Scoring your First TEFL Job

Do you want to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), overseas?  Well, luckily for you, employers worldwide are eager to hire someone just like you. Newbie teachers are often amazed how easy it is to hook that first job offer.

However, as with any line of work, it’s important to weigh your options and take the right position for you. If you take your time finding your first EFL job, you and your employer will be happier for it.

One thing to consider when you’re choosing which job fits your best is the length of contract.  Are unsure  of committing to a whole 12-month contract in an exotic land? Check out TEFL Temp, where you can find listings of short-term TEFL jobs. You might even find the rare four-month posting that includes airfare and training. An offer like that is hard to beat!

Also, don’t forget to read the advice at our sister website, TEFL Newbie.  There, you can find all kinds of information about searching for (and getting) your first job teaching English overseas; living abroad; and the ins and outs of working in a foreign land.

It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about just doing a few months or even years abroad or if you think TEFL might be the lifelong career you always wanted, odds are TEFL Newbie will have some information to interest you.

Of course, every teacher’s expectations, requirements and talents are one-of-a-kind, and you won’t find every answer you seek on-line. But TEFL Newbie is a good place to start. It was created by a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Botswana 89-91) living and working abroad ever since then, and it tries to answer all those questions a first-time English teacher might have before they go abroad to work.

Topics on TEFL Newbie range from how to choose what country to teach in, how to pay back your outstanding student loans while you are overseas, insurance, family matters, and of course visas and contracts.   There are also hundreds of comments/questions and responses that just might fit your particular situation

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Cruise over to TEFL Boot Camp and pick up some FREE ebooks about everything from finding your first job to how to create success overseas.  You can sign up for those free ebooks HERE.

TED’s Tips™ #2: While it’s a good idea to think twice before snapping up the first TEFL  job that comes your way, recognize that not everyone’s first teaching job will be the perfect one for them. Just like in an industry, your job (and your employer) may have its ups and downs. Approach this with a professional attitude.  And – to be honest – sometimes an “entry-level” job is just that – what you need to do to get your foot in the door.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Don’t forget that there’s more on this website that can help you. Maximize what you get out of that first job by going through the other sections of this website, paying special attention to English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and Business English.

Teaching Internships in China


When Changing your Career to TEFL: Think ESP

People who have lost their jobs often wonder if a change to TEFL might solve their problems and offer some optimism and opportunity to what is a difficult time.

They ask if teaching English abroad might help meet some lifelong goals of seeing and experiencing the greater world (goals that were seeming quite impossible recently)?

It might well do that.  The demand for EFL teachers has never been greater.

Steps in Transitioning to Working Abroad

1. Get some training

There is increasing competition out there, but still not nearly enough teachers.  Getting a bit of training says you care enough to at least begin to learn the skills for the job you are seeking.

Many people are seeking teaching jobs and the only thing they have to offer is being a “native speaker”.  If you have more than that to offer, you are already in front of 25-30% of your competition.

2.  Don’t forget the value of the skills you already have

This is where English for Specific (or Special) Purposes – or ESP – comes in.   If you have as little as 3-4 years in the workforce,  you probably already have some special skills that will be sought somewhere.  You just have to find out where!

Around the world there are vocation high schools, two-year community and vocational colleges, academic colleges and universities and even specialized private vocational schools that teach the skills of almost every occupation in the world.

In most occupations abroad, at one time or another, workers will need a few English skills.  If that occupational area is where you have been employed, that employer of teachers would usually prefer to hire you before they hire me.

What this means is don’t head across the world after twenty years in finance and take the first kindergarten teacher job you can find.   Ten years as a lawyer (you’d be surprised how many lawyers are teaching English!) should land you nice job a college somewhere, teaching Business English, Contract English and possibly even International Commerce – in English.

A few years as a public school teacher can help you land either the same type of position at an international school abroad (very competitive market) or teaching English to future teachers at colleges and universities.  Three years at Walmart?  Walmart probably offers English classes to their managers in Korea and China.   And the list goes on.

