Seeking Opportunity in TEFL

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful”
– Warren Buffett

The man many financial publications consider to be the wealthiest man in the world suggests that you see opportunity when and where other people are fearful of doing so.

You might want to consider this for the TEFL world also.

Listen carefully – I am not suggesting that you endanger yourself – understand that first.

What I am suggesting is that people who, for example, are interested in teaching in Thailand – go and do it right now.

Many jobs are unfilled, schools are looking for teachers. Looking for LOTS of teachers.

Civil Unrest

Only a few short weeks ago there was shooting in the streets of Bangkok and problems in some of the cities in the north and north-east of Thailand. But to a great extent those problems have ceased. What happened to the teaching situation in Thailand though is that many teachers left, some who were going to go didn’t and Thailand was removed from the list of possibilities by people who were scanning the world market for enjoyable places to work and live.

Not only is the civil unrest over – there are many parts of the country that were untouched by it. Not going to teach say on Samui Island or Phuket Island in the south of the country because of the problems in Bangkok or in the north of the country is a bit like not going to San Francisco after the Watts riots in the USA (which occurred in the Los Angeles area). Or like not going to Atlanta Georgia after 9/11 in New York. Or not going to Phoenix Arizona after the Oklahoma City bombing a few years back. Great distances separate these places.

We perceive such problems in other countries as being FAR worse than similar situations that happened in our own country. It is just human nature to do so.

Look for Opportunity

Look for opportunities in countries that have had some bad press. Do your homework, of course! Don’t walk blindly into a bad situation. Communicate with people on the ground where you are thinking about going and ask them specifically about the situation.

What you will often find is that things are fine. And that there are jobs galore.

Those jobs galore give you an opportunity to perhaps move up to a job you would not have had opportunity to have otherwise and a chance to have more negotiating power when it comes to salary and benefits, an opportunity to try something new and different.

Check it out. A couple good references for Thailand are Teach English in Bangkok and Teach English in Phuket.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Look for opportunity in places others might not consider. You will likely be surprised by what is on offer for you.

Resume CV for Teaching English Abroad

TEFL Job Search Resume CV

How you present yourself matters much more than you might think. Much of the world pays close attention to how you present yourself. They consider it a matter of importance whether you do, or not. If you want the job, do what is required to get it.

#1. Put your photo on your resume and be sure you are dressed professionally. Yeah, yeah, this is illegal in the USA and a few other places, but are you applying for a job in the USA? No.

#2. Put what qualifies you for the job at the top of the page. Don’t make a potential employer struggle to find out if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job.

#3. Professional photo and professional email address. I once had a teacher candidate apply for a job with the email address of How willing would most schools be to employ this person? Not!

People sometimes send photos of themselves drunk with friends, sometimes even photos of them fondling members of the opposite (or even same) sex! What are they trying to show or prove?! Send a professional photo with you in professional dress.

Get real – while you might be seeking employment overseas as a one year vacation – party – lark – your employer is looking for a real teacher who has a commitment to their students and not just to the local bars, babes and dudes, and beaches.

#4. Stress anything and everything related to teaching and training that you have ever done before. Even volunteer work.

Answer the question: Why should this employer think you are qualified to stand in front of his students? The very students that determine the success of his/her business?

#5. Focus on the job you are seeking. Your resume need not reflect a training course you took twenty years ago about computer security. Unless, of course, you are seeking a computer security job, but then you are on the wrong website.

DOUBLE CHECK your entire resume for spelling and grammar problems. Don’t write in email shorthand, use proper English. In fact, if you intend to teach English – ever – anywhere – start practicing now using English properly.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Approach your job search as professionally as you would in your home country.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get a professional photograph taken with you wearing professional dress. Just that one small factor alone can improve your chances over 100%. Much of the world puts STRONG importance on presentation. Why not win from the start?

Most Common Teaching Errors of New Teachers

Avoid these TEFL Teaching Traps

Do a quality job for your students and avoid these common traps:

Talking too Much

Understandably new teachers are often a bit nervous and in reaction to that, they often talk too much. About themselves, about English, about anything and everything. Your students are most likely in your class to learn how to talk, not to listen to you talk. If you are really nervous about your performance, find ways for your students to talk more and put yourself in the background. That’s what you should be doing anyway!

Over- or Under-Correcting your Students

Finding the right balance is the sign of an experienced teacher and a good reason to take a good TEFL course. Too much correction and your students are afraid to talk and you crush their self-confidence. Too little correction and students babble away with completely incomprehensible speech. Read Error Correction in EFL over at TEFL Boot Camp to get yourself around the idea.

Ignoring Local Culture and Customs

Do you know that in some cultures pointing with one finger is rude? That motioning with your palm facing up (versus facing down) is an insult? We all read of these things, but make sure you know the local culture where you teach. We all know the Don’t show the sole of your shoes to someone in the Middle East or the Don’t pat a Thai student on the head customs (both a bit over-emphasized really) – so get in tune with where you are.

