Job Search: Finding Jobs Teaching English Abroad

 In July we got this note from a reader over at our sister website – TEFL Newbie:

You advised me about 5 months ago to try teaching in Thailand. I want to thank you because I’ve been teaching at a Thai university for nearly two months and I’m greatly enjoying my life here.

Mailing a lot of resumes from a distant country was doing me no good. Once I arrived in Thailand and was able to hand people my resume, it made a huge difference in getting considered for the positions I wanted.

If you are not having luck searching for the job you want overseas, try going there and applying in person.  This is a common theme in job search and it works.

Let’s look at YOU from the employer’s point of view.

Lots of people apply, many don’t show up.

This is especially true for popular tourist destinations, such as Thailand – as suggested above.  People go to Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico and other places and decide, sometimes on a whim, to move there to work.  It was so wonderful to visit – it must be great living there.  Yes?

The number of people hired from a distance compared to the number who actually show up on the job – can be as low as 50%.  So, in the employer’s eyes – hiring you from a distance is a bit of a gamble.  The students need a teacher at the front of the room, how much risk can the school take about you showing up – or not?

Many applicants misrepresent themselves.

If you interview in person at least the employer can see you and what your level of sincerity might be.  They can easily ask follow up questions if something doesn’t make sense.  And they can follow up on the follow up if need be.

They can see your documents in hard copy and not in an easily doctored digital form.  They can have much more confidence in knowing that you are the person you say you are, with the skills you say you have and the experience and qualifications you claim to have.

Many people really should NOT be teachers.

Some people, some potential teachers and even some real teachers – are not friendly people that you would enjoy being around.  This is really difficult to know from abroad.  Asia – in particular – puts great emphasis on work place harmony and they want to know if you can get along on the job.  Will you be friendly to staff and to students?

Language schools in particular – but even many universities and colleges these days – are businesses.  The students are their customers.   These customers can go out the door and down the street to another school.  Or they can tell their friends how great their teachers are and bring them into the school and help the business make a profit.

Interviewing you in person will help the school have a better sense of how you will get along with your coworkers and students.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  If you are having difficulty landing that “dream” job with email applications, your best bet is probably to head on over and interview in person.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Before you go, check out the employment visa regulations for that country and also plan on a “visa run” to a neighboring country to change your tourist visa to an employment related visa.

TED’s Tips™ #3:  All a bit of a hassle?  Sometimes the best things in life require a bit of effort to make them happen.  If you are not a native speaker, not young, white, attractive, blond-haired and blue-eyed – (those are the people most easily hired from abroad) – then head on overseas to get what you want.   People do it every day.  I’ve done it.  You can too!

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Why a Short-term Teaching Position Might be Best for You

I usually pooh-pooh short-term TEFL jobs, but – okay – maybe I am coming around . . .

Here are some things to consider about why a short-term position might work well for you.

1. Stick your toe in the water

Will you like teaching?  Some people don’t.  Some people are quite nervous about standing in front of a group of people and speaking to them (me, for instance!).    Don’t let that rule you out, of course, but there are lots of other things that you might or might not like about any occupation and a short-term commitment to a position is a good way to get a feel about it.  An opportunity to find out if you will love it or hate it.

2. Life abroad is truly different!

Some people love that, others can’t deal with it.  Some cultures are easier to tolerate than others.   A short-term job gives you a chance to see if you like it.  Even if you don’t, knowing it is just for a short period of time can make it much more tolerable.  You might find that one culture is very interesting and fascinating to you, but another one just isn’t your cup of tea.  A short-term position will allow you to make a change to somewhere you might like more, if your first situation is not to your liking.

3. Scope out the jobs market

It is difficult to know the real situation on the ground somewhere until you are actually there.  Yeah, online forums can be helpful, but life in a foreign culture is a highly personal experience.  You might well hate what I love.  I’ve had employers that I really liked that coworkers thought were terrible.  So – a short-term position will give you an opportunity to shop the jobs market a bit without having to sign on for a full year.  That first job offer might have been great or it might have been a real loser.  In a short term position you can get the facts before making a decision for the long term.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  A short term position might be just what you need to see if you fit in and will be happy somewhere.  You really don’t have to commit to a full year.  There are other options.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Check out TEFL Temp for some good short-term options.

