Teaching Private Classes: Making Money on the Side

Sooner or later.  Usually sooner.  Every teacher of English overseas is going to be offered the “private” job, the teaching job “on the side” that is separate from your main job.

Some teachers will have been looking for the offer, hoping to increase their income.  Others weren’t interested at all, but the offer came anyway.

Teaching Private Classes is Usually Illegal

In most countries teaching “on the side” is illegal unless expressly written into your working papers. Often it is also prohibited by your employment contract.

But the offers can be quite lucrative and, in some cases, you may even double your regular income – or more.  More than a few teachers use private teaching as a way to significantly increase their earnings.

Don’t do anything Illegal

We can’t recommend that you do anything illegal.  You will, however, find that the risk in some countries is almost non-existant, but in other countries employers and authorities are vigilant.  Vigilance is not usual though, thus teaching privately tends to be quite common in many countries.

How do These Jobs Come About?

Most often you will be approached directly by someone wanting a private teacher.  I even had, in at least two countries, my employer arrange them for me.  I didn’t ask for them, they asked me to take the classes and teach them!

If you are looking for this kind of work, be patient.  Schools and students tend to be a bit wary of newcomers and like to wait to see if you are a reliable and competent teacher.  Offers don’t typically come immediately, but they do come.

One Warning Though

If you intend to take private classes and are teaching illegally, it is best to keep quiet about your classes.   People who become a bit too boisterous and too obvious can find themselves in trouble.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   If you decide to take private classes, do so discretely and – in most countries – you’ll never have a problem.   Again, however, we recommend that you keep yourself 100% legal.  😉


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Should you Get a TEFL, TESOL or TESL Certification? Which is Best?

This is almost an FAQ type question because people often ask as they are unsure about what each of the acronyms really mean.

Not just the words they represent, but what does each area actually deal with?

How might the teaching be different?

Let’s get these ideas sorted out today . . .

TEFL Certification vs. TESL Certification

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is probably the most accurate description of what teachers who teach English overseas actually do.

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) is what teachers do when teaching English in their home country when teaching immigrants the language skills needed in their new land.

We’ll address TESOL later down the page.

Purpose Defines Function in TEFL and TESL

When teaching TEFL, your students are usually in their home country, may never even visit an English speaking country and they usually need to study English to progress in their education or for work/occupational reasons.

Some definitions of TEFL would include the idea that students will not often have opportunities to speak English outside the classroom.  These students will have distinctly different needs and motivations for their study than English as a Second Language students.

When teaching TESL, your students are typically living in an English speaking country and need to learn (quickly!) the language skills needed for their daily lives.

From grocery shopping to mailing a letter to finding a job or even renting an apartment.  Their needs are real and immediate when it comes to getting English skills.

You can see here that the motivation of ESL students will likely be much stronger that of EFL students.   They have immediate and real problems that need to be solved using English.  And the topics taught might be very different.

It would be unlikely that you would want or need to teach an EFL student the language needed to mail a letter in a post office where English is the language in use.

Yet, for an ESL student this will be an important skill, becoming less so in these days of the internet and iPhones though, but I think you get the idea.

For the ESL student, this particular need is greater than for the EFL student – who may never step foot in an English environment post office.

As there is such a huge amount of language that our students need, we obviously need to focus on the specific language most relevant for our students.  We don’t want to spend time teaching them language that they will likely never need and never use.

If you wanted a general observation, possibly you might think that EFL is typically more generic language and ESL might be more specific to a certain task – but that conclusion would not really be accurate.   A lot of EFL is specific occupational language or language needed to pass a certain test like TOEFL, IELTS or GMAT.

TESOL versus the others

Teaching English to Speakers of other languages ( TESOL) encompasses both TEFL and TESL, but the reality is that essentially the same methodology is used in all three of these variations.

So the way you learn to teach ESOL will be the same as you learn to teach EFL or ESL.

You’ll tend to find Americans using TEFL, Canadians using TESOL and Brits using all three acronymns.

Methodology and lesson planning are the core of most courses and once you get that down, you are good to go in any of the three areas – you need only to determine the specific needs of your students and get to work.

