Turbocharge your TEFL Job Seach

How to maximize your desirability to potential employers

I hear often from people who are having trouble finding a good teaching job and I often wonder how that can be when, in most countries, there just aren’t enough EFL teachers. Inevitably there is something going on that creates a barrier for the new or potential teacher and let’s talk about how to overcome a few of them.

Have Realistic Expectations about your first TEFL job

Be realistic about that first job. About the wages and circumstances under which you are willing to work. TEFL is a REAL job with REAL work. I have had people contact me with LONG lists of their demands and sometimes even call them that! Their “demands”! But yet, some of these people have almost nothing to offer other than a passing familiarity with English.

Scan the job ads for a country and see what entry level jobs pay. If the going rate for a new teacher at a university in China is 4-5000 RMB – then that is likely what you will be offered. That you previously worked for MicroSoft or a big investment bank is not really relevant. If you can’t accept entry level wages, don’t enter a new occupation. Stay where you are.

Get Some Training!

Any kind. Online, in-classroom, free training from a immigration training center where you might volunteer – anywhere! Show that you have a willingness to learn how to teach and provide a good service for your students.

Get a Professional Photo

Most jobs around the world will want you to submit a photo with your resume. Get a good quality photograph taken of yourself in professional dress. Be sure you are immaculately groomed, put on a big smile, hide that big tattoo on your neck. I have had people send me photos of themselves obviously drunk, sometimes kissing their drunk boyfriend or girlfriend (yeah, that makes you want to hire someone as a teacher . . . ), big glass of beer in their hands. Would you hire someone who sent you a photo like that to represent their professional character as a teacher? Of course not. I also had a 55-year-old woman send me a photo of her kissing a 25ish-year-old young man . . . Son? Boyfriend? Student?

What does it say about someone when they obviously don’t know how to present themselves in a professional manner? Does it reflect on the possible absence of other professional skills? I sure think so.

Make your Resume/CV Relevant

If you taught school ten years ago for a couple years but never again – put that job at the TOP of your CV. Create a section call “Professional Teaching/Training Experience” and list those jobs then a section just called Professional Experience (other). Highlight anything that is relevant to teaching. I’ve reviewed resumes of people who want to teach in China who never mention anything in their resume about teaching experience, but after exchanging a few emails it comes out that they taught in Japan ten years ago! That is important to know! It makes a huge difference.

Put the things that qualify you for the job at the top of the page. Don’t make a potential employer search to find it. They might NOT find it!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Just these few small things can easily make the difference between an interview and no response at all from a potential employer. Pay attention to how you present yourself. It is important.

Resources for Teachers of English

One of the Best Resources for Teachers: www.EnglishTips.org

I don’t usually – or actually NEVER – spend a full post raving about another website, but in this case I would be neglecting my duty to teachers if I didn’t let you know about a secret used for years by experienced teachers.

English Tips (dot org – don’t do dot com!) is a favorite as it gives you a chance to download and try out many of the best English teaching books, tapes, manuals, etc. on the market.

Now . . . this is not just a download it for free and scam the author type website. As a teacher you can download materials to see if they fit you and your students’ needs. Bottom line – if you like and use it, you should go and buy it. But as most teachers know, you can spend a fortune on materials and often they just aren’t or weren’t what you were looking for.

It is nice to have the opportunity to try the materials first, especially for teachers in countries where they are working for a modest wage. Some teachers just can’t afford to take a chance on a $25 student book that comes with a $40 teacher’s manual and an $80 set of tapes. Well, you can often find and download these things at English Tips (dot org) and give them a test run to see if they are what you want.

Understand that I am NOT suggesting you download and use materials in violation of copyright – just get a teacher’s approval-type copy, give it a try and if it is a useful tool for you – go buy it.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Give English Tips dot org a try and you’ll likely end up a regular.

The Usefulness of Choral Response and Repetition in the EFL Classroom

Okay, this sounds instantly boring, but it is an important issue in the EFL classroom, or any language classroom for that matter.

A untrained newbie teacher questioned in an email:

Isn’t “listen and repeat” over and over again demeaning? It is like we are treating our students like robots, not like real people.

NO! It is not!

To some extent I can understand the reluctance to do mechanical drill in the classroom. BUT anyone one of you (and me too) who have seriously studied a foreign language before KNOWS how important it is. You will especially understand if you have lived abroad and tried to learn the local language. And the more the language is different from yours the more choral response (the classroom listens to you or a recording and repeats what they hear) and repetition help.

Here’s what happens, and to illustrate I am telling you what happens to ME when I study a language, this is not just theory. This is real language learning. Often the first time someone says something it sounds like pure gibberish to me. The second time, I get a little bit of it. The third time I start to get most of it, the fourth time I might have the whole thing – might understand it and the fifth time, I might get a bit of the stress and rhythm of it.

That is SIX repetitions. Yet, I often need every single one of them to help me learn to repeat back a sentence correctly. And even then, should I stop repeating it because I finally got it right? Or should I repeat if a few more times to check it against the teacher’s model to be SURE I have it right and to build a patten of success?

Rethink this idea of repetition and choral response NOT being useful.  I know some people have a resistance to old styles of teaching where students repeat the mindless babble of an instructor, but language learning is a different animal.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Help your students be successful by using “listen and repeat” drills.  It is a critical part of language learning.  Choral response lets us make our mistakes in group where no one will hear it!  And there are lots of other mistakes going on too.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China

Online TEFL Training Question

A reader asked an excellent question about an online course:

I am wondering if there is any information out there on the hours associated with tefl courses? For example, they state it is at least 100 hours, 120 hours, even 140 hours. Some even have 40 hours. What’s the difference between them?

There is not really an industry-level formal differentiation between different courses offered by different companies and the associated hours of their courses. Usually the number of assigned hours is a reasonable estimate of how long it would take someone to complete the course.

Some programs will try to make their number of hours seem “official” or assert that they are sanctioned in some way, but generally that is not true. The hours associated with the course are just a best estimate of the amount of a time an average student might need to complete the course. Nothing mysterious about it all.

Historically, even the CELTA, Trinity RSA, and other certification courses were designed and written to be taken by high school graduates. That tends to mean that college graduates, with a lot more experience assimilating materials and taking examinations, tend to take less time. Usually. But not always.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Be sure to get some training before trying to compete for the better jobs Teaching English abroad. There is more competition this year due to the high levels of unemployment in the USA and UK.