A few more examples?  A friend once taught Airline English to Korean ladies at an airline stewardess training school.  My previous work experience has had me teaching accounting and management (in English) at an international hotel management school in Thailand, Business English to business teachers in Saudi Arabia, Email English to employees at Roche Pharmaceuticals in Taiwan, Business English to international executives in Korea, Telephone English to staff at a MasterCard call center and even more stuff I wouldn’t want to bore you with.  But none if it was boring to me!  🙂

But . . . can you see that I never taught kindergarten?  I started in TEFL at about age 40 – twenty years ago.

3. Get your Foot in the Door

Okay, you are right – sometimes you just have to get your first job and get your foot in the door.  Do whatever is needed to land that first job. (TEFL training will help!).   Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to teach ESP in areas in which you have skills that other teachers probably don’t.  It is the best way to compete, to increase your income and job satisfaction and a great way to meet people with similar interests.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Try to not start your TEFL journey on the bottom rung of the career ladder.  If you must do that, keep your eyes open for opportunity to jump a few rungs ahead of everyone else.  Those opportunities are there.  You will need to look for them and they often are not heavily advertised as employers believe that it is difficult to find you.  Help them find you!  Colleges, universities and vocational programs are where these jobs are hiding.  Go get them.

Teaching Internships in China


Jobs Market for Teaching English: Is it too Good to be True?

A reader over at TEFL Newbie wrote this comment:

I am a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of positions in S. Korea, China, and Japan. The job market situation appears to be the inverse of the market here in the USA. In the postings for positions in China I am surprised by the sheer volume of listings and by the often times scant requirements and sometimes the offers seem a little to good to be true.

Things are – in fact – booming in Asia.  The demand for teachers is as great as it has ever been.

While it can seem a bit “too good to be true”, it is only because the jobs market in the developed countries is terrible right now.  Has been for a couple years and probably will be for a couple more.

China and Korea continue to be the largest of the job markets for teaching English.  Korea requires a degree and no TEFL certification and China doesn’t require a degree but does require a TEFL cert, though some employers can get around the requirement.

While wages in China can seem modest, when you throw in free accommodation, airfare reimbursement, subsidized utilities (sometimes) and possibly even free lunch some days and a transportation payment – and all of a sudden you are doing okay.  Add in really low taxes (from zero to three to seven percent at most) and you can see that all of a sudden, your wages are basically for food (inexpensive) and fun (can be expensive!).

Teachers in China can often save US$200 and up.  Not a lot, but how much can you save working at Walmart or McDonald’s?

Korea too, offers what can seem to be a modest wage, but by the time you throw in all the perks – well – most people in Korea can save US$1000 a month without really trying.   If you can’t save that much, you need to take a break from the nightclubs and stay home every now and then . . .

Korea, for the above reasons, is a more competitive market than China.  Lots of fresh graduates from university head to Korea to pay off or at least put a dent in their student loans.

China is a better option for teachers who would prefer teaching at university, but don’t have the graduate degree required to do so in Korea.   Chinese universities pay modestly compared even to Chinese language schools, but you work less and there are often options for increasing your income — and the status of a university position helps a lot.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Don’t make yourself a victim of the “It’s too good to be true” syndrome.  The jobs market for teaching English overseas is alive and well.  High unemployment in the USA, UK and Ireland means that Korea is more competitive, but there are still more jobs than can find teachers in China.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Try for a good sampling of what is available around the world.  You will truly be amazed.

Teaching Internships in China


TEFL Training: Is it really necessary?

English teaching wannabes and newbies often 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.

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.  Online courses are accepted in three of the world’s largest TEFL jobs markets: China, Korea and Japan.  That means there are some lower price alternatives available to you.

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 a good online course.

Teaching Internships in China


Miscommunication can Ruin your Job Search

Miscommunications and Misunderstandings When You are Looking for a Job

It doesn’t need to be a big deal. Pay attention!

If you remember last week’s post we talked about a misunderstanding between a new teacher and his employer. The misunderstanding came about due to some miscommunication when the employer – a non-native speaker – had some difficulty expressing urgency in her message, causing the new teacher to assume he was about to be fired!

Clarify Clarify Clarify

I want to relate another relatively similar story that says “New teachers – pay attention and clarify, clarify, clarify!”

Another newbie English-teacher-about-to-be in the middle of their visa process understood their employer to suggest that everything that cost money during the visa process would be paid for by the school, including things he needed to do in his home country. This, in spite of a contract that specifically said the expenses in China would be paid.