If you are unsure ask one of your better students to give you feedback (though it can be difficult in many cultures for students to give their teachers any negative feedback at all). Ask your host country English teachers to tell you of common cultural errors that other teachers have committed (more indirect and probably more fruitful).

Talking too Fast or too Slow

Too fast and your students can’t understand you (depending on their skill level, of course). But the biggest error is speaking too slowly. Too slowly and you are providing an unnatural sounding model for your students. Too slowly and they can’t learn and won’t do all the things native speakers do when speaking quickly – such as reductions, linking, contractions and much more. Too slowly and they will never understand a native speaker speaking at normal speed because they haven’t heard it from you. Read the Expanded Concepts section on this Teaching EFL Pronunciation page at TEFL Boot Camp.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get a good handle on those four most common errors of newbie teachers and you will be far ahead of the pack.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get yourself some good quality training. It doesn’t have to be expensive. TEFL Boot Camp is the lowest priced online TEFL Program – and the low price is guaranteed. Most of the course is online and free and accessible to anyone who is interested.

Making Money on the Side

How to Increase your TEFL Income

A wise reader asked (because not ALL jobs pay well):

Are there jobs in private language schools, that could be a source of income on the side?

Yes, but you can probably make more money (and enjoy yourself more) teaching either groups of local English teachers how to improve or teaching classes of businesspeople or an unimaginable variety of other options.

I’d take the language school last. I’ve almost always taught business people (I have an MBA and an M.Ed.) and often teachers. I’ve written book summaries, published textbooks, done lots of private tutoring or sometimes taught examination skills for TOEFL or IELTS . . . If you are open to opportunity it is there.

Ideally, don’t try to solve all these things in advance. Many things unexpected will unfold right before you and if you are already committed to a certain path, you may well miss something even better. Conversely I am not suggesting that you not be pro-active in sorting things out.

Here is how it works: Your school and everyone you meet will be very careful around you. They have met a LOT of crazy, sometimes disturbed, sometimes very unethical teachers. They will watch you for a while before they decide you are okay.

All they want to see is that you are sober, reliable, friendly, skilled – all those things you are that those other people also said they were – but weren’t.

Once they have decided you are okay – it starts slowly and then the floodgates will open and you can often end up with more work than you want. AND, Asia is personal contact and direct-referral oriented.

That means that if a friend thinks you are okay then you are and I want you to teach me TOO. Once you have a few things you are doing it geometrically expands.

Part of that means don’t ask for a lot of extra stuff at first – let it come to you. You will send me an email one year from now and say, “Yes! It came to me!” – I would put a good wager on it . . .

TED’s Tips™ #1: Let things play out a bit. Don’t try to solve all questions, all problems before you even get to where you are going.

Keeping a Plan A, PLan B and Plan C when Teaching English Abroad

Keeping a “Plan A”, B, and C:
Contract “flexibility” and other routine problems.
Should I keep a “Plan B” in my back pocket?

In the developed Western world, we tend to think of things like contacts as being written in “stone” – but in many countries, contracts can be quite – uh . . . “flexible”.

This can mean that your employer may not do the things they said they would do. You may not like that. It may be time to move on. Or it may just be that you don’t like your new job, new culture, new city or new . . .

Plan B and Plan C

When you do your research about countries and jobs, keep a second and third choice in your mind, just in case things don’t work out for Plan A. Keep these in the back of your mind, keep your resume up to date, and fish to see what is out there from time to time. With a decent Plan B and Plan C you won’t have to worry about a surprise.

There is also the possibility that you just won’t like the job you took, or the country you moved to, or some other unforeseen problem may sour you on the whole deal.

Your First Country – Your First Job

Keep open the possibility of going back home. Don’t burn your bridges to anywhere, ever. You just never know when you might need to head back where you were last year. I’ve never had to back track, but I do try to keep my options open. I try to leave every employer on good terms, with them ready for my return. I try to maintain and network with people from previous employment. And, it all works both ways – you might need to help a friend come to where you are some day.

You may never need them . . .

I am just cautious by nature, and the TEFL world is just a little less stable than other types of employment. I’ve never needed my Plan B or C, but they are there, just in case. It helps me sleep at night.

My first year in Saudi Arabia was quite a difficult adjustment for me. Though I didn’t bail out, it was nice to have my options already mapped out. It took a little pressure off the situation, allowed me to adapt and adjust – and succeed.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Having a back up plan gives you some extra confidence when things get rough. You don’t have to panic or wonder what you might do next – you already know.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Having to bail out on a contract is never something to be proud of, but a good percentage of people who have spent 20 years or more overseas have brought an early end to a contract at one time or another.