TEFL Teaching – How To Get Over Your Nerves

Years ago, when I walked into my first class as a teacher, I was ready to run back out again. This wasn’t a class of kids, where a couple of games and some easy vocabulary would have sufficed. Nope, this was a class of fee-paying adults. What the hell was I supposed to do?!

Every teacher feels nervous when they start teaching, move to a different school, or start a new type of class that’s perhaps a bit unfamiliar. How do you get over this, and be the best teacher possible? I’ve put together some tips that I have found useful over the years.

Be Prepared!

Every year, I see new teachers that struggle to get comfortable in front of their classes. Mostly, it’s because of a lack of planning. Sometimes, it’s because they might not know how to plan properly, what to include in a lesson layout and what things to focus on. It might be down to a lack of experience, over or underestimating the amount of time an activity will take, and an inability to improvise. In the worst cases, it’s because of the laid back attitude of a native speaker, believing that speaking a language fluently gives them the ability to teach it. Whatever it may be, it damages the credibility of a teacher and gets the year off to a bad start.

Make sure that you plan your classes effectively. Ask for help from your colleagues, look online for good lesson plan ideas, there’s lots of things out there. Also, always make sure that you have an activity or two up your sleeve for if your main lesson finishes early or they eat up material faster than expected.

Recognise Your Natural Authority

It may seem difficult to really get them to respect you. But remember that in the vast majority of societies, teachers have a natural authority. Children and adults alike are taught from a young age to defer to the person at the front of the classroom. They will automatically assume that you know your stuff and are going to give them the skills they need, and are ultimately paying you for. Therefore, don’t be worried that they will undermine you from the outset, and second guess your every move.

But Don’t Abuse It….

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Obviously, this has its limits. People paying for classes have little tolerance for laziness or incompetence. Your authority relies on some points:

  1. Don’t bullshit your way through something. If a student asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, tell them the truth. Say you will get back to them, or give them the responsibility of looking it up at home, or whatever you find to be the most effective method. But if you lie, and tell them something which isn’t true just to look like you know it all, they will find out and subsequently respect you much less.
  2.  Always be on time. This seems obvious but you would be amazed…


Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously


Always remember that there is more than one way to crack an egg. Just because your teacher at school was very serious and stood at the front with the chalk for the whole hour doesn’t mean that you have to. The teacher should have some fun with the material, engage with the class and let students make a mess, you are there to clean it up. Be a bit of a clown when necessary, and make yourself approachable.

Any tips for conquering first day fears? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “TEFL Teaching – How To Get Over Your Nerves

  1. These are great tips! I’ve been teaching ESL/EFL for 9 years now, and I’d also like to add:

    Learn how to take criticism professionally.

    While it may be surprising to receive a complaint or negative review of a class observation, don’t take the remarks personally. Understand that teachers all make mistakes, and after evaluating what went awry, look at how to improve yourself or methods next time so the same thing won’t happen again.


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