You are dealing with non-native speakers

Please understand, when you are seeking a new job teaching English in another country, that many times your communication will be with speakers of English who are NOT native speakers. And remember that even native speakers can have misunderstandings and miscommunications. So why would we expect our communications with non-native speakers to be problem free?

We should, in fact, assume that those communications might be problematic.

Whenever anything seems to be “too good to be true” or a rather surprising problem, seek to clarify the situation using the strategies suggested in the previous post (#3). Rephrase what the speaker said and ask if that was what was intended. You will often be surprised!

TED’s Tips™ #1: If something upsets or confuses you, ask a colleague to help sort it out.

Intercultural Miscommunication: Clearing up communication in a foreign culture

TEFL Training Programs don’t teach you how to apply what you have just learned to your job search skills.

This is important. And the next post on this same topic is important. But only if you are looking for a job or are thinking of looking for a job teaching English abroad.

A man I was working with recently became upset over a conversation with a new employer. He was in the process of getting his visa paperwork set up, but had experienced delays in getting his health exam (required in many countries) completed.

When he contacted me he reported that his new employer was possibly going to fire him or at least cancel his new contract if he did not complete the health exam by the following Wednesday.

Wow. Big problem if you have quit your job and are packed and ready to head across the world.

Well . . . it didn’t quite sound right so when I checked with the employer – who was not a native speaker – the message was different. The message was “hurry up!”

How did this miscommunication happen?

Where did good communication break down and how might you avoid or solve such an event?

Where it broke down was that non-native speakers of English often don’t know how to express themselves strongly. How to press a point assertively and appropriately. They need to be taught such things (did they tell you that in TEFL Training?) and almost every experienced Business English trainer will have spent considerable time on exactly that topic.

Somewhere in the communication with the boss, the boss implied or somehow communicated more than what she intended. And the teacher-to-be took the English quite literally and seriously and assumed that he was about to be fired.

You can’t do that!

(take things too seriously) Do you see how easily this could have become a disaster to the new teacher? And even a major problem for the employer as they would have found themselves short a teacher come the new semester?

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you intend to be a language professional, you quite need to learn how to interpret what is said to you by non-native speaker supervisors and colleagues (and your EFL students) and to seek clarification if something doesn’t seem to make sense to you or seems to be an exaggerated or inappropriate response to a situation.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Check the suspect statement by repeating it back to the speaker and then rephrase it and ask if that is what they meant. If it is still confusing, ask again and rephrase again. YOU are the teacher and the communication may well need to be sorted out and you are the person with the skills (we all hope!) to figure it out. Consider it a challenge!  Don’t let these little things get in the way of your new life teaching English abroad. They are too easy to avoid.

Teaching Internships in China


Succeeding Abroad in TEFL and in Life

TEFL certification courses don’t teach you how to succeed

Those of us with a business or management education will remember the research that says that only about 20% of people who are fired from their jobs are fired due to a lack of skills in their occupation.

The flip side of that equation says: 80% of people fired from their jobs are fired for other reasons – usually poor work habits and social skills issues.

So, yes, I hope you study your TEFL training carefully and develop the skills to become a teacher that provides great benefit to your students. But, there are a few more things involved along the way.

A favorite topic of mine is intercultural skills and learning to adapt and thrive in a foreign culture. Add intercultural miscommunication to that 80% of people fired for other than job skills and I think that all of a sudden you will find that 80% becoming 90% or even more – for people living abroad. And that would reflect my experience and what I have seen working in five different foreign countries.

What to do? How to learn more on these type issues that your TEFL Training doesn’t cover?   Go on over to this page at TEFL Boot Camp: Free eBooks where you can sign up and get a couple good ebooks that will help you get started, but also – Seven Secrets to Success Abroad – and that book will help you understand how to operate in a different culture with different expectations at work and outside school.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Pick up some intercultural skills and you will go a long way toward assuring your success while living and working overseas.

Teaching Internships in China

Online TEFL Training

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China




Will Schools have already Prepared Lessons for You?

Be Prepared for TEFL Freedom

One of the most commonly asked questions I get when I am placing people in schools in China is this: Will the school have already prepared lessons and lesson plans for me?

