How to Make the Most of Your TEFL Course

You’re taking a TEFL certification course because you want to be in front of a group of students, leading them to better English, right? So, it may seem strange, especially for those of us who have been out of school a long time, when we assume the role of the student, and not the teacher.

If you hang out in online forums about teaching English abroad (like I do) you’ll have encountered plenty of TEFL Certification nay-sayers who claim that your certification course is only worth the paper the certificate is printed on. Or, worse, people who claim you should go abroad and start teaching without any preparation.

Pay Attention, You’ll Be Surprised What You Learn

But, if you’re smart (and I know you are), instead of listening to these unhappy online pundits and dismissing your course as a mere formality, look at what you can do to make the most out of your TEFL certification course.  For one thing, if you’ve already paid the money for the course, why wouldn’t you take full advantage of what you’ve purchased? Also, think of this time in the classroom as a way to build empathy for your future students. You’ll soon be in front of the classroom, but don’t forget what it’s like to sit at the pupils’ desks too. Even if you’re taking an online course like our TEFLBootcamp, you’ll learn a lot from being a virtual student if you pay attention. And, not least, by absorbing all the information from your TEFL course, you’ll learn tips and tricks that will save you time and earn you more money later in your career.

Still not convinced? Consider the following:

1. You need to learn from experience. If you haven’t got any experience (that would be why you’re taking the TEFL course, right?), then the next best thing is to surround yourself with experienced people. TEFL trainers and other certification course staff are a goldmine of information. Spend the time you have on your TEFL course mining that knowledge and forging some battle armor for your later work as a teacher.  Even if you’re taking an online TEFL course, you should have lots of opportunities to contact your trainer and ask all the teaching-related questions you can think of.

2. Even if you think you’ve got this—maybe you don’t. Plenty of English teachers start out thinking they’ll be able to whiz into classrooms and knock out lessons with the ease of a professional, right off the bat. Sure, English teaching isn’t usually rocket science (though you may end up teaching some rocket scientists!) but there’s a reason that educators worldwide have put time and effort into developing certain methodologies and techniques to help second-language acquisition. Keep your ears open and your eyes focused on all the information you learn. You may be surprised how much you’ll take away from your course and put to use in your own classroom.

3. Most reputable TEFL certification programs offer some kind of job assistance for their graduates. For example, over at, we offer the Secrets of Success ebook along with every course as well as two other ebooks, How to Land a Job Teaching English Abroad and How to Teach English Overseas- a ten-week plan to a new life abroad.  You can sign up for those ebooks FREE here:  —  see, you are already ahead of the game!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Pay attention in class. You’ve paid for it, so get your money’s worth. Plus, it’s good karma—maybe later, your students will pay attention to you too.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Go through your TEFL Certification course with an eye on how you can parlay your experience and connections into a job later.



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.

Teaching Internships in China


Alternatives for TEFL Teacher Training

As we mentioned in the previous post, not everyone can afford to take four to six weeks away from work and pay the costs for a full blown TEFL certification or CELTA.

Following are some options to help you get a better idea about what to do in the classroom – without the “Full Monty” of a TEFL Certification.

First, any kind of training is better than no training. You can often find some free training as a volunteer from organizations like Literacy Volunteers of America [now known as ProLiteracy and working internationally].

There are online courses that are inexpensive. All of them will provide you with some beginnings of the knowledge and skill you need to do a decent job. Will you become a seasoned “pro” with such a class? No, but you will have a good idea of what needs to be done and how to continue to improve.

A free online TEFL course that I wrote is here: TEFL Boot Camp. The course is self study, roughly equivalent to the content for a full course – but no observed teaching practice is offered – nor is a certificate on offer.

What kind of training do employers look for?

Sadly, some employers in some countries, have no expectations that you have any training at all. Others, will have some very specific ideas about what training they would like you to have had. You won’t be able to please everyone in every country, but with a good TEFL training course you will have what 95% of employers will be satisfied with. And, enough training to feel like you are doing a good job and have some real satisfaction about the work you are doing. It’s a great feeling!

