What is the BEST English Teaching Destination?

Where should I go?

Where’s the best, coolest, most wonderful place in the world?

The answer is:  It’s up to you.

To a large degree it really is up to you.

I’ve enjoyed drunken poker parties in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; lonely nights in Bangkok and everything else in between.  In fact the best social event I ever enjoyed was with a book club in Bangkok of which I had become a regular member.  It was great!

But probably those images don’t fit what you were thinking about those locations. But the world is a bit surprising and you won’t always find exactly what you expect. You need to go to your new destination with an open mind, eyes wide open and ready to be surprised.

The usual criteria applies, of course. You need to go you where you have appropriate qualifications to get the type of job you want. We all have different financial obligations and requirements and you need to go where you can earn the amount of money needed to keep yourself afloat. You need to go where you can actually land a job. But after all that, it is usually the social scene or the landscape or the history or culture of a country/city/area that attracts us. But even those things can surprise you.

One of the most interesting studies of culture shock I have ever read discussed how some of the most difficult cases of culture shock came from Americans going to the UK! What? Yeah. Their expectations were that there would be no culture difference and they were not emotionally prepared for what they ran into. My guess would be that a similar situation applies in the other direction where we think we know what we are going to – but we really don’t.

So – back to the title – what destination is best for you . . . be open to what it might be. Be ready for surprises on the upside and downside.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Keep an open mind about anywhere and everywhere. If you don’t you may well miss opportunities to experience more than you expect.

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!

Lesson Plans: What Will a School Provide?

A new teacher heading to China to teach at a large university sent me a note and asked:

Do you think it would be wise to ask for samples of lesson plans/syllabus etc?

He said it had been a while since he had taken his TEFL certification course and he was getting a bit worried about standing in front of a class. He was obviously hoping that the school has some lessons on tap for him to use. This is not an uncommon question – especially by new teachers with no real experience.

My Response to: Do you think it would be wise to ask for samples of lesson plans/syllabus etc?


But don’t expect them to have much and be very happily surprised if they do and if it is of good quality.

Especially in a university setting, it is probably best to assume they will leave you on your own. So . . . gather some materials and develop a week or two or more introductory-type lessons. Lessons that focus on “My name is ____” and talking about where students are from – “What’s your major” etc etc.

Throw in some humor, like different students can be Jackie Chan or other movie stars, pop stars etc. Of course, if the students are higher level, then you just go into more detail such as: What do you study in your major? What will you do after you graduate? Or, What is your home town like? Or . . . [enter a multitude of simple questions here].

Most universities (in my experience) start slowly and your class roster may not even be stable for a week or two. The people in your class this week, may not be in your class next week and many other new students will be there – so it is best to not get too serious about real course content for the first couple of weeks.

But that is also the best time to be able to assess just how skilled your students are going to be and what might best be done with them during the semester.

You can download almost anything/everything free over at www.EnglishTips.org (as a teacher sample is the way to think of it) .

Do also ask how large your classes will be as that can make a difference as to how you approach things. A class of six is quite different from a class of sixty and I’ve taught both.

Be aware that schools in developing countries are often not nearly as well organized as you might think they should be. Particularly in a university setting, where you will often be earning as much or even twice as much as a local Ph.D., know that the school and your host country counterparts will expect you to know what to do without a lot of hand holding.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t expect your new school to have things organized for you. In fact, assume there is nothing there to help you. Plan ahead and take an assortment of good simple lesson plans with you to help you establish yourself while you figure what exactly needs to be done.

But I’m Not a REAL Teacher

Secret Fears of TEFL Teachers #1

Even teachers who have taught overseas for years sometimes have this issue in the back of their mind. But probably 98% of us that have been teaching overseas for more than just a year or two started out just like you. No real experience teaching English. Most of us with no teaching experience at all.

Some people feel like they are masquerading as a teacher.

What to do about it

Before you begin looking for a teaching job, get yourself familiar with what it is all about. About HOW to teach. Get some training so you have at least a basic idea about what to do on the job. About how to provide good service to your students. About how to help them improve and enjoy learning.

It really is about teaching, even thought teaching EFL is a bit different from other kinds of teaching in that classroom participation is critical for the success of students.

Even if you already have a teaching job, spend some time improving your skills. The internet is loaded with ways for you to improve yourself. From forums of teachers looking for new ideas and advising each other to online programs to teach you new skills. Ebooks, videos, podcasts, just about everything and anything.

Move on Up

If you intend to stay in the profession for more than a couple years or if you are truly hooked as many of us are and intend to stay overseas for a LONG time tasting of different cultures and countries – get yourself graduate degree in TESOL or applied linguistics (essentially the same).

There are some great distance programs offered, especially from Australia, that have good reputations and reasonable costs. A good graduate degree will help qualify you for university positions almost anywhere in the world and add a bit of polish to your skills.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Improve your skills to improve your self confidence and self concept as a teacher.