5 Ways to Kick Ass* in Your First (or 10th) EFL Job

*(Obviously we don’t want you to actually, literally, kick ass, or you’ll get fired!)

by Stuart Allen @Stu_RAYEnglish
Ray English TEFL Recruitment, China

5 Ways to Kick Ass* in Your First (or 10th) EFL Job

By Stefan Kloo (originally posted to Flickr as April10 001) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Moving 6,000 miles to a strange land to start a new job is daunting enough. Wouldn’t it be great to have a few simple rules to follow that would pretty much guarantee success at your new job, whilst allowing you to have fun?

Well, strangely enough, that’s exactly what we have here – 5 of the wisest tips culled from years of experience living and working abroad. Everyone we spoke to (OK, about five other experienced TEFL-ers) wholeheartedly agreed that these five tips will give you the most value.

Here they are:

  1. Build rapport with everyone (especially the local staff)
  2. Know Your stuff
  3. Be curious about EVERYTHING (language, local area, food, places, etc.)
  4. Be positive
  5. Keep a balance

1. Build Rapport

This might sound like an obvious one, but so many people arrive so wrapped up in themselves that they forget to take an interest in the people around them.

And those that do take an interest in the people around them often forget to pay any attention to the local staff working at the school (tip: they know all the cool places and things to do that tourists never see!).

Those that do take an interest in people, and the local staff, often forget the most important people of all: the students!

A surprise, I know, but building a relationship with the students in your class is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a teacher. Your class will go more smoothly, and the more you put into your teaching, the more you’ll get out.

2. Know Your Stuff

Review your notes from the CELTA on the plane, and every couple of weeks. It’s amazing how much information they pack into that course, but even more amazing how fast we can forget it. Especially important is the reviewing after every couple of weeks – you’ll come across old gems of advice and wisdom that make a ton more sense now that you’ve started teaching properly.

3. Be Curious about EVERYTHING

This is both in and out of the school. You’re in a new environment, in a new job, so found out everything you can! Bug people with questions (and try to remember the answers, so you don’t have to bug them twice).

Inside the school, ask questions about the books you use, how many hours each one takes, what kind of activities work best for this thing, that thing, etc.

Outside of the school, ask questions about experiences people have had, where the best place is to go for this, for that.

Pretty soon, and as long as you follow up on the information (don’t just let it accumulate, act on it!) you’ll synthesize people’s advice and recommendations and become the font of all knowledge – and people will be coming to you to ask for your advice!

4. Be Positive

It’s amazing the amount of teachers I see that adopt a cynical stance on just about everything. Yes, the food is different. Yes, people might seem rude because they have different customs to yours. Yes, I miss X from home (replace ‘X’ with just about anything). Yes, the weather is different. Yes, it can be tricky to be independent because you haven’t mastered the language yet – but didn’t you come to a foreign land to have an experience? This is all part of the tales you’ll tell your grandchildren! If you wanted to be safe and cocooned, you should stay at home!

So stay positive. Learn what’s important and what’s not. Shrug off the non-important details. You’ll have a better experience, and be more attractive to the opposite sex, too.

5. Keep a Balance

It’s a tough one this. Some people, once they arrive at their first job, start to either work too much, or play too much. Some people throw themselves into work, desperate to make sure that they become the best teacher they can in the shortest time possible.

Some people are the opposite, and start to let their time off eat into their work time – turning up late, or just concentrating on gossiping in the school rather than working.

Either way, try to find a balance. You’ll enjoy both sides more, I promise, and get a more fulfilling experience along the way.

Stuart Allen is the recruitment director at RAY English TEFL Recruitment, China. You can visit their site here.


All the guest posts from the TEFL teachers working around the world that have provided articles for our blog.



  1. Hi,

    I’m Polish and I have been teaching English for about 20 years now. I also happen to be running a language school in the South of my country. I’ve made a lot of acquaintances with Native Speakers of English and I have 1 piece of advice:

    Get to know the culture/habits/behaviour of local people. It’s crucial (trust me, I’ve seen some strange & awkward situations involving Native teachers)

    This could be added onto “Know your stuff” as well I guess 🙂

  2. I can’t agree more. But most of all, ALWAYS stay positive even if you get fired or you can’t get your visa extended.

  3. Teachers should also be creative. This could be added onto “Know your stuff.” It isn’t enough to know different methodologies you have to have the courage to mess around with different ways of teaching. You need to get different learners involved in different ways every day! Students will also get bored of doing the same thing over and over. I LOVE using songs in my class, but I don’t just give them a cloze with every song. We do different things (http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2012/06/not-another-cloze-how-else-to-use-songs.html) every time.

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