Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life After TEFL

For the four weeks of your intensive TEFL course you will likely be busy and stressed with the workload, the culture and time shift, and trying to set up a new life including finding a job and place to live. Sound hard? It can be, but the most surprising difficulty tends to be the free time. It's counter intuitive a bit, but your days in TEFL are EXTREMELY full, you have something to do all the time and not too much time to worry and dwell on anything but the course.

After TEFL people sometimes find themselves awash in a sea of time and a foreign city with an hour or two a day looking for a job and then nothing to do but worry or mope. There's two main issues during this time: worry about jobs and isolation/depression.

Don't worry, there's hope. Provided you went to a decent TEFL program and you aren't too visibly crazy (notice you can still be crazy), you will find a job before too long even in tougher markets, particularly if your program has any help for job assistance. TEFL is a very transient workforce and there are ALWAYS openings.

The real trick is filling the time between the end of TEFL and the beginning of your work. This sounds easy but can be tough in a city where you know few people and have no routines or 'favorite' spots. The key to this is COMMUNITY. You just arrived so it's unlikely you will have a longstanding and family-like community unless it is a part of the culture of your school.

This is one of the benefits of TLH TEFL. We operate a small course and when you graduate you have shared an experience with everyone that has taken the course. Whether in February of 2006 or April of 2011, you both have enjoyed the "Evil Company" lesson and spent nights in smokey pubs studying for the dreaded Grammar Test. More than this simple connection though, TLH constantly keeps old and new classes in contact with each other both online and in person at events. One of the strongest selling points is the sense of community which often solves both of the previously mentioned problems. Should you choose to stay in Prague, an overwhelming number of our graduates find work, flats and information through other graduates in the city, which is more than simple job assistance or community.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where can I teach?

The short answer is: You can teach anywhere where English isn't an official language, but it'll be harder some places than others (I even got into a teaching program and got a job in public school in the USA).

The looooong answer is:

First off, your nationality matters. For instance, in Europe, Brits are Kings, whereas in Asia the USA reigns supreme. Canadians tend to fall similarly to the USA, while South Africa and Australia tend to be lower down the line no matter where they go. That said, nowhere is off limits for anyone.

You may hear people say that Western Europe is a no go for non-EU citizens and for the most part they are right. If you are, for instance, an American wanting to teach in Italy, no one is going to reach out and hand you a job and visa. On the other hand, if you are willing and able to go there and pound the pavement from school to school and search out one-on-one private lessons, you can make a niche for yourself and I have known many people who have done just that.

This is about as hard as it gets and with a little cash reserves and perseverance, add a bit of experience in Central or Eastern Europe for good measure, you'll be fine if not legal. I wouldn't necessarily advise anyone to live 'illegally' anywhere, but it is a rather common practice nonetheless. If you aren't concerned with making a long term life and don't make trouble with the police the fact of the matter is you aren't going to be thrown out of the country. Even in these times of tightening visa restrictions in areas many, many people live under the radar for a year or two abroad in Europe. Before you throw caution to the wind though remember that it could cause you stress and make it harder to find work.

Largely though, you are able to work anywhere without much difficulty. The most popular or frequented places to teach are Prague, a TEFL Mecca, and S. Korea, a place to actually live abroad and make a lot of money. In my time with TEFL I have known people to teach in S. America, all over Europe, Asia and Africa. The key is to find the place that fits what you are looking for.

Feel free to ask about any country and nationality combination and I'd be glad to write something up. I may also be able to put you in contact with someone who has worked there or is still working there.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TEFL Zombie Fever

Long, long ago TLH TEFL knew of the coming Zomb-pocalypse and was already well underway training people for the constantly changing world of TEFL teaching.

Now in 2011, the market is wide open. Just look at this Zombie Walk in Prague from Saturday and realize the with our training, you'll be ready for anything!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Number One Rule of TEFL is . . .

You don't talk about TEFL.

Just kidding, it's actually to pick the best training course you can.

So exactly what is a TEFL?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, so in a technical sense it isn't correct to say you are getting, or you have, a TEFL.  Nevertheless, this is what we generally say while meaning a TEFL Certificate.

A TEFL certificate is the result of the completion of a TEFL course.  There are probably hundreds of TEFL courses all over the world and even online.  Choosing to take one is only the beginning, then you must find a reputable course where you will truly learn to teach.  The fact is, while the certificate is important, the training you receive is far more important.

It's easy enough to get an online certificate but few places recognize any value in that, after all, the certificate is only a piece of paper and as valuable as the training it represents.  So it is imperative that you look for a program where the TRAINING is stressed.  And by Training what I mean is actual teaching and lesson planning.  Essays may be useful to help you think through concepts, but as an English teacher I cannot think of a single instance in which I would be required to write an essay, only to edit them.  A good program will be designed so that most any assignment you do will mimic a skill you need to use in real live teaching or to inform your teaching.

Check the number of teaching hours on the course (zero for online) first and foremost, this is what you'll be doing as a teacher after all, get as much observed practice as you can.

