After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education, Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to Seoul, South Korea where he lived for three years (TEFL Certification). Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master’s degree.
TEFL certification is becoming increasingly necessary to land a teaching job overseas. As more and more potential ESL teachers enter the job pool, for the first time ever schools overseas are having a large influx of applicants. Because of these large numbers, teaching institutions are now in the driver’s seat often being able to pick only the most qualified of teachers from the lot. While not all countries require TEFL certification to begin teaching, in what is becoming a saturated market, it might not be that bad of an idea.
TEFL courses, while probably not the most taxing of courses or certifications you will ever take should still not be taken lightly. Throughout the course you will be required to do a hefty amount of studying, reading, listening and most importantly, practice leading a classroom of students into new knowledge. Below are six of the things you should expect from a TEFL course.
Re-Familiarizing Yourself with Grammar
While you may be able to speak, write and understand a written sentence, teaching its structure is another thing entirely. Learning to speak “grammar” language is an essential component to becoming an effective and dynamic ESL teacher.
Phonology Crash Course
Aside from all of the memorization, semantic and syntactic connections that you will be assisting students in making comes the all-important task of conveying correct pronunciation. Depending on the area you end up teaching in, students from different backgrounds will have a variety of different challenges as they navigate the waters of their own dialect and that of the English language.
TEFL courses supply you with numerous strategies for dealing with this exact problem and a large part of the course will be spent equipping you to deliver excellence in phonology instruction.
Language instruction is not a one dimensional activity. Learners from several backgrounds will be coalescing into one classroom and what works and is understandable for one might be as foreign as the language you are teaching to another. Kinesthetic, auditory and visual learners all have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to absorbing new material. A TEFL course will provide you with the background on several learning styles and subsequently teaching styles to help ensure that no student is left struggling to understand.
Aside from the studying a large component of TEFL certification is taking the information you have learned in the course and creating an effective lesson plan that touches on your new found insights. These mock lessons will be required of everyone in the class and will see you guiding your classmates along through a short lesson.
At the end of this lesson you will be critiqued on what went well and what wasn’t so hot, so be prepared for the good and the bad. The course instructor will also heavily weigh in on the matter too.
A Little Bit of Writing
Each TEFL course is required to have some written component. While things like keeping a journal and online discussions are not uncommon, most courses require that you write a short paper on a topic nearing the end. These papers are usually no longer than four pages and touch upon some aspect of what you learned while in the class.
Every TEFL course will culminate with a written exam that will test everything that you have encountered throughout the course. This test covers your understanding of vocabulary, grammar, pedagogy and phonology as it relates to ESL instruction.
Online TEFL or Face-to-Face (F2F), which is best?
There is a stark difference between the two. If you want the most comprehensive preparation to teach abroad, there is no substitute for a F2F classroom-style course. This allows you, as a student, to ask teachers questions as they come up in real-time. It allows you monitored teaching experience along with feedback and suggestions for improvement. It is this live experience which sufficiently simulates the environment of the classroom you will experience abroad.
Online TEFL Certification
On the other hand, an online TEFL certification provides some advantages as well. While you may not receive the on-site experience and instruction given by a F2F course, the major plus of an online certification is flexibility. A person may take the course at their own leisure and according to their own schedule. Older individuals may also feel more “at-home” both literally and figuratively, as they may feel uncomfortable by taking a class with others much younger than them.
Some Asian countries do not require a F2F TEFL/TESOL certification. Some don’t even require a certification at all. But the more you can do to prepare yourself for teaching abroad, the better. Most if not all European countries require F2F certification prior to employment. When looking at teaching destinations, be sure to check the requirements. Even if you have the “right” certification and not the arbitrary level of experience they list, apply anyway! This is simply a case of employers trying to weed-out those completely unqualified.
Is it hard to find a Job Abroad?
As I mentioned beforehand, employer requirements are not some impassable wall separating the haves and the have-nots. This does not mean you should disregard the certification requirements. These serve not only for employers’ filtering process, but also as your own guidelines to help find the right fit for you. If an employer is asking you to single-handedly take over a class of college-educated students and you don’t have a TESOL certificate or any teaching experience, you’re essentially a wounded goat in a den full of lions. You will not be adequately prepared and you will likely have difficulty fulfilling the institution’s mission to teach English to speakers of other languages.
So to answer the question, it is not difficult landing a job abroad when you dedicate yourself to filling out forms, applications, and connecting with promising contacts. Rural area schools are not as sought-after as a buzzing metropolis with much to do. Some countries, and even specific cities, are much more competitive than other schools, and if you are fortunate enough to land a high-paying position in an ideal area, that is great. No two situations are the same, so the best you can do is start an online search, send some emails, call some phone numbers, and see if you can talk to someone who has a job for you teaching English abroad.
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