Well, after I stop chuckling . . . my usual answer is, “No.”

But really the answer depends on where you are going to teach. In China with only a BA/BS and a TEFL certification and a bit of experience you can land a university teaching position. With only a TEFL Certification and a degree and no experience language school positions are available.

Here is my real life response to someone who is taking a position at a university (more about language schools next time) who asked specifically:

I was wondering if I should bring teaching materials with me, and how much flexibility will I have to use my own materials?

My response:

I’ve taught in four countries and frankly ALWAYS preferred my own materials to the often irrelevant and unfocused materials that were usually offered (if any were offered at all!). Some schools do have some decent materials, but most don’t.

How much flexibility? Probably a LOT and hope for a LOT. Usually schools that have a well-defined and pre-designed program are rigidly holding on to what are often terrible materials and a curriculum that doesn’t work well for their students.

Colleges and universities, especially the ones with small EFL programs, usually just expect that you know what to do and give you the freedom to do it. I have rarely encountered even a decent syllabus after working at eight different colleges and universities in those four countries. Very large English departments though are more likely to be better structured and organized.

I don’t mean for my comments about these schools to be negative – it is in fact very positive – as the freedom tends to allow you to build exactly what is needed for your students. Nothing is worse than being forced to teach a very structured program that doesn’t help your students at all.

Now, sometimes a school will give you a book, the book somebody used last year. Sometimes you will be expected to use it as the campus bookstore ordered it and sold it to all the students already.

Understandably, the students would be upset if they were required to purchase a book that was never used, so you use it a bit and add in your own materials and gradually fade out of the book. You will need to use their book a bit, so the students don’t complain – practical considerations! Next semester you get to pick the book.

How the world really works

I had a teacher contact me once, looking for a job because he was about to quit the job he had just taken. His comments were: The school is very unprofessional – they had nothing prepared and told me to just develop my own program.


Yeah, in my mind the PERFECT teaching position! And he was going to quit!

Be happy for the freedom you will have in a position that offers it.

Certainly in most Asian countries and especially at smaller schools you will be offered a lot of freedom and the school will expect you to know what to do. Especially as they are often paying you more and sometimes much more than the non-native speaker local teachers.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Just another reason to get some training before you take up a teaching position as many schools will expect you to put together the program you are going to teach.   Especially at the university/college level you can expect that the school will assume that you know what to do and will ask you to get on with it.

Teaching Internships in China


Travel and Teach English or Teach English and Travel?

Or . . . how those TEFL recruiters and some TEFL certification companies can mislead you.

I am always a bit dismayed about the advertising I see on different recruiting and TEFL certification training websites.

Particularly the ones that tell you that life teaching English abroad is one big party of traveling and seeing the world.  Some even include travel in their name, but nothing about teaching!

They hardly mention – Oh yeah – there is a job you need to go to every day and do a good job at it.

Now, I am happy to tell you that I headed overseas to see the world.   But in 1989 when I went, I fully realized that I was taking a job and it needed to be performed well.  Not that I was traveling and sometimes might need to work.

To have a successful life abroad you need to flip Travel and Teach English around to say: Teach English and Travel.

Your J-O-B needs to come first.

What Employers Would Like to Hear

Every now and then employers of English teachers would love to hear how much a teacher candidate enjoys TEACHING, how important it is to help their students improve their English skills and how rewarding you might find that to be.

All that said, I have done an amazing amount of traveling and seeing the world in my 21+ years abroad. Perhaps the best way to look at it might be with Zig Ziglar’s famous statement: If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want. And notice that the helping people get what they want – comes first.

TED’s Tips™ #1: To have a successful life abroad, you need to put your JOB first. Life overseas offers so many opportunities to experience cultures AND to travel that you can pretty well assume that those things will come with your job.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Head overseas with a strong commitment to your job and your students and everything else will fall into place. Head overseas with your travel plan number one and you might be surprised how quickly things fall apart and you are on your way back home.

Teaching Internships in China


Some FREE TEFL Resources


How to Teach English Abroad
A Ten Week Plan to Landing that First Job Teaching English Abroad

TEFL Boot Camp is offering a couple free eBooks to help introduce you to the TEFLing world.