Another good point is that not all teaching practice is equal.  See what graduates of the course thought of their feedback during critiques and what types of classes they taught.  Many courses have people train at only one level (usually intermediate or above) and have fairly light peer and trainer critiques.  While this might not be as difficult, it also won't lead to you becoming the best teacher you can be, which translates into more quality, and less stressful, work.  Make sure the school teaches at multiple levels (Beginners, Pre-Intermediates, Intermediates, Upper-Intermediates to name a few) and make sure that students feel they got good SPECIFIC feedback that was helpful to them.

And finally, I strongly recommend taking the TEFL course abroad.  You are likely considering a course because you'd like to live abroad.  So take the course abroad as well.  It will be a helpful transition as moving abroad can be very exciting, but very difficult both logistically and emotionally at first.  Additionally, if you take the course in an English speaking country you aren't really getting realistic teaching experience.  Abroad your students speak English in class and then return to a non-English speaking world, teaching students in America, Australia, Britain or other English speaking countries simply isn't the same and doesn't fully prepare you.

There is obviously a lot more to a TEFL course, but the teaching experience is the most important.  I hope this helps in your search for a TEFL school and as always feel free to ask me anything or contact me if you'd like a discount on a course.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

(South) Korea With(out) a TEFL

As Promised, T&K's report, freshly back from South Korea:

The title of this posting is somewhat misleading. Many people do in fact venture to Korea sans TEFL certificate and even lacking teaching qualification of any sort, manage to do fairly well in their new home. Sadly, I can confidently say that, for a number of reasons, this is not the case across the board. Perhaps a better title would be something akin to “Korea Without TEFL, or, How TEFL certification will benefit your teaching EVEN if you go to Korea.” As I will elaborate below, earning a TEFL certificate before trying to teach in Korea will not only make you more attractive to employers, potentially wealthier, and a better teacher, it might even help make you a happier person.

So why would you want to go to the trouble of getting your TEFL if you don’t have to? First, practically speaking, there’s money. Sure, a TEFL will cost you a bit of change, but in the case of Korea, your new qualification means the possibility of being paid up to two hundred US dollars more every month. Over the course of the twelve-month teaching year, your TEFL certificate will easily have paid itself back. It doesn’t matter if you have experience teaching, a teaching certificate from your home country, or a degree in Education or English Language/Lit; having a TEFL certificate will make you more marketable in Korea and in the case of Public School jobs, will result in a fattening of your hard earned paycheck.

Secondly, as mentioned above, having TEFL Certification will make you more marketable to potential employers. Even in Korea, where “English Fever” seems to rage in the heart of every man, woman, and child, the current worldwide economic situation has meant a tightening of the job market and a general increase in competition for desirable teaching positions. While a TEFL certificate alone will not guarantee a job, it will certainly stack the odds in your favor.


Money ⇐

Job ⇐

If I’ve already convinced you and you’re already signing up for a TEFL course, then feel free to read no further. For everyone else, please bear with me for just a bit longer.

A TEFL Certificate will make you a better teacher, period. I’m not saying that you will be automatically be a good teacher, but you’ll definitely be a far better instructor if you actually know the language you’re trying to teach. Having a TEFL certificate means you’ve demonstrated a working knowledge of English grammar as well as basic teaching principals and ESL theory. Think about that for a second. So if you don’t have these things, what exactly do you think you will be doing in front of thirty Korean children staring wide eyed and expectantly at their new foreigner? Coming off as preachy is not the intent, but I truly believe I die a little when I meet other NETs (Native English Teachers) who aside from seemingly being able to speak English have absolutely no idea what to do inside of the classroom. Even if you discover that teaching is just not for you, at least with a TEFL you will have some semblance of an idea of what you should be doing in the classroom. This will not only make you look better, and most importantly help your students learn (remember, that is your job) but will also convey desperately needed positive reinforcement of the image of foreign teachers in Korea. It’s win-win for everyone.

Lastly, living in a foreign country can be tough. There’ll probably be times when you want to pack up and retreat to the safety and comfort of your home country. Classroom and work related stress can be big contributors to these feelings. Having a TEFL certificate from the right school means that your first day in Korea is not your first day teaching. It also means that you should be more confident when you step in front of your students for the first time, which in turn will likely mean that you are received warmly both in the classroom and amongst your fellow teaching colleagues. It’s not that far of a mental leap to say that having good experiences at work will lead to having a generally better overall experience in Korea; in other words, if not making your stay amazing, at least making you a happier person while you’re there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

South Korea!!!

While my home for TEFL is Prague, many people are drawn by money or culture to South Korea. In fact, due to the money, most people that end up doing TEFL for years do a stint in the SK. A few of my good friends, a husband and wife team named T&K, just arrived back from the land itself and I'll have them posting soon on their thoughts about a TEFL in Asia.

Also, feel free to shoot me any questions you might have for the folks in question.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Czech this out

One of the things about living abroad is that there is rarely a boring day. Even a simple day is injected with interest from the culture of the native land. It would be impossible to chronicle them all. Some are challenging and some are humorous, here's one of the latter from a bathroom in the Palladium Mall near where TLH TEFL is located.