You are staring out at a sea of little people wearing little uniforms. They are sitting still and yet somehow closing in. You lock eyes with a boy in the third row. He has an eyebrow arched high enough to make Ice Cube envious. You realize he is the linchpin. If you don’t get this kid on your side asap, first day jitters will be the least of your problems. It’ll be Lord of the Flies in here. You feel your breath quickening. Stick to the lesson plan. Stick to the lesson plan. Oh, no. Oh, no. What was the lesson plan!?
Sucks to your asthmar!
Everybody has first day jitters. Your TEFL course will teach you everything you need to know about lesson planning, time management, classroom management and all the rest. But standing in front of a classroom for the first time is something that you simply have to experience. That said, here is some practical, teacher-to-teacher advice.
Be Confident. Be Strong.
When parents are happy, their kids are happy. When parents are sad, their kids are sad. The relationship between teacher and student is exactly the same. If you walk into the classroom looking like you’re about to hyperventilate, the kids aren’t going to notice your anxiousness, they are going to feel it.
Put your drama skills to use. Wear a mask of confidence. And put yourself in their place. You are gigantic and strange and you say things that they don’t understand. They want to impress you. They want your praise. But they are nervous too. A smiling, confident giant is a lot easier to adjust to than a giant that may or may not barf into a paper bag.
There is Nothing Wrong With I Don’t Know.
You will get caught. A student will raise their hand and say, “Why, teacher? Why?” and you will have no idea. It will probably be a grammar question. Because when two year old you said, “I have ride a bike!” your mom didn’t respond, “Now remember Sweetie, in the Present Perfect the past participle of ride is ridden.” Don’t panic. Don’t blurt out stream-of-consciousness guesswork. Simply say, “I don’t know.”
“That is a great question! I don’t know. But we’ll talk about it after the break.”
That is all they need to hear.
Be Prepared. Be Loose.
Never walk into a classroom unprepared (on day one or any day that follows.) It is unprofessional and much like emotion students can sense your unpreparedness. It is the quickest way to lose control of a classroom. Use what you learned in your TEFL course. Have a dynamic lesson plan mapped out. Have activities prepared in case the lesson finishes early. AND be prepared to scrap the whole thing if inspiration strikes. Some of your best ideas will come mid-lesson. Go with it. Have fun. The objective isn’t to follow a plan. The objective is to learn.
Move on. You will be Forgiven.
If your first day doesn’t go well, don’t sweat it. Even the most experienced teachers have off days. Not only will the students not hold it against you, they probably won’t notice. While you are getting inner-monologue judgy about your “performance” they will still be trying to figure out how to pronounce vegetable.
At the end of the semester no single day will matter. What matters is the collection of days–the knowledge and the inspiration you were able to impart from beginning to end.
Shake off those first day jitters, teacher. You’ve got this!