The Most Basic Requirement for a Teacher of English

Are you are “People Person”?

I hope so.

I don’t mean are you a manic do-gooder or over-achieving socialite – but just do you enjoy working with and being around people?

If you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be a teacher – of any sort.

Do you enjoy helping people?

Teachers of English help people learn a new skill that is often required for a good job, for a better job and in some companies – required even for a promotion.

But if you don’t enjoy the basic human interaction of helping someone learn something, don’t be a teacher.

Conversely, if connecting with people and helping them learn new skills really gets you excited, then you are on the right path.

As strange as it might seem there actually are relatively unfriendly teachers who don’t seem to enjoy human contact.   Now – I’ve never been the life of the party and I am even quite shy around strangers but standing in front of a classroom and helping people really turns me on.  After a class that turned out well, I personally feel really charged up and even grateful to be a teacher.  If you are wishing to be a teacher or are a teacher, I hope you share that excitement with me.

TED’s Tips™ #1: DO take a good look at  yourself before deciding to be a teacher.  If you enjoy people and enjoy helping people, teaching is one of the more rewarding careers you will ever find.  If you don’t, you may find it a dreary path of class after class after class.  For me – I think it is one of the most exciting professions in the world.

Cultural Differences at Work Abroad

This post is intended as just a short review of several important but not always well known differences in acceptable social/work behavior on the job.  These few items are not meant to be rigid rules as much as an exercise to increase awareness of differences so that you might observe cultural behavior more closely in work and social settings.

These differences are all related to my personal experience, so will be Asia-focused, but you might want to see if and how they relate to other locations where you may wish to work – successfully.

These are almost all issues of showing respect to people in a senior or higher role than the one you are in.

My Favorite Difference

In many Asian cultures it is important to stop whatever you are doing and stand up when your boss/supervisor/department head/etc. enters your office.  This is so different from my own culture where I might nod a notice to the boss, or smile, or toss out a quick “Hi”, but should probably keep on working.  In many Asian countries such a cursory greeting and continuing to work would be considered VERY rude.

Two Hands

Use two hands when handing or receiving something to/from someone older or in a more senior position than you.  It is a sign of respect.  Casually handing something with one hand will be seen as being rude.

Put Money in an Envelop

Handing cash to someone (outside of a shop/store setting) should be done with the cash placed in an envelop.  It is considered a bit coarse to just directly hand cash to someone.  This is more appropriate when, for example, you are paying your rent to an elder, delivering a gift of cash (okay in many cultures) or delivering collected donations to the office.

I am trying to stay a bit general here – just to illustrate differences – without getting too specific to a single culture.  Some people may even disagree with a few of my comments or the settings in which I say certain behaviors are acceptable/preferred – but that only highlights the complexity of the different cultures out here in the real world.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Before you head off overseas, do a good thorough job of researching the culture.  Don’t overdo it, but do be aware and be sensitive to what is going on.

Teach English in Hotels and Resorts around the World

Teach English in Resorts and Hotels around the World

It is a bit funny that you read so much from different TEFL certification vendors about teaching English around the world: the adventure – the great locations – etc – but none of them EVER seem to talk about one of the best options available to teachers: teaching English at hotels and resorts in some of the world’s best and most beautiful locations.

This is a career option that is a bit counter intuitive when you are starting out.   Go right to the top – to the best hotels and resorts.  Don’t go looking for jobs in the two or three star resorts.  They generally don’t care too much about the English skills of their employees.  It is the five-star hotels, villas and resorts that know that good communication skills equal good guest relations and good service.   And those communication skills are in English as these resorts will serve people from around the world and the only common language is usually English.

How do you find these jobs?  Look at websites that sell five star resorts and hotels.  Look for the best hotels in resort areas.  Check Bali, the Maldives, Kenya, Tanzania, Hainan, the China Beach area of Vietnam, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Phuket and Samui in Thailand, Boracay in the Philippines and just about anywhere else you might think of where tourism is the #1 industry and where it is done well.

Many people teach English because they want to “see the world”  – why not see the very best parts of it?  The parts so popular that major resorts and hotels have been built there.

The best resource around is the Hotel and Resort English eBook offered by TEFL eBooks.  The book was written by a teacher who – at the time – was teaching at a five star resort on a tropical island.  The eBook is a compilation of lessons taught at a Hilton hotel to help staff meet the discriminating wants and needs of their guests.

Just one more great option to try!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Use your imagination a bit and seek employment in some of the worlds most beautiful and interesting resort locations.  Hospitality English is an option not often explored by newbies or even oldies in the TEFL industry.  Go and work in the location of your dreams!

Solving Problems in a Different Culture

My favorite tool for solving problems . . .

Please excuse me for repeating myself if you have heard this story before. I think that it is so useful that it is worth reviewing it again for people who are either already overseas and working or for people who are thinking about it.

Your #1 Enemy as a Westerner

In my opinion – is the over-assertiveness that we are taught in our culture. That cultural behavior of ours can put you at a great disadvantage overseas. Most people in Asian, African or Latin American cultures do not like be pushed to the limit by Western assertiveness. They don’t like being forced to assert themselves. These are – for the most part – more gentle cultures where social behavior is expected to be more subtle, to have more nuance than direct confrontation.

A Cultural Tool for you to use

One of my favorite techniques when confronted with problems that I can not solve is to ask this question:

What would you do if you were me and had this problem?

Back in about 1994 in Taiwan, I was applying for a driver’s license and found – to my surprise – that my USA license has expired only a few days before. Well . . . Taiwanese law says that what I was applying for required a VALID driver’s license. Mine was no longer valid, even if only missing it by a few days.

The very nice lady behind the counter explained to me that I could not get a driver’s license and she explained the rule.

Now . . . at this point I could get all assertive and pushy and see where that might lead – OR – I could do what I did.

Truly I was frustrated – so I asked:

What would you do if you were me and had this problem?

She looked at my sincere wish for help and assistance and she picked up the paperwork and stamped it and authorized my new driver’s license!

She didn’t HAVE to that. She broke the rules to help me because I sincerely asked for her assistance. I didn’t try to bully her or tell her what my “rights” were (though I didn’t really have any!) or try to intimidate her with my righteousness.

You will find that this approach will work for you too if you use it sincerely in trying to solve problems.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Use a little finesse when dealing with problems in another culture.  Those cultural skills can go a long way toward solving problems!  I promise.