TEFL Spring Cleaning: Going Paperless When Teaching Abroad

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When I first started teaching in 2005, I arrived in Costa Rica fresh out of my TEFL course with plenty of resources in hand, literally! I had reams of lesson plans and game ideas as well as clunky grammar and teaching reference books. My suitcase was heavy, but I felt ready! After teaching for a few years there, it was time to move on to Morocco, and as I tried to pack my life into two 50-pound suitcases, I found myself wondering if it was time to ditch the bulky materials and go virtual.

So with spring right around the corner, and spring-cleaning on our minds, here are some reasons to consider saving the trees and becoming paperless teachers!

If you need it, it’s probably online.

These days there are countless, free sites dedicated to providing TEFL teachers with lesson plans, games and creative ideas for the classroom. These are incredible time savers, and since these websites are constantly updated, they are a great source of fresh, new materials. Sites like these are good places to start: BogglesWorldESL and ESLBase.

If you can’t live without it, scan and save what you need.

It’s a lot easier to pack a flash drive than folders full of papers. And you won’t need Internet access to retrieve your materials!  So if there are hard copies you know you’ll want to use in the classroom, scan and save those documents. And for those with Internet, an even better option to consider is using a cloud-based solution, like Evernote, to store files. Either way you can print what you need at school or an Internet café and save yourself the hassle of lugging your heavy files around the world.

If a school is quality, it should provide a resource library for teachers.

Unless you plan to teach in a rural location, where resources are limited, expect your school to provide its teachers not only with textbooks for class but also with shelves of reference books you can use, like grammar books, classroom idea books and collections of sample lesson plans. It’s something worth asking about before you sign a contract, since a school that provides these resources is usually well established and well equipped.

February 28, 2013