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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Where Should you Take your TEFL Training?

Take your teacher training in the country where you plan to teach

I’m often asked where is best to take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) training in-classroom course. A variation on this question is, ‘Is it better to take teaching training in your home country or in the country in which you plan to teach?’

Look for An Experienced Trainer

My recommendation would usually be for a TEFL school where your primary trainer is well-educated and has broad experience in more than one country and more than one or two school settings, and has been teaching EFL abroad for about 10-12 years.   But that is not always possible, but try to get near to it.

I think the level of experience of your trainer(s) is very important. When I was a teacher trainer (some years back) someone was hired right out of my class to organize and execute a TEFL Certification course for another company.  Lucky her, except…she had NO teaching experience AT ALL. Yikes! I won’t tell any more of this story, but it didn’t work out well, and it was not a unique situation.

Train Where You Want to Teach

My answer to the second question is to, yes, go abroad to the country where you want to work. Take your training there, or as close to that country as you can. Here’s why:

1. When you move to the new country to do the TEFL course you will also be adapting to the culture and learning how to get around. Then, when you start hunting for jobs, you’ll have an easier time than if you had just showed up cold.

2. Local TEFL Certification schools will be able to tell you who are the best and biggest employers, which schools to contact first for a job, and–just as importantly–which schools you should avoid.

3. When you do your teacher training, you’ll do some Observed Teaching Practice with real students. If you study for your certification in the same country where you will work, then these students will have the same grammar and pronunciation problems as the students you will be teaching at your first TEFL job.

Pronunciation Problems Differ from Place to Place

There are a few reasons why this is important.  Depending on their mother tongues, each country’s students will have different difficulties when they learn English grammar and pronunciation.  This isn’t a big deal, but even teachers with a lot of experience will need to spend some of their first classroom hours figuring out how to solve these problems when they begin working in a new country.

For a new EFL teacher, this will certainly take more time and effort. If you can get a handle on local grammar and pronunciation issues during your training, and if you have a good trainer, you’ll be a strikingly more effective teacher from the get-go.

Additionally, in some countries schools will want you to do a “demonstration lesson” as part of the hiring process. Of course this sample lesson will go much more smoothly for you if you have a leg up on what sorts of classroom problems you might face in that country and you’ve already taught (during your teaching practice) those types of students.

And, in countries where demonstration lessons are the norm, your TEFL Certification training course will give you the chance to design and polish that demo lesson, under the supervision of an experienced teacher-trainer.

Think about it, if you just walk off the plane and into a job interview that includes a demonstration lesson, how will you plan it if you don’t know what local students’ common problems are?

As if those weren’t enough reasons, if you do your course abroad, then during your TEFL Certification course you’ll be able to scour the job market and line up that perfect job for after you finish your training.

Lastly, if you go to the developing world to take your TEFL Certification course, you’ll save money. In many countries, TEFL Certification courses are much cheaper than in the West. Your room and board will cost less too.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Figure out what country you’d like to teach in and do your TEFL Certification course there.

TED’s Tips™ #2: During your TEFL course, prepare and polish a demonstration lesson so you have it ready when you start looking for jobs.  Just in case . . .

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