Maybe I should make this space my unofficial all things teaching blog.
Anyone can come in and write questions, and I can share my knowledge, experience, and resources.
I had a lot of assumptions and questions, myself, when I first arrived here, and I’m finding that people both in this country and outside want to know the world of English teaching everywhere.
For my first blog, I’d like to share my advice on what things you might want to bring with you when heading beyond the U.S. borders to teach English.
You need to keep in mind that whatever job teaching English you might get, you will be PAID IN THE LOCAL CURRENCY. Right now, in most parts of the world, especially Latin America and Europe (the middle east is probably the place to go right now in terms of ESL income), you will be making a lot less every month, and that little income will have to be enough for rent, food, expenses such as cell phones and possibly the internet, which right now are less affordable for the masses… and anything not locally produced is almost double the price as in the States. So if you’re just planning on surviving and maybe a little traveling, you should be fine… But if you want to do anything “extra”, say, shake things up in the classroom, simple things like index cards, post-it notes or print media in English, if you get lucky enough to find such sources, be prepared to shell out, because a People magazine in Santiago cost almost $10 USD, and Vanity Fair cost $15. On the flip side, you could probably stay drunk on wine your entire time in Chile and still be able to afford fancy salmon and steak dinners.
1. Bring about 8-10 magazines. Or even just the pictures. But something with many short blurbs and articles, like People, US Weekly or even Cosmopolitan will provide kids from age 6 (always preview your content before going into the classroom!!!!!) on up will give your high beginners and beyond some fodder for reading, writing, thinking and discussing, and countless ideas for projects.
The hardest thing to find in another country is print material in English, so if you know what level and age your learners will be, try to find appropriate anything you can get your hands on. Short short story anthologies, poetry, essays; fiction, non-fiction, genre… Especially texts less than a page long will become truly invaluable. I’ve actually used paragraphs and excerpts from novels I was reading for my adult learners and became very creative in what they would do with it… they absolutely loved working with the material and using their own creativity.
2. On heavy cardstock, type up in (very) large font and print out and cut up:
irregular participles (you will likely use them at almost any learner level)
irregular plural count nouns; .ie. teeth, feet (these too; advanced learners tend to forget)
various words with “sh” “ch” “dg” “y” “l” and “r” sounds; these are the most difficult for pronunciation, universally
These are basics. As you start teaching, your index cards that you also bring (preferably colored) will help with more things that come up along the way.
Lamination seems pretty universal, so that part will not break your bank overseas. The challenge will just be finding it, since many schools do not offer the service in their copy centers (if your school even HAS a copy center…)
3. Post-its. Bring a hunk of the basic 3 x 3″ squares. You want them big enough to write yourself planning notes as classtime goes, as well as for your students to write words that can be seen from far away. I like to play the “who am I?” game with these.
4. Coveted clippies. Are almost extinct if not outrageously priced (they already are in the States, if you ask me). A decent sized box from Staples should suffice as long as you don’t share them, for heaven’s sake!! Paper clips abound everywhere, but don’t be surprised when they look quite different from what we’re used to!
5. If you like colored whiteboard markers, buy them before leaving the States! Same goes for college-ruled spiral notebooks and neatbooks (Latin America only sells grid notebooks! Ugh!!) You may or may not find Sharpies, but they will cost more.
6. A U. S. calendar! You will be surprised at how fast you forget, and all of a sudden a day hits when you finally find time to make a phone call with your Skype or MagicJack, and low and behold the bank, post office or student loan center cannot be reached because it’s Labor Day! I keep my U.S. and local calendar side by side, but I also write in the holidays to the other to keep me “streamlined”.
7. If you plan on spending a significant amount of time abroad, I recommend investing in a MagicJack. There are both computer and wall jacks available now, and depending on how long you will be gone (you can always renew for very reasonable prices as well), you buy the device for about $40 and a subscription for about $20/year… so if you plan on using the phone to talk to local numbers (800 numbers can by Skyped completely free, no subscription) more than $60 worth, such as friends, family, businesses that don’t have 800 numbers (which is most of the small, local ones that you might want to use to send flowers to a bride or a salon gift cert for a christmas present). I had to call the local rental car number to know if my rental was going to have a USB device in it, and a local Miami number to complain about my flight service. If I had used Skype, I would have had to spend a few dollars just to be on hold for all those hours…
8. Your favorite blankie. If you end up any “medium” distance from the equator, chances are that heating will be more or less basic if existent at all. It’s quite common, for example, to see women with fashionable blankets or shawls around them in their office as they lesson plan, correct tests or answer e-mail, and many have them in the classroom as well. I recommend a wool plaid for men’s laps, and something like a merino blend for women. So find something cozy and fuzzy and warm; something that will match almost anything you might be wearing (same goes with socks, too).
9. A few good novels, or better, your Kindle, if you have one. Believe me, as much as you will want to practice your new language, on long trips or at beddie-bye time, it’s REALLY really nice to curl up with something favorite and familiar from time to time. Some pocket novels can be stowed in a purse or backpack and taken out in those long lines at the bank, post office, or long trips so you don’t go completely batty of boredom.
Wherever you end up, and whoever you end up teaching, if you bring some basic materials for them and yourself that are adaptable and catch-all, you should have a lot of activities and lessons within just a few hands-on items.
Of course, this list isn’t all-comprehensive, but I hope it gives you a start and sparks your inspiration for more things that are small, easy-to-carry and will go with you a long way. Lamination or protective plastic around any print-outs or paper will help a lot. Anything that can’t be used up in one activity or hour. Re-usables, recyclables, etc. (That’s why I like play-doh for kids.)
I hope to see other comments from other teachers and/or travelers to share some of the things that have been useful (and not) in your experiences.
Good night and safe travels.