. Learn the local holidays and traditions and take part when acceptable. Be the way you want your country represented.
6) Examining Your Own Cultural Values
We have already spoken about personal habits. Living and teaching abroad will also give you another incredible chance to review your overall guiding philosophies and respective frames of reference in life. If you are in your home country, it is hard to detach and have a look at the principles and scaffolding which are holding up your life. Do you believe in a certain religion? Are you a nihilist or a postmodernist? Do you hold steadfast political or social views. Living and teaching abroad will give you the perfect opportunity to examine your beliefs and then challenge them versus opposing or differing views and philosophies. Of course, please be sensible if you are challenging or questioning the local beliefs or religion of the local denizens.
Food & Fitness
7) Become a Foodie
Living abroad allows you to sample and savor some of the gastronomical wonders of the world. Night markets in Taiwan and China, local cafes in Turkey, pancake festivals in Russia, markets in Korea, and sushi bars in Japan are just the tip of the ice burg for millions of possibilities. Whilst sampling the local flavors is truly one of the finest rewards of living abroad, it is also a great opportunity to experiment with different diets or to see which foods truly suit you. Shopping at local markets is also another great idea. You can see the freshest food, get a true idea of the national ingredients and cuisine, learn the language, (hopefully) save money, and improve your health. Finally, you would be remiss if you did not learn how to prepare at least one of the local dishes. This is simply fun and can be a very handy skill to flash at an unknown occasion in the future and you may just surprise the right person when you whip up a batch of Korean dumplings or a Russian soup.
If you are lucky enough to live near a beautiful natural spot you can take up a sport or outdoor activity. Learning to scuba dive in Saudi Arabia, surfing in Thailand or Taiwan, kite surfing in Poland, and cross country skiing in Russia are just some of the activities that teachers have learned whilst teaching abroad. Be safe and enjoy the numerous benefits of being a skilled sportsman.
Being a Team Player
9) Social Event Success
People always talk about being a team player and this can come off as a wretched and tired cliche. If you have ever worked in a teachers’ room, however, you may have actually found this to be sound advice. Bringing in food to the office or being a helpful co-worker will of course win you friends, but you can also learn a lot at company social events. If for example, you are required or asked to attend a Halloween or Christmas party, you might think it is corny or you are too cool for school to attend such sophomoric functions. Perhaps you are shy or what is known as socially awkward. If you force yourself to engage in meaningful conversations with your students and colleagues you might just be surprised with the results. Let teaching open doors to usher in or enhance a variety of life skills. Put your phone down and learn how to interact with the humans. Most of them don’t bite.
10) Leave Everything Better than You Found It
If you work in an office you can be the person who doesn’t tell anyone when the printer is broke or never refills the paper. You can leave your whiteboards dirty and chairs in a mess. You can also be the guy who leaves neat folders with examples of lessons, a clean work space, and somebody that takes care of small matters before being asked.
The choice is yours. You can use teaching as an extended spring break or holiday, or you can use it to reveal the best sides of yourself and thus change your classroom, your city, and the world. It may seem difficult or a drag, but you may be delighted with the results.