On-Line Training versus Full-Blown TEFL Courses

As mentioned above, any training is better than no training. If you don’t have the time or money to do a full course, or if you just want to experiment and see if it might interest you – consider a an online course. They are a good introduction to teaching and can tide you over until you get into a full program with observed teaching practice.

Free TEFL Certification Training?

There are some TEFL certification schools around the world that will offer you “free” certification training if you will work for them for a specified period of time. Approach these programs with caution as things that look too good to be true, often are.

Now . . . to protect myself from liability I am going to say that not all schools do what I am going to suggest – but know that some do.

Some TEFL Cert schools happily enroll you into their certification program and then place you in a job in which you are usually paid less than the going rate. The difference between the wages other people on the job are getting and your wage – will go to the TEFL school.

They, unfortunately, rarely tell you about this little “arrangement” they have going. And month after month, for as long as you work there, you are literally paying for your TEFL course. So . . . know that free things are rarely free.

If you stay at a job for a couple years you will have paid for the certification a couple times over or more.

No free time and no money?

TEFL Boot Camp is as good as it gets online – and it really is free.

Have a little money and want to study on your own? Check out TEFL eBooks for some options.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get the full four to six week TEFL Training in residence if you have the time and money to do so.
The full course is worth your time, money and effort.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get some training. Any kind of training to help you along.
You will enjoy yourself more and do a better job. Study a book, take an online course, sit in on classes somewhere.

Take an interest in becoming a quality teacher.

Do I Need TEFL Training?

English teaching wannabes and newbies usually ask several questions here:

Is TEFL training required to get the job I want? Do I have to have it?

Would it make a difference if I had it?

. . . and the answers are: sometimes, sometimes and yes.

Some countries require a TEFL certification before they will approve your legal working papers. Thus – before you can work in Thailand, Indonesia and a few other places, you need to complete a good TEFL course.

Most countries don’t require any TEFL training at all, but the better employers will prefer their new hires to have had some training. So, in fact, TEFL training may be required for a move up the food chain or even give you the ability to start out in a preferred position.

And while many countries and some jobs that don’t require any training at all, it shouldn’t be about just getting by with the minimum and, if you are lucky, just doing a mediocre job.

Will TEFL training really make a difference?

You bet! There are several ways in which you may benefit from TEFL training. First is that many employers will pay a small premium to teachers that have some good training. While often not much on a monthly basis, it adds up across a year and tends to easily pay for itself in only one or two years. Add that to the idea that you can probably land a better job than the one you would get without training and you might be seeing an even better return on your investment.

Those are the good practical reasons for getting yourself some training. There are also some ethical, moral and emotional issues to consider.

The first is that you owe it to your students to get yourself some training. Students, in most foreign countries, pay a lot of money to sit in your class. Wouldn’t it just be fair to know what you are doing?

While teaching English overseas is not “brain surgery” or “rocket science”, it does require some skill to do it well. And as long as you are changing your life and heading overseas – why not do it right and feel good or even GREAT about the service you provide to your students?

The days of just showing up at a TEFL job and “chatting with the students for an hour” are long gone. Language schools these days would like you to provide some real teaching in their classrooms. And students almost intuitively know when a teacher knows what they are doing – or not.

One of the best reasons for getting yourself some training is that you will find preparing your classes much easier and you will enjoy your work more knowing that you are providing a quality service and not just skating by on someone else’s money. Best of all, you will sleep better at night.

It’s about doing it right – and feeling good about it.

Now . . . not everyone can afford four to six weeks of not working and the costs of a full blown TEFL certification program. In the following post we will talk about some good alternatives to the commercially available courses.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get some training. You will enjoy yourself more and do a better job.
Remember how lousy teachers really turned you off when you were still in school? Yeah, don’t be one of those.

TED’s Tips™ #2: If you can’t afford the “Full Monty” of a four-to-six-week course, check out some of the alternatives we will talk about tomorrow.