How To Stay Professional As An English Teacher

Teaching English overseas is a lot of fun but it’s also important to remember stay professional in your work environment. Behaving professionally doesn’t mean not having a good time at work, it simple means following common sense in dress and behavior.

Photo of an English Student, South Korea © Jrwooley6

Remember that, whether you want to or not, you are representing your country and culture, foreign teachers as a whole and, most of all, you are representing yourself. To gain and keep respect from your co-workers, bosses and students, always be mindful of what you are saying and doing. A good question to ask yourself is, “What would I do if a student was doing this?”

Here is a list of basic, common sense rules to follow to stay professional while at work.

  • Be aware of the level of your voice.
  • Don’t put your feet up on tables, desks or chairs.
  • Be aware of when meetings are beginning. If you are talking to someone, keep your awareness on the speaker for when they are ready to begin.
  • Sometimes rules don’t make sense. Talk to your boss about if your don’t understand or have an issue with a rule. It is also important keep in mind that you are in a foreign country and things may work differently there. Although the rules may not make sense to you, they may make sense to the culture of your host country.
  • Don’t chew gum while teaching. It can be difficult enough for students to understand what you are saying without anything in your mouth. If you are chewing gum outside of class, do not chew loudly or snap your gum.
  • Don’t swear anywhere even remotely near the students, especially if they are young children or teenagers.
  • Put your phones away! I cannot tell you how many teachers I have seen playing with their phones or keeping an app open on their phone during meetings and class. How would you respond if a student was doing this during class? Put your phone away until you have free time.
  • Be mindful of your dress. Don’t wear clothes that show your midriff. If you can’t lift your arms over your head without your belly showing, it’s not appropriate. Don’t let your underwear hang out. This goes for women and men.
  • Don’t talk about students when there are students around. Don’t assume they won’t understand what you’re saying.
  • Don’t talk about your problems with your boss, work or other teachers within earshot of students.

Following these simple and basic professional behaviors will go a long way in earning respect inside and outside of the classroom.