The current economic downfall has brought to light the instability of large scale economics and how they in turn affect the individual. It was the first time for many people – especially young people – that jobs were really threatened and competition was rising for even the most basic of employment. Aside from revealing the dark side of big business, it also shed light on less traditional methods of employment, opening the debate between the benefits of life experience versus career options. As jobs became scarce, students and graduates turned to teaching. What are the benefits and what can teaching, as a career, bring to the table?
Teaching English as a foreign language can be an open door to travel, exposure to diverse cultures, and add vital skills to a CV (in more industries than one might initially think). Managing students, parents and peers - essentially team work - improve communication skills, organisational skills, also building on leadership skills. These skills will undoubtedly impress future recruiters, as you will have first-hand experience with time-management (working through textbooks and perhaps, in some cases, building your own teaching schedule), as well as prioritisation, by judging what you consider to be important and what you can cut back on. This new perspective gained at work and through social situations can enable you to progress in the same field, or take your skills to other professions, creating more opportunities for yourself.
The initial step into the world of TEFL is to choose a course leading to a recognised certificate. The Cambridge CELTA and the Trinity TESOL are the most recognized of all the TEFL qualifications, and often required by employers. While there are other organisations that offer TEFL certificates and have helped people get into teaching, the former two prove to have more renown, on an international level. Online courses are also available, but can work against you once you look for employment upon receiving the certificate, as employers see them as less interactive. It is therefore wise to spend the extra money on the most popular certificates, as it certainly increases your chances of being hired (especially in popular locations, such as Europe).
Also note that while the training courses are only one month long, they are intense – classes are scheduled from approximately 9:00-17:00, Monday to Friday, with added homework and lesson preparation! On the Oxford House Trinity Certification course in Barcelona, trainees begin teaching on the second day of class, where you are immediately thrown into teaching 15-20 students – daunting and intimidating, but a necessary part of the training. You want to get as much teaching practice as possible so that when you are in front of your own classroom, you won’t fret or stress yourself out too much!
Choosing a location is obviously a matter of preference, but there are certain factors that may persuade or dissuade those looking to get into teaching. For example, it is more difficult to find a job in European countries such as Spain, Germany, Italy, etc., whilst there are plenty of job teaching opportunities in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China... This is not to say that it is impossible to find a job; however, it may take a little more time and a few more applications. Side note: To all Americans, please note that the difficulty in finding a job in Europe vastly increases when you are not part of the European Union. I personally know many Americans in Barcelona who found work, but they had considerable more trouble than Europeans did (and maybe a little more determination). It’s important to note that you can get hired for a job prior to arriving in the country, which often happens with Southeast Asian countries; but, be weary, as the jobs aren’t always legitimate or quite what was expected. In short, do your research before moving!
A teacher’s schedule can be anything but common.
Some teachers are lucky to find jobs at large, well-equipped schools where lots of support is given and with the added bonus of having a more concise timetable, with lessons slotted together one after another. These are great jobs to find, however, they might not be as common as finding jobs at one or more institutes. Some language teachers need to deal with having a broken-up timetable, as they work in various schools.This is where time management becomes a factor; for example I was teaching different classes in different parts of Barcelona. I would ride the metro to one class, and then have a break before travelling to another class, which was then followed by more travel to another class. You should also bear in mind that your schedule might change from day to day, as most classes are only offered a couple times a week. This can be tiring, but in some cases, your best option for employment. Not every school will have full time hours for each teacher and therefore many teachers must find jobs at more than one institute. Although it can seem tiring, it can also be quite a lot of fun, as you’ll meet more people from different backgrounds. You might also find that there are different resources at different institutes, therefore enabling you to polish up your adaptability skills.
While many people see TEFL as short-time employment, many teachers find that teaching can be a rewarding career option, as well as good possibility to live abroad, on a good wage. Just as in any other job, there are ways to climb the career ladder, creating more challenges for yourself and getting better pay! Networking and experience can lead to entrepreneurial opportunities, such as creating a small business where you manage other teachers through the students and contacts you make. You could also progress wiithin an institute with a management position. If you do choose to leave the wonderful world of teaching English, you will find that you’ve developed many transferable skills to land you the new challenge you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a break from your cramped cubicle, whilst gaining advantageous new skills and perhaps making the most of them in a foreign setting, TEFL might be worth considering. A little research, combined with the above suggestions, can guide you into the TEFL world that best suits you.