TEFL Choices

What if you can’t afford an in-classroom TEFL school in your home country?

People who dream of going abroad to teach English may come across one of the world’s oldest stumbling blocks when they start looking at Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) schools—money.

Of course, it costs money to attend one of these programs, and it also costs precious time. An in-classroom TEFL certification course will take at least four weeks of your time—and not everyone has both the ready cash and that many weeks of free time available to them.

If you have got that, then great – but those who are worried about finances should look at going abroad to take the course.  It is really the best of all options. I always advocate taking the TEFL course in the same country that you want to start teaching in anyway. Plus, if you look at TEFL programs in your home country, they will typically be more expensive and won’t give you the same kind of real-world experience that you’d get if you took it abroad.

Why Go Abroad for your in-classroom TEFL School?

When you prepare for your TEFL certification overseas you will get classroom practice with students who will have similar language learning traits to the students that you will actually work with when you get a job. Also, in your downtime from classes you’ll be able to network, settle in to the culture and get an idea of which would be the best schools or institutes to work for.

In addition, your TEFL instructors will be able to give you lots of country-specific advice, because their experience in the region will be directly relevant to you. This can be a great help for the newbie TEFL teacher, and you don’t want to miss out on help, do you?

Not sure yet?

There are other options if you are truly hesitant about taking an in-classroom TEFL course abroad or domestically or just can’t afford it. Programs like the Literacy Volunteers of America can also train you up and get you experience as a volunteer tutor that will give you some insight into the world of TEFL. And you’d be helping  a group of people who need you!

The umbrella organization is ProLiteracy:  to contact them for their options outside of the United States – Google for similar programs.

For a self-study approach, I recommend TEFL Boot Camp.  It’s inexpensive and includes most of the content you’d get at a full-length in-classroom TEFL certification program. You’ll get tutoring, assistance and a certificate at the end and it has great information to get you started down the right path.

Or, another even less expensive option is to download the TEFL Training for New Teachers eBook . This includes most of the same information as the TEFL Boot Camp website, but with added bonuses: Two Peace Corps TEFL Training Manuals – designed for new EFL teachers— and Fast Track Grammar Review for EFL Teachers. This will probably cost less than US$15—what a good way to get your feet wet!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Train your brain.  Good teachers get training—and in TEFL, any training you get will be better than no training at all. You need to learn what to do, how to do it and when to do it in an EFL classroom.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Practice. If you can, get some real teaching experience—volunteering is fine—before you go overseas. It will boost your confidence and make your first class that much better.

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How to Tell if Your TEFL Training Center is all Hype or the Real Deal

This post will start a series on how to assess an in-classroom Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) training course.

When would-be TEFL teachers look up training centers on the Internet, it’s challenging to sort through all the schools’ claims to find what is truly necessary for a great TEFL learning experience, and what is just so much marketing fluff. It’s important to also think about your individual needs and try to match yourself with a school that can offer the best course for you.

 Some tips. . .

Although at first glance the Internet offers an overload of information on in-classroom TEFL training centers, in this series we’ll look at what key questions you can use to evaluate a school.

Remember, though, that the best answers are as unique as the people asking them, and that (unfortunately) the answers to these questions won’t always help everyone.

And some even more important tips:

Don’t believe everything you read in online forums. Internet forums are useful, but DON’T take the opinions there as gospel.  There are a few training centers which hire people to post favorable comments about them on popular forums (and hire them to bash competing schools, too).

It’s also likely that in online forums you’ll find CELTA graduates who belittle any other kind of training as substandard, TEFL Cert grads who think the CELTAers are snobs who did too much unnecessary busywork… in, essence, there’s office politics even on the Web.

But, don’t worry too much about that yet. What’s important is that you wade through it to find a teacher training program that suits you. In this series I’ll offer some checklists so that you can compare school features and be happy that when you choose a school, you choose the right school.

My following post in this series will handle schools and accreditation. How much does accreditation matter? Tune in next week.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Do your research on the school’s features, not on how well its website is designed or other superficial aspects that won’t translate into the experience you’ll get there.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t just follow the herd. Even if your best friend loved his TEFL school, it doesn’t mean that you will. Choosing a training center can be a highly personal decision.

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ESP-ecially Interesting – Teaching English for Specific Purposes

Okay . . . not that kind of ESP

Great. You’re all set. You want to re-make your life and start a new career as an English teacher. You kiss goodbye to your old job and catch a plane, never to look back.

Hold it!

Even though choosing a career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) often does mean a complete shift in your work life, don’t ignore the fact that a lot of your previous experience and education may come in handy in the English classroom, even if your old job had nothing to do with languages or education.

If your background means you can get a job teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP), then you’re already a few rungs up the TEFL ladder, in terms of prestige and, (who are we kidding?) pay.

As an example, consider someone who has training in the Information Technology, or IT, industry. When she transitions to TEFL, it would be logical to start the job hunt looking for a a position teaching English in secondary or tertiary institutions that have an IT specialty for their students.

There are plenty of examples of occupational specialties at schools and institutions overseas that require English training along with their vocational or academic training. Worldwide, people need English to publish papers at university, research for said papers, study advanced degrees and to start up many businesses.

It’s in your best interest to utilize all your assets when finding a job and your background is one asset you shouldn’t ignore. If you have knowledge or training in a special area, then you will already understand and be fluent in the jargon of that businesses, you’ll understand how the business works, and you may have an enthusiasm about it that other teachers won’t have. This will make you attractive to prospective employers.

Here are some more examples—by far not an exhaustive list, either—of areas of special knowledge that come in useful when teaching English overseas:

●            Nursing

●            Aviation training

●            Marketing and Business

●            Engineering

●            Pharmaceuticals or anything else related to medicine

●            Hospitality and Tourism

●            Law

●            Construction Technology

●            Basically any other subject that you majored in at university

When looking for a job teaching students specializing in your ESP area at a university, avoid approaching the English Department first. A better tactic is to introduce yourself at the department in charge of your skill area, and then request that they recommend you to their colleagues in the English Department.

Some helpful links about ESP: Here are a pair of great examples of ESP work that new TEFL teachers may be qualified for: Hotel and Resort English and Business English. This might entail teaching a few motivated, engaged receptionists or concierges at a 5-star hotel (or maybe even at a resort on an island!). What sounds better, that or teaching 60 bored middle-schoolers all playing with their smart phones instead of listening to you, the teacher? See, ESP has its advantages!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Look within yourself to see what the BEST English Teaching Job is going to be for YOU. What will get you both maximum enjoyment and maximum pay? It just might be related to your personal skills, experiences and education. Don’t ignore your unique strengths—you might be hobbling yourself AND your new career.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Just because you may be new to teaching English doesn’t mean you have to start on the bottom of the heap. If you’ve got marketable skills, then by all means approach colleges, universities and businesses directly.

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