The first is the old stand by How to Teach English Overseas for sale for US$9.95 over at TEFL eBooks – but free through TEFL Boot Camp.  The book is essentially a ten week guide to getting yourself a job and heading overseas.

Easy to do if you know how.  Difficult if you don’t and this eBook takes you through the whole process – even applying for a passport if you don’t have one yet.

You can sign up to get this eBook free.

Get Some Help Landing that Job!
Get Some Help Landing that Job!

The second free eBook on offer, they send it to you about a week later, is a great job search guide called Teaching English Abroad: What you Must Know for an Effective Job Search.

The last guide is called Seven Secrets to Success Abroad.  It is more or less a review of things that I have seen over 20 years overseas – that make people succeed or fail.

It is a guide to intercultural adaptation and success – which believe it or not – is just as important as your teaching skills.

Secrets of Success Abroad
How to Succeed Abroad

Many people come apart at the seams overseas, but this book will help you see things from a different perspective.

HERE is where you sign up for all three eBooks.  Go get ’em – loads of free help.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Free Resources – you can’t ask for a better deal.  I wrote all three of these eBooks and they have lots of good tips in them.

What They don’t Teach you at TEFL School #28

Be Sure to Keep your Contacts “Back Home”

Okay, it’s not really #28 but we will have 100+ before we get done.

Whether you intend to spend three months, six months, one year, or the rest of your life – overseas – keep networking with your friends and former coworkers back home. Keep in touch with them. Maintain your friendships!

When you go back home on vacation, visit with your former coworkers.  Go to lunch or out for a beer with them. Exchange e-mails. Send them photographs of your travels and of your life overseas.

Let them know you are doing REAL work, not just traveling around on a lark. And you will, btw, be doing real work (you may be surprised just how hard you end up working!). You never know when you might need, or want, their help to transition back home again.


Yes! Even more so than back home, networking is critical in the EFL business. In the last 18 years I’ve only done a few real interviews!  Of my last two EFL jobs – one was completely arranged by a long-term friend, and the other was with a former employer I kept in touch with and went out for a beer with whenever I was in his town. And I bought more than a few of those beers to keep our relationship equal, though he was at the time a far wealthier man than I.

After 16 years in the TEFL world, I now keep in touch with friends in several countries, all of whom would be willing to help me find a job if I needed their help.

And, I would be willing to do the same – and they know it too.

Foreign Cultures

Networking is even more important in many foreign cultures than back home, so keep those contacts solid at home and everywhere you work overseas. You’ll be amazed how important they can become. In many cultures introductions are just as important as, often more important than, qualifications and experience.  As I mentioned earlier one of my more recent jobs – a nice university position – was arranged by a friend.  They hired me on the strength of his recommendation.  That and a three-minute telephone interview.  I think it was him more than the interview.

WILL I have trouble going home?

Just because you are overseas – living big maybe – doesn’t mean you can forget about the world back home. You need to keep your contacts up to date, continue educating yourself in your previous occupation and in your new one.

Depending on your previous career and the skill level required, and how fast that career field is changing, it DOES become more difficult to return home into the type of position you held at the time you left. This is true particularly after about five to eight years of being away (in my opinion).

My Case

I last worked in my chosen profession back home (social work administration) in 1989. Though I have maintained many contacts in the field, I do not think I could return to the level of job I had when I left. BUT! I don’t think I would have trouble returning to that line of work, due to my contacts. I might have to start a little lower down the totem pole.

I last went to lunch with a former supervisor about a year ago. I really believe that she would help me land a quite decent job if I asked, and she is certainly in the position to help as her responsibilities and abilities have moved her high up in such organizations (CFO and CEO of large non-profits) in the time I have been gone.

Twenty-one Years Later

When I first wrote this page, I was preparing for the visit of a friend with whom I worked in Africa in 1989 (a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer)! Good friends, great experiences over all these years, no doubt we would be happy – and pleased – to help each other if we needed.

You will develop the same type of relationships. It is a very special world out here! It really is.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Keep up your contacts. You never know when you will need them. And they are very nice to have if you do need them.

But I’m Not a REAL Teacher

Secret Fears of TEFL Teachers #1

Even teachers who have taught overseas for years sometimes have this issue in the back of their mind. But probably 98% of us that have been teaching overseas for more than just a year or two started out just like you. No real experience teaching English. Most of us with no teaching experience at all.

