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


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