TEFL Career Path Questions #6

This post is a follow up to the previous post – TEFL Career Path #5.  Here we talk about a career option that is open to you that is a bit of an alternative from the straight TEFL idea of teaching English.  We are talking about teaching in International Schools.

In a follow up question to the previous post the reader asked (and I will extract here):

. . . should I first look into getting my teacher’s certification and then consider the tefl certificate?

IF you have the time and money to become a certified teacher, do that first as it is MORE important than the TEFL cert, though you may still need to get a TEFL certification at some point if only to satisfy employers who don’t understand that a certified teacher is a better animal than a TEFL certified teacher . . .  🙂

Also – there is a circuit of international schools out in the world that hire ONLY real certified teachers.  Those schools DO require more experience and talent, but also pay MUCH better and offer much better benefits and even long-term pension plans for the professional teacher.  I would consider that a STEP ABOVE the college/university option in terms of professionalism.  I don’t usually mention the international school option as it is often not an option or even a consideration for most people considering teaching abroad.   But it is – in my opinion – the very best option if you can take it.

For more about “international schools” cruise the ISS.edu website.  Yes, it is a pay service, but eventually you might use them and they can at least introduce you to the idea of working for those high quality first tier schools abroad.  These are often the “American School” or “British Curriculum School” type situations to which expatriate corporate executives or even diplomats will send their children.

First tier international schools – I say “first tier” as there is a whole raft of wannabe schools and lower quality imitations with “international” in their names – will usually want you to have at least two years of experience teaching as a qualified and certified teacher in the schools in your home country along with the appropriate degrees. In the UK this would be called Qualified Teacher Status or QTS – in the USA you would be certified by the state in which you are working.

The only downside to this option is that you are essentially working in a Western setting, according to Western standards and Western cultural rules. If your goal is to immerse yourself in a foreign culture – you won’t find that at work, but you will find it at home and in your community.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you have the time, money and inclination, give a close look to the option of working in international schools. It is an option not often considered by the TEFL troops, but is one that should be considered – especially early in your career.

TEFL Training Courses: Just How Difficult Are They?

There is a bit of a cult among some TEFL courses to make it sound as if TEFL courses are really super difficult and that you should worry a lot about getting it done.

Well . . . okay – yes and no.

My experience is that in-classroom TEFL courses are demanding of your time – yes. But you just spent US$1200-2500 on a four-to-six-week course. Wouldn’t you hope that it be comprehensive and at least a bit demanding? Wouldn’t you feel cheated if you spent so much money and it was really all just fluff and filler and you didn’t really need to do anything? I sure would.

Your Keys to Success

So . . . let’s assume the course has some substance to it and you will need to do a few things:

1. Prepare a bit before you attend the course. Refresh your knowledge of English grammar. Cruise grammar websites and possibly even pick up a copy of the ebook Fast Track Grammar Review for EFL Teachers – it was written specifically for people taking TEFL courses and it is a humor-filled run at grammar. And it’s only seven bucks. Be sure you know at least the parts of speech and the different aspects/tenses of verbs and how they are used. Why struggle with that when you will already be quite busy getting teaching method down.

2. Cruise the abundance of FREE TEFL Training over at TEFL Boot Camp. Buy a book like Jeremy Harmer’s How to Teach English and familiarize yourself especially with method (PPP or ESA) and lesson planning. My experience has been that TEFL trainees can consume an enormous amount of time getting their heads around those two ideas and integrating them on a practical level. When in training new teachers can spend six or even eight hours on a lesson plan that would take them less than twenty minutes to think through and plan after a few months on the job.

3. Stay sober and plan on studying at night. Okay, this part is the most difficult. Many people travel across the world to study in some of the world’s most exciting cities. Six weeks in Bangkok and not a night out on the town? Well, sure – get out there and have some fun, but do figure that most week nights you will be working on your lessons and preparing for the next day. Maybe even some weekends. You are, after all, preparing for a new occupation. Do your best to get it right.

4. Be aware that the original TEFL courses such as Trinity, RSA, CELTA and others were all developed at the level where high school graduates could take the courses and pass. And that level of demand is still there. That means if you have a lot of experience with study – like those of you who already have a degree, the course will not be super difficult. So have some confidence about your study and learning skills.

5. Understand that you will get feedback on how you teach. A few people want to teach “their way” and that isn’t how these classes work. The courses teach a specific method and a specific way of doing things. Desensitize yourself to feedback on how you are doing. You are learning some new skills -don’t expect to be perfect just out of the box and expect that someone will tell you that you are not perfect. No big deal. And that feedback is one of the most important parts of the course. And your ability to hear it and take it in will make a HUGE difference in your ability to learn the skills offered on the course and to continue to improve once on the job.

Got it? That was Easy!

TED’s Tips™ #1: TEFL Training is NOT rocket science. Go to your course prepared to wring out of it every dollar/pound you paid for it. It will be well worth your focus and discipline. I promise!