Some people feel like they are masquerading as a teacher.

What to do about it

Before you begin looking for a teaching job, get yourself familiar with what it is all about. About HOW to teach. Get some training so you have at least a basic idea about what to do on the job. About how to provide good service to your students. About how to help them improve and enjoy learning.

It really is about teaching, even thought teaching EFL is a bit different from other kinds of teaching in that classroom participation is critical for the success of students.

Even if you already have a teaching job, spend some time improving your skills. The internet is loaded with ways for you to improve yourself. From forums of teachers looking for new ideas and advising each other to online programs to teach you new skills. Ebooks, videos, podcasts, just about everything and anything.

Move on Up

If you intend to stay in the profession for more than a couple years or if you are truly hooked as many of us are and intend to stay overseas for a LONG time tasting of different cultures and countries – get yourself graduate degree in TESOL or applied linguistics (essentially the same).

There are some great distance programs offered, especially from Australia, that have good reputations and reasonable costs. A good graduate degree will help qualify you for university positions almost anywhere in the world and add a bit of polish to your skills.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Improve your skills to improve your self confidence and self concept as a teacher.

Teaching English Abroad: A Typical Day

What is a Typical Day for an EFL Teacher Overseas?

What is Teaching English Abroad like?

Teaching is enjoyable work if you enjoy people. Like any occupation, each specific job can vary greatly. It depends on what type of school or company you work for, the country you work in, and the ages of your students.

Adults or Children

The teaching of adults is often less-structured than the teaching of children. They are, usually, more motivated, have a reason for taking the class, and already have some English speaking skills. Kids, on the other hand, are often in class because their parents signed them up, have short attention spans, and need a lot of activity to keep them interested.

New Teachers

New teachers tend to teach children’s classes, though this is not always true. Everyone has their own preference – some people love to teach kids and even kindergarten – some prefer to teach only adults. Perhaps because of the more structured lessons, new teachers are more frequently assigned to the very specific routines that younger learners need. That’s not to say that teaching kids is easier – I think it is more difficult!

Teaching Kids

Language schools often hire EFL teachers for kids classes. These classes are usually after school and will involve teaching the basics in a very interactive format. Note the stress! Kids need action! This is not a lecture class. Songs, games, activities and imitation drills will provide the basis for these classes.

Sometimes these classes will be 30-45 minutes instead of 50-90 minutes more typical of adult classes. Often, you would teach four to six of these classes in one day, with from six to fifteen kids in each class.

Adult Classes

These are sometimes called “conversation” classes where adults come to sharpen their already existing basic English skills. While this sounds like a “chat” class – you would still be expected to provide instruction, some activities, some error correction – and a lot of encouragement.

These classes can vary, but typically are 50-60 minutes – and you might teach three to six of them in one day. Sometimes, due to adults’ working schedules, you might teach very early in the day, or late in the day, and sometimes both!

Adults tend to be easier to teach (IMO), but you can end up with some difficult work schedules to accommodate your students.

University Classes

Particularly if you already have a masters degree, you might find yourself teaching at a university or college. High status – maybe – but you might also find yourself teaching 30-100 bored students who are required to take the class. In my experience, a class of less than 25 is hard to come by.

I once taught a reading class with 100 students in it – and have heard from another teacher who taught 150 students in one class. Don’t attempt this kind of teaching until you get a little experience under your belt. Typically, you will teach fewer classes per week, but you can see from the numbers that preparation is critical – and any kind of home work will lead to piles and piles of work – that you will need to do at home.

Most classes will be 60 to 120 minutes.

Middle and High School Students

These classes, tend to be middle of the road, lecture a bit: language principles, grammar, pronunciation, etc., then an activity. Sometimes these too can be large classes of students who may not be highly motivated. If you are teaching at a public school, classes can be quite large, in a private language school, classes will be smaller.

Corporate and “Company” Classes

Some companies will hire you to improve their workers’ English skills. Classes will tend to be small, but often at odd hours to work around your students’ work schedules. Student attendance may be erratic. I personally enjoy these type of classes, but many teachers don’t, as students are often quite tired after a hard day of work and just want to go home. I can’t blame them! These classes tend to focus on “Business English” and the language of the workplace.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Expect just about any combination of the above and you will not be surprised!

