How to prepare for a career teaching English abroad

How to prepare for a career teaching English abroad

Getting ready for a new start – in any pursuit – can be busy and challenging. This is why it often pays to plan ahead and prepare effectively.

This is true for most things in life, but especially in the world of work. In fact, one such career move where it pays to put time and effort ahead of time is that of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Keep reading to find out some simple and effective ways to stand out from the crowd, anticipating any issues before they even arise.

Step 1: Get a TEFL certification

Whether the interest is to teach English in China, or even to work as an online TEFL teacher, one thing is clear. It is a prudent decision to invest in a reliable and genuine TEFL certification beforehand.

There are three main reasons for this. First of all, as with pretty much any job path, the most qualified candidates put themselves in the best position to get the most attractive positions. This is because TEFL recruiters are actively seeking new teachers who have taken the time and effort to invest in themselves and their knowledge base.

Secondly, the courses themselves are packed with useful and relevant hints and tips on the world of TEFL, from how to manage the classroom all the way through to language learning games that really help to reinforce a learning point. One such game might be “Telephone”, where the teacher gives a secret message to a student by whispering it to them. After that, the students take turns listening to the whispered message before it finally arrives at the last student. The end message is often rather different from that which started, which reinforces the notion of listening carefully to every word, and the overall idea of a message too.

Last but by no means least, the courses are an ideal way to meet other new TEFL teachers who share the same feelings of excitement and anticipation about their new career choice. Due to this, the chance to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas is one to be taken advantage of, as this can often lead to friendships that go much further than the TEFL program arena.

Step 2: Choose a specialization

Teaching TEFL anywhere in the world is much easier and more accessible with the certification to hand, so then the next comes deciding which age group and level to work with. For some, the opportunity to work with kindergarten students is optimal, as this allows them to make a deep and meaningful impact right from the beginning of a student’s language learning journey.

By contrast, other TEFL teachers may prefer to work with students who are a little bit older, with the energy and enthusiasm of smaller kids, but with a bit more patience to sit through slightly longer grammar explanations. For these educators, primary school is a good compromise, allowing for some balance between the exuberance of youth and the maturity to stay with classroom tasks longer.

On the other hand, secondary school is the environment of choice for many new TEFL teachers, who recognize that teenagers begin to become more self-aware of their own learning style and are also able to tap into deeper discussions in topics as diverse as favorite sports teams to enhance online marketing. This can make classroom debates passionate and interesting, producing thoughts and concepts that may otherwise have been unrelated and brought together in new and diverse ways.

Alternatively, the idea of teaching TEFL to adults could be the right one. This is perhaps because adults have a clearer sense of exactly what they need from their English learning, as well as a more easily identifiable goal than simply to “get better” over time. For instance, TEFL within a business setting may be tailored towards helping staff communicate more effectively with clients or even to get a better handle on particular aspects of the job, like software programs used in the job.

Step 3: Choose a TEFL teaching medium

In this modern age, working online has become more appealing to many, and TEFL is no exception. Teaching the subject online has a lot of benefits, not least the chance to reach audiences from every corner of the world.

However, it should be noted that getting started as an online TEFL teacher is frequently not as straightforward as it first sounds. This is because there is a need to invest in technology right from the start, from a reliable internet connection to a powerful webcam and microphone, and in some cases, even contemplating the usage of wireless earbuds and the advantage of using them to teach with.

Beyond that, there is also the very real issue that some online TEFL platforms have very specific requirements, such as teaching from an exact syllabus. While this may suit some new TEFL teachers, others may prefer to work through an in-person school or institution, to begin with, in order to get a stronger handle on their own particular teaching strengths.

Another potential pitfall of working as a TEFL teacher online is that some students may not have access to a strong WiFi setup, which could lead to frustration caused by a lag or delay in the call quality. As a result, it is worthwhile to consider the fact that TEFL teaching in person does not face this difficulty, as the message communicated is fast and instantaneous, able to be understood relatively easily by all. 

Having said all that, teaching TEFL online while living and working abroad does have its positives. For example, when living in a country with a relatively low cost of living, such as China, it is possible to teach students from higher-tax nations, like Norway. As a result, these students could potentially pay more for these online TEFL sessions, which could lead to a greater amount of available cash in the local currency to use for things such as eating out or even a day trip excursion. In any case, each TEFL teacher should weigh up the positives and negatives of each aspect before making their final choice.

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