I’ve been talking to many people about how to best get started in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). For many, just thinking about travelling abroad, and working and living in a different country, is a bit intimidating.
It’s not only the idea of teaching in front of a foreign class of students that a bit scary, it’s also about saying goodbye to the familiar environment, working and living in an unfamiliar country, and getting used to a new culture and language. But if you feel confident and have enough knowledge of English language, being the TEFL teacher is a great career.
When I think back some twenty years ago, I remember my own fears and that I nearly missed my plane when I traveled to my first job as a TEFL teacher in the hills of northern Greece.
I’m really glad I took those steps, though, and after teaching my first classes and getting used to preparing the lessons, I was asking myself how it came that I had been so frightened. I additionally discovered that living abroad really wasn’t that tough, and I learned that Greece was a friendly place to be.
Maybe you’ve been considering working as a TEFL teacher but haven’t given it any further thought yet. The reason could very well be the same as I experienced, just a little fear. If you feel it is fear that kept you from it, I can advise you, if you want to overcome those fears, to make sure you’ll get a clearer idea of what teaching English in a foreign country is all about.
First, take courses in a short TEFL program, get an idea of what it takes to teach English, and once you’ve done that, you will understand how to prepare and plan the lessons, what sort of activities are involved, how to deal with and understand students, how to present yourself, and how to best communicate during your lessons. What may be more important, you may get a little enthusiastic and excited to become involved in TEFL.
If you are not getting excited, and not just about a possibly badly delivered course, it could very well be that TEFL just isn’t your thing. It is advisable to talk to people who know what TEFL involves, and your instructor may be able to answer all your questions as well regarding accommodation, earning, colleagues, and students. All this may be very helpful to get a clear and realistic idea of what teaching English abroad is all about.
It is also a good idea to get well informed about the country where you would like to go and see if that’s really the place where you want to be teaching. Try to get information from teachers who already were there and learn about lifestyle, culture, entertainment options, and whether you’ll be earning enough to cope with the cost of living. You can easily get in touch with teachers via online TEFL forums like eslcafe.com (general), or more country-specific forums like expatriatecafe.com (for Spain), or ajarn.com (for Thailand). If you take just a little time, you can find plenty of forums related to TEFL.
There are also prospective TEFL teachers who have serious doubts if pursuing a career in TEFL is useful. Well, I happen to know many TEFL professionals, and they all perform varying roles. Some of them are still working as teachers in place all around the globe, while others started schools to help students get ahead. Some are involved in teacher training programs, while others took up writing novels and books. TEFL is just like any other industry, offering a wide range of opportunities for all sorts of individuals. The TEFL persons that I know are professional, full of initiative, and industrious, the typical qualifications of all employers in any sort of professional field value.
When you have chosen to opt for a career in TEFL, you still are left with plenty of other opportunities. You may well decide for TEFL when you want to take a break in your career. Most TEFL positions are for the duration of nine to twelve months, but there are also shorter contracts for four to eight weeks, specifically for summer camps in China, Italy, or Spain. If you decide to teach English classes, you are sure to gain more proficiency in other skills as well, such as in communication, presentation, and organization.
I have seen quite a few people from different professional fields teaching English abroad for a few years for the purpose of gaining useful CV experience. I’ve met, for example, a young inexperienced architect, who in the days of the recession, wanted to do something useful to brighten up his CV. He signed up for teaching in Japan which offered him a fantastic chance to get to know Japanese architecture much better. Now the days of the recession are over, he has returned and launched his architecture career, but the years in Japan have made him a more resourceful person with far better communication skills.
Many teachers in the fields of primary and secondary education have learned that teaching in a foreign country has helped them substantially in gaining practical experience before they returned and applied for a position at a UK school. This is even more important as in the UK, there are a lot more trainee teachers for fewer teaching positions. I also had that experience. I came back after eight years of working in the TEFL field and I used my experience, including my enhanced communication and presentation skills, to land a perfect marketing job in the UK.
There are so many excuses and fears that are preventing many people like you from getting on to the TEFL track, and I’ve met so many older people who say that they’ve always wanted to go into TEFL, but never really got to it. Well, I can tell you that I’ve never met any TEFL teacher who is regretting the time they spent in a foreign country.