TED’s Tips™ #2: Your “typical” day may well be very different from anyone else’s typical day. Take it all with a grain of salt, keep an open mind and as always, stay flexible.

TEFL Certification and Your First Job Teaching English

I am taking a little vacation so the posts for the next few weeks will be responses to questions and topics suggested the readers of the blog.

Starting your career Teaching English Abroad

A recent reader wrote in and asked:

I am an engineer and thinking seriously of changing careers and getting certified to teach English abroad. I am very interested in TEFL certification. If I did that next spring, how long could I expect to have to wait to get my first job? I currently have a BS degree, some teaching experience while in college (late 90’s), but none after that.

My Response was:

Any good TEFL Certification will do a lot to help you land the job you want faster and usually will put you at the top of the list. Even if it is not required it shows that you are interested in doing a quality job. And that says a lot to a potential employer.

You asked, “…how long could I expect to have to wait to get my first job?”

The answer to that depends a lot on where you want to teach and even who you want to teach. If you want to teach in Korea or China, you can probably sign a contract within days. If you have something very specific in mind it might take a bit longer.

For example, if you want to teach at a resort on a tropical island, your job search should be more detailed and take a bit longer . . .

By the above, I mean what country and what kind of setting (university, preschool, language school, secondary school).

I would encourage you to read these webpages to help you sharpen your focus:

Types of TEFL Jobs


Please feel free to contact me and ask more questions.
Happy to help if I can.

Teaching English at Multi-National Corporations

Teaching Business English: at the corporate level

You’ve already figured out that much of the current material on this blog comes from the great questions you readers ask and I will feature another one today.

This one we will do more as a Q and A than most others.

This reader was interested in teaching ESP and focused on the Middle East as an option and he had a specific interest in Saudi Arabia. Here we go:

Hi Richard (name changed to protect the innocent!),

You wrote:
You mentioned that you had vast experience teaching for corporate companies.

I am not sure “vast” would be the correct word, but yes, probably more experience than most teachers.

When you taught, for example, Roche Pharmaceuticals (Taiwan), did you adapt the English course to suit the pharmaceutical industry e.g. English for special purposes?

Absolutely. Yes. But what was adapted was based on a good Needs Analysis of what they felt they were having difficulty with. It was not based on a preconceived notion about what I might have thought they needed.

Would you say today, that corporate companies want specialised courses to fit their industry, so if you did teach a petroleum company, would it be necessary to study courses in geology/petroleum engineering etc.

Yes, they want a course focused on their business needs. No, you don’t need to excessively study their specialty, but it would be important to understand and have some idea about what the people you are teaching actually do on the job, when and how and why do they use/need English, and what kinds of problems they need help with. Showing up completely prepackaged is not the answer. Good needs analysis when you arrive is critical.

Also, which industry sector needs English instructors the most??

It’s a big world – I don’t know. I would say a need exists probably everywhere and in every industry. It has more to do with WHERE, rather than What. If, for example, you are teaching in the Gulf States – well, it is likely the need is in the petroleum and perhaps hospitality industries. If you are teaching in Nepal – probably tourism and hospitality, in Switzerland probably banking and hospitality, and so on.

These days many students study abroad, so their English is a higher level than students 30 years ago, so where would there be a niche market for English instructors in corporate firms?

Same answer as above. The need is Global and not always where you might think it is. It is not just about foreigners speaking to English speakers. It is about English being the only common language between perhaps a Chinese exporter and the Brazilian who needs her product. Or a Japanese construction company working with local engineers installing a high speed train in Bulgaria. Got it?

And finally, what was the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Helping people improve their career prospects. And that was a GREAT reward.

TED’s Tips™ #1: It is better to focus on teaching ESP perhaps in a an industry in which you are familiar and preferably experienced rather than looking for an industry and trying to adapt to it.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Understand that businesses want an end product. They don’t hire a teacher or pay for English classes just to take classes. They hire you to solve a language problem and you need to focus on and get to the root of what your ESP students need. If not, you will quickly be out the door.

What’s up in China? Learn what kind of jobs are on offer if you would like to Teach English in China