Passive Job Searchs in TEFL – Often Don’t Work

Finding that TEFL job that you want . . .  Get up off your butt and go get it.

My apologies already for being TOO direct!

I hear all too often from people who sent out a few emails and weren’t offered a perfect job that met all their fantasies and dreams.

A job where they would get free airfare, free accommodation, don’t have to teach much and get lots of paid vacation – just because they are a native speaker!  Wow!  Sign me up too.

Part of the problem is that many TEFL Training schools – which shall remain nameless here – promise the ability to travel the world, make big money and all in exchange for simply taking their course.

Many have TRAVEL in their company name – very few have the words TEFL or even WORK in their names – because they are mainly interested in marketing and selling you something.

They really don’t want  you to think too much about actually having to work while you are traveling the world for free on someone else’s money.

That Perfect World DOES Exist – for a few people

Well, let’s face the reality that such a world does exist for a few blond-haired, blue-eyed, young and attractive white people  Of the model sort if you know what I mean.  The wind blowing through their perfectly blond hair as they smile into the sunset.

That’s the stereotype that many foreign language school directors believe their customers want in a teacher.  What should be standing in the front of their classroom.

Yeah, it’s out there for them, but what about the rest of us?  What about me?  I’m 59 and kind of old looking.  Maybe really old looking!  Might have been blond once, but now the hair is white!  Aaggghhh!

Yep, even I would have difficulty landing a job from abroad these days.  Great qualifications.  Lots of experience.  Too d*mn old.

We have numerous posts here and about conducting a good job search.  Read them and get with the program.

Here is what to do if you are too old . . . like me:  TEFL Jobs Search for Older People

What if you are overweight, gay or just plain different?  Read this: Overweight Teachers and Other Baggage

And . . . here’s an important post on the attitude that helps most: TEFL and Your Attitude – the easy path to success.

If you persist in having problems, then try an internship – check out the banner link below.

TED’s Tips™ #1: I’ll be the first to admit that blogs are not easy to find your way around.  But – you might well find it worth your time and effort to search around this site and also over at for information about how to best conduct a good job search.  It can make all the difference in the world.   And, you know what?  It’s still easier than landing a decent job in your home country.  I promise!

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Is Teaching English “Incredibly Easy”?

Wishful Thinking on the Web . . .

There are a few myths about teaching English out floating around on the Internet that should probably be addressed here.  I responded recently to a discussion topic over at Lonely Planet where someone stated – exactly this:

[Teaching English is] . . . incredibly easy because it’s your first language (I’m assuming) and your students will have very poor language skills so any knowledge you can give them will help.

I felt a need to respond and wrote:   I will be the first to admit that teaching English is not rocket science, but is work and is not always “incredibly easy” just because you speak it as your native language. AND – not all students have “very poor” language skills. Some are counting on your help to get into quality and even prestigious universities in Western countries. If you don’t know what you are doing – you can, in fact, inflict a fair amount of damage on someone who has paid you – often generously – for your help.

The same poster also wrote:

I choose to believe that people with the dream to travel will succeed.

Now, that is wonderful thinking and I like to think that way too, but I wrote this in response:
I really like that, but teaching English is a JOB. It is WORK. It is not travel. It does pair well with travel and seeing the world, but first and foremost it is a job. There are responsibilities that go with it. Namely, that there is usually a classroom of students who have paid good money to sit in a room with you. Often, what is for them a LOT of money. Suggesting that it is easy to meet their needs and help them succeed – by virtue of wishful thinking – only hurts the students and potentially gives future teachers some bad guidance on which to make a decision to move to the other side of the world.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Some marketing organizations that are trying to sell you TEFL training even have TRAVEL in their name – some don’t even mention teaching!  TEFL is a job first and foremost.  It can be a super wonderful job that affords you the opportunity to see the world.  But the job and your students need to come first.  As Zig Zigler’s famous quote goes: If you help people get what they want,  you will get what you want.  And in TEFL, that is very very true.

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Miscommunication can Ruin your Job Search

Miscommunications and Misunderstandings When You are Looking for a Job

It doesn’t need to be a big deal. Pay attention!

If you remember last week’s post we talked about a misunderstanding between a new teacher and his employer. The misunderstanding came about due to some miscommunication when the employer – a non-native speaker – had some difficulty expressing urgency in her message, causing the new teacher to assume he was about to be fired!

Clarify Clarify Clarify

I want to relate another relatively similar story that says “New teachers – pay attention and clarify, clarify, clarify!”

Another newbie English-teacher-about-to-be in the middle of their visa process understood their employer to suggest that everything that cost money during the visa process would be paid for by the school, including things he needed to do in his home country. This, in spite of a contract that specifically said the expenses in China would be paid.

You are dealing with non-native speakers

Please understand, when you are seeking a new job teaching English in another country, that many times your communication will be with speakers of English who are NOT native speakers. And remember that even native speakers can have misunderstandings and miscommunications. So why would we expect our communications with non-native speakers to be problem free?

We should, in fact, assume that those communications might be problematic.

Whenever anything seems to be “too good to be true” or a rather surprising problem, seek to clarify the situation using the strategies suggested in the previous post (#3). Rephrase what the speaker said and ask if that was what was intended. You will often be surprised!

TED’s Tips™ #1: If something upsets or confuses you, ask a colleague to help sort it out.

Intercultural Miscommunication: Clearing up communication in a foreign culture

TEFL Training Programs don’t teach you how to apply what you have just learned to your job search skills.

This is important. And the next post on this same topic is important. But only if you are looking for a job or are thinking of looking for a job teaching English abroad.

A man I was working with recently became upset over a conversation with a new employer. He was in the process of getting his visa paperwork set up, but had experienced delays in getting his health exam (required in many countries) completed.

When he contacted me he reported that his new employer was possibly going to fire him or at least cancel his new contract if he did not complete the health exam by the following Wednesday.

Wow. Big problem if you have quit your job and are packed and ready to head across the world.

Well . . . it didn’t quite sound right so when I checked with the employer – who was not a native speaker – the message was different. The message was “hurry up!”

How did this miscommunication happen?

Where did good communication break down and how might you avoid or solve such an event?

Where it broke down was that non-native speakers of English often don’t know how to express themselves strongly. How to press a point assertively and appropriately. They need to be taught such things (did they tell you that in TEFL Training?) and almost every experienced Business English trainer will have spent considerable time on exactly that topic.

Somewhere in the communication with the boss, the boss implied or somehow communicated more than what she intended. And the teacher-to-be took the English quite literally and seriously and assumed that he was about to be fired.

You can’t do that!

(take things too seriously) Do you see how easily this could have become a disaster to the new teacher? And even a major problem for the employer as they would have found themselves short a teacher come the new semester?

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you intend to be a language professional, you quite need to learn how to interpret what is said to you by non-native speaker supervisors and colleagues (and your EFL students) and to seek clarification if something doesn’t seem to make sense to you or seems to be an exaggerated or inappropriate response to a situation.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Check the suspect statement by repeating it back to the speaker and then rephrase it and ask if that is what they meant. If it is still confusing, ask again and rephrase again. YOU are the teacher and the communication may well need to be sorted out and you are the person with the skills (we all hope!) to figure it out. Consider it a challenge!  Don’t let these little things get in the way of your new life teaching English abroad. They are too easy to avoid.

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