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Concept Checking in EFL: What it is – How to do it

An area of mystery to many new or untrained teachers is the idea of concept checking.

Concept checking in EFL/ESL is simply the process of asking questions or providing simple activities that check your students’ understanding of a word, idea, a grammar structure or even an instruction you have given them.

Checking your students’ understanding of the material you have taught is critical to knowing if you have, in fact, completed your goal for a particular class.  Do you need to go back and teach it again?  Did they really get it?

Asking simply, “Do you understand?” doesn’t work.  What student wants to let all the other students know they don’t get it by raising their hand?  In many cultures students are no where near as assertive as those in Western countries and they will be loath to let you know they didn’t “get it”.

A few examples should clarify how concept checking in EFL works.

The most simple – to find out if students have understood your instructions for an activity or task, you can ask: “Do you know what to do right now?”  If no response, say “Do it” and look for stragglers . . .  Give more detail if more than one person appears to not know what to do.

To test a word/vocabulary concept – Example Sentence – Jimmy didn’t have enough time to study essay writing yesterday.

You can ask numerous questions about this sentence depending on what you are teaching, but you might ask the following:

Does essay writing take a lot of time?  Was Jimmy busy yesterday?

Another example – Until today, Jimmy didn’t understand how to do a quadratic equation.

You might ask:  When did Jimmy learn to do a quadratic equation?  Or . . . Did Jimmy know how to do a quadratic equation yesterday?

For a grammar concept, let’s try something simple like present perfect.

I have been running a business since I was 16.

You can ask:  Was this person running a business yesterday? (assuming she wasn’t 15 yesterday!)

Is this person running a business today?

Be aware that yes/no type questions can mislead you as students might guess and get it right and not truly know.  If you use yes/no questions for concept checking, it is good to ask more than one question of more than one student – just to be sure.

This kind of frequent Q & A can help make your classroom more interactive and draw your students into the lesson.  It will also help you know if you need to give more detail, do more review, initiate more practice or if the students have it down pat.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Ask well structured questions to be sure your students understand what you are teaching.  It is usually best to write down your concept questions while planning the lesson and have them ready to ask as you teach.  Some of us (me!) have trouble thinking up good ones on the fly, but can pretty thoroughly cover it when thinking about the class beforehand.

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The Truth about EFL Lesson Planning

Most Teachers Don’t

That’s right, most experienced EFL teachers do not write a lesson plan for each and every class.

Now, revealing this secret is blasphemy of a major sort because every TEFL training course you might take is heavily based on writing and delivering a lesson plan.  If you don’t do that, what DO you do?

Why Lesson Planning for EFL?

Lesson planning is a major part of a training program primarily so that you can understand how to structure a lesson well.  Once you know how and understand the process involved, you don’t really need to formally develop a lesson plan for each class.  A few notes, and following a few good basic principles will do the job for you – and your students.

A TEFL Training course is a bit like college or high school where you learn the “proper” way to do something – that people in real life almost never do.  But . . . as you come to realize, there is a reason WHY those processes and procedures are heavily emphasized.  Because they reinforce the way things need to be done if you wish to be effective.

What’s it all about?  EFL Lesson Planning

What every teacher trainer is trying to communicate to you is that there is a specific way to effectively teach your students what they need to know.

First, teach them some target language.  This is, hopefully, language that they are either interested in or that is required for their job or success – thus increasing their interest and motivation in the lesson.  Part of this process should include eliciting input from your students to check what they already know and also to rouse their interest in the new material.

Next, give them some structured opportunities to practice the language you are teaching them.  Structured so that their practice is more likely to be successful and they can get things right – the first time.  Again increasing motivation. You might have several of these practices, each time reducing the amount of structure as students become more familiar and practiced with the target language.

The last step is production (if we are following a PPP methodology).  That means that your students take the language you have taught them and apply it to their job or daily circumstances and use the language to talk about themselves and their lives.  That is what keeps it interesting to them and motivates them to study what otherwise could be rather dry and boring.

Now – there is a lot more to this than just that – but realize when you study TEFL methods that the basic idea is how to be effective and if you get a good handle on methodology – you will arrive at that point.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Lesson plans?  Yes, do them until they are stuck in your mind as good method then you can just outline a good lesson from there on out.  But . . . don’t tell anyone that I told you that!

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