To TEFL and beyond!
Moving away from classroom teaching and into the unknown…
In this blog I’d like to talk about the realities of teaching English abroad and share some of my personal experiences with you.
A bit about me
Even while I was at university training to be a primary teacher, I knew that ultimately, it was never something I saw myself doing long-term. I had just turned 18 when I first started my B.ed course and, looking back, I really had very little idea of what I wanted to with my life. I enjoyed working with children so figured… why not? Teaching could be a good career path, the different units of the course looked interesting and I would be able to live by myself and make the most of the city nightlife!
Anyway, by the time I’d reached my 3rd year of studying, I was getting a bit sick of it and was considering packing it in all together and going travelling. This is when I stumbled across a weekend ‘Introduction to TEFL’ (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course happening just down the road from my flat. The idea of being able to work while travelling appealed to me, so I went along… and that’s where my TEFL adventures started.
I went on to complete a ‘Cert TESOL’ month long course the following summer and, as luck would have it, I managed to stick it out at university and was even able to make TEFL the focus of my final year dissertation. I am so glad I did, as having my degree has been invaluable in helping me find work.
I’ve been working as an EFL teacher full-time for 5 years now and love it! I’ve reached a stage where I am confident in what I’m teaching and able to share my skills to help new TEFL teachers structure their classes effectively to make learning English enjoyable and engaging for our students.
Unfortunately I have recently come to realise that, much as I enjoy the work, TEFL teaching does have its downsides. For me, one big negative was the lack of professional development available. I currently work as a teacher and coordinator in a language academy, but there are really no further opportunities for career progression. I could keep working for 10 more years and probably see no change in my working conditions, pay or level of responsibility. That, coupled with the fact that I’ll most likely be moving back to the UK this summer, has given me the push I needed to look towards taking the next step in my career.
But which path to follow?…
So, for anyone looking for a long-term career in the TEFL industry there are a few different paths you can follow in terms of additional qualifications. The DELTA (provided by Cambridge English Language assessment) and the DipTESOL (provided by Trinity College, London) are the most common starting points, with some people also choosing to study a Masters course in TESOL and applied linguistics. All of these qualifications are at QCF level 7 (masters level or equivalent) and can lead to jobs in areas like academic management, teacher training or material design.
Just before Christmas I decided to apply for the DipTESOL blended learning course, starting in January 2020. I had done quite a bit of research into the differences between the DipTESOL and the DELTA, and to be honest, for me, the deciding factor was quite simply the price. The DELTA would have cost almost £1200 more, and that’s money I just don’t have!
So far, the course seems to have been a good choice. The tutors are very knowledgeable and helpful and we are given weekly assignments, along with reading and research. It’s challenging, but in a good way, and I find I am easily able to fit everything around my work schedule. In summer I will spend a month completing the ‘face-to-face’ part of the course, which involved observed teaching practise and exams.
So what then?
Well, hopefully I can find a job in the TEFL industry back in the UK. Ideally, I’d like to move away from everyday classroom teaching and towards a more senior position, perhaps in a language school or in higher education, or maybe designing course materials for young learners… who knows!?
Some practical advice for anyone considering a job teaching English abroad
- Don’t expect a high salary (unless you choose to work in/around Saudi Arabia). You will generally be paid by the hour and probably make enough to live on, but saving can be difficult.
- Be prepared to teach young learners. There are a lot of people keen to work with adults only, but demand for young learner specialists is much higher.
- Your hours will most likely be in the afternoon/evening, so it is often possible to make some extra money doing private classes in the morning.
- You will be expected to participate in some extra-curricular activities, such as end-of-term shows, without being paid for this time.
- Your work/life balance will change dramatically (especially if going from working as a primary teacher). You will have much more free time, but it is up to you how you spend it.
- Opportunities for professional development can be limited within schools, so this is something you need to take personal responsibility for.
- Research the school and surrounding area carefully. Make sure that it is somewhere you will be happy living and won’t have to commute too far each day.
I would strongly recommend teaching abroad to anyone, whether in an international school or an EAL academy. Despite its occasional down sides, my overall experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one and has helped me focus on what I would like to achieve in my career in the future. So to anyone considering an escape from the mainstream classroom, I’d say do it! Be brave and take the plunge! What could go wrong….??