Language Teaching Methodologies used in TESOL – TEFL – TESL

The most common teaching methodologies – PPP and ESA – are really just good teaching strategies that you could – really – just as easily apply to a simple mathematics lesson.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Simple enough.  Don’t make too much of the differences of a TESOL, TEFL or TESL course – or methodology.  There really isn’t much difference and the only real difference in these types of classes is in the specific language needs of your students.  A good needs analysis will tell you that and get you going.

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Success in TEFL: How to Build your TEFL Career

Do you know the PPPs of TEFL Success?

If you have studied TEFL methodology at all, you are aware of the PPP method.  It’s probably the most commonly taught approach to teaching English as a foreign language.

But here we are going to talk about the method of making your TEFL experience a success.

The PPPs of Success in TEFL


First step is Preparation.  Do your research and get a realistic idea if what is out here for you.  Or what exists in the next country to which you wish to go.

Gathering the data for a solid understanding of where you want to go and how to make it work is not always easy.  The internet if full of good information, but also full of BS.  And full of people who claim to know something but really don’t.  So pick and choose carefully and get a sense if the person you are listening to really knows what they are talking about.

One of the best ways to deal with the overload of information is to look through various sources and don’t rely on what just one person says.  I can tell you about teaching in Taiwan, for example, but I last taught there about 1995 . . . So while I might have first hand knowledge and can speak authoritatively, the jobs market there has likely changed significantly since I was there.

Do your research and get a good idea about where you are going and what to expect there.


Take your time.  Try not to rush to – or from – anything.  Let things unfold a bit.   If you are searching for a job, don’t grab the very first one.  Be patient in seeking your goal.  If something seems to not be working out correctly, find a way around it.

Be patient also about how you want your job abroad to evolve.  Maybe you can’t get exactly everything you want in a TEFL job.  Can you find everything you want in any job anywhere?  Abroad or in your home country?

Have realistic expectations and know that perhaps you can take a job slightly different from your ideal job and improve your circumstances when you are on the scene in your new country with your new job.


Continue working to create what you want.   Never let go of that.  Few things are as satisfying as reaching a hard-fought-for goal.  Be sure to do the things you need to do to make it happen.  Do you need to specialize more?  To get some training?  Schools are employers and most employers look favorably on their employees wanting to improve their skills and do a better job.

In spite of much advertising that TEFL is really only about traveling and partying around the world – it is best approached as work.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Simple enough.  Prepare for your goal well, be patient in seeking it and when close to it, persevere in making it work the way you want it.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  This method is no different than the approach you should take to work and job searches in your home country.  Just because you are thinking of going abroad, does not mean you should abandon all reason – as way too many people do.  Use your good common sense and it will take you where you want to go.

It’s out there for you – go get it!

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Want to be a GREAT EFL Teacher?

Here’s how . . .

Value Education

While many people from Western countries place more emphasis on “street skills” than formal education, most of the developing world knows that a good education is the way out of poverty.  As a result education is often much more valued than in Western countries.

A teacher who does not value education is biting the very hand that feeds them.  Why do you think students are filling classes wanting to learn English?!

Respect your Host Country’s Culture and Values

Students and host country teachers will often ask you what you think of their country and culture.   Say only positive things.  What would you think of a foreigner visiting your home country who ran off a long list of things they didn’t like?  Not much I am sure.

While we all know that our own country – which ever country that is – has flaws and problems, no one really likes to hear it from a foreigner.

Have a TRUE Interest in the Success of your Students

Students, employers and even other teachers just KNOW if you are interested in the success of your students.  There are people who are  just play acting being teachers and then there are people who are really teachers.   Real teachers want their students to succeed and do what is needed in the classroom to help them do so.

Students pretty much intuit your interest in their success and your desire for their growth is infectious.  From your energy, they get excited about what might be possible in their lives if they make a bit of effort in your class.

KNOW How to Teach and Follow the Method

There is a method to the madness that is EFL teaching and students progress at a much better rate and learn much more if that method (or a good variation of it) is followed.

There is a good reason why every TEFL training course spends so much time on teaching you methodology and lesson planning and that is because “flying by the seat of the pants” teaching just doesn’t work.  Just “chatting with the students” pretty much teaches them nothing.

If you don’t have some training before you head abroad, you are likely doing your students a great disservice.  Learn how to do what you need to do to help your students succeed.  It’s not rocket science.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Being a great teacher requires only that you be sincere about your task and respectful of your students, their country and culture.   Do it right.

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