A Quick Start To Teaching ESL

Earn money teaching English abroad - i-to-i paid teaching jobs

 A Quick Start To Teaching ESL

“That has to be the worst thing to do in the world!  I would never ever teach!”

“Look at him up there, how can he do it?  How can he actually teach?”

——Ian Trimble   (Overheard from friends in his 12th grade history class)

This is how I got a quick start to teaching ESL

Yes dear reader, that quote is from yours truly. Times sure have changed since I uttered those words. And who am I?  I am an accomplished ESL teacher.  How did I get to be accomplished you ask?  Well I was like you, I was curious, I was hungry, I wanted something more, something different, I wanted to travel, eat fried cockroaches, and learn to speak with a Scottish accent, but not necessarily in that order.  I saw that I could achieve all of these lofty goals if I became an ESL teacher.   I often remembered that quote above when I was teaching a class.

So you want to be an ESL teacher?

You think you got what it takes?  Can you deal with foreign cultures, exotic food, differences in politics from country to country, and slapstick humor? If your answer is yes, then perhaps you can be an ESL teacher in a country of your choosing.

Where can I teach?

China, Japan, Italy, Spain, Prague, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, Costa Rica, Brazil, Poland, Russia, and need I go on?  If English is not the native language, chances are that you can teach English there.

Where do I start?

Ok this is not as daunting as it may seem.  To teach English as a Second Language you need a TEFL certificate in most cases.  If you already have a Bachelor’s degree (non teaching related) I would still suggest the TEFL.  It does make your life a lot easier getting jobs and is recognized worldwide.  There are different TEFL certificates one can achieve.  There is a 25 hour certificate, a 60-hour certificate a 120-hour and a young learner’s certificate.  TEFL courses are available in most countries of your preference and can also be obtained online; although I would recommend against the online course as you get less hands on experience with “actual teaching”

I was born speaking English and I think I will die speaking English, so why do I need to be certified and what will I learn on this TEFL course?

You will learn how to teach English.  You can speak English like a pro, but do you remember the rules of English?  English is a difficult language to learn for a foreign speaker.  Remember Australian English is different from American English, which is different from the Queens English, which is different from South African English.  Can see my point? Rules and words are different for all English that is spoken, and unspoken.  Know what a phrasal verb is?  What about the natural order of adjectives?  Did you know that people from foreign countries do not move their mouths the same as a native speaker?  The tongue is often in a different position in the mouth.  They can make sounds or words that would drive us insane trying to reproduce.  So put yourself in a learner’s position and remember how hard it was for you to learn Jive, Latin, Spanish, Mandarin, Swahili, or whatever it was that was offered in your high school or college as a required elective.

What if I am not finished with school?

Don’t worry; you should still be able to teach ESL abroad.  Every country has different rules and regulations regarding requirements.  Many schools would like you to have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, but there are ways around it.  If you do not have a Bachelor’s degree, they look for the TEFL, or if you are still in school or attempting to finish your schooling it will still be possible to teach.  The TEFL teacher is always in demand; there are so many jobs out there and not enough teachers.  Don’t worry, you will get a job.

How much does it cost?

This can vary widely from country to country.   Online prices start at $250-300.  60-hour hands on courses start at around $995 and 120-hour courses run up to $1600.  Remember, you pay for what you get so shop around and shop carefully! Evaluate your school before you pony up for hard earned money.

How long will it take?

Some courses are part time – designed for those who are still working and stretched over 10 weeks with lectures at weekends. The majority, take 4 weeks, some are longer, and last as long as 2-3 months, again each school is different in how they lay out the course work.   My course was  4 weeks long and met once a week for 8 hours a day.

Will I fit in…? I hear the word culture shock come up a lot.

The most important rule you have to remember is that once you embark on your ESL journey, you are a guest of a foreign country.  All the creature comforts of home might not be available.  There might not be hot water, there could be rolling black outs, or heaven forbid, they might not have Starbucks!! (But that is not likely, since Starbucks is virtually everywhere and has co-branding or affiliates with almost every country on this earth!)

You have to be strong and be able to adapt.  That is what is great about this industry.  You learn new things about yourself all the time when you are in unfamiliar situations.  Fitting in includes being aware of your countries culture and traditions.  Never mock anyone for being different.  Understand that their ways are “their ways”.  Learn to embrace the differences and take the good things you see back home with you…. if you decide to go back home.

Can you give me some links to check out?

You bet I can.  I would take a look at these

Chichester College  (TEFL training in Thailand…. Highly recommended)

Daves ESL Café  (the biggest and most well known ESL discussion base)

Eltnews.com  (The website for teachers in Japan)

Tefl.com (The official TEFL website)


Will I make enough money to survive?

That is completely up to you. Remember the fact is that you should make enough to cover your expenses.  South East Asia is a bargain as is Latin and South America.  You will generally make enough to live comfortably.  The wise thing to do would be to have some money saved up to get you situated during your training period.  Some teachers work part time and live comfortably, others work two teaching jobs.

Who will I teach?

That is completely up to you.  Are you fond of the little ones?  How about middle school?  Can you deal with teenagers?  Teenagers are the same all over the world.  Feel you have what it takes for University?  Or how does teaching Business English Sound?  I have taught at all of these levels.  Everyone has a feel for what suits them best.  One of my first jobs was teaching screaming 3 year olds; imagine 5-15 of them at one time!!  I look back at those days now and laugh, but at the time, I was literally a wreck. Put a picture of Kindergarten Cop in your head.  Who knew that kids that young have so much energy?

Who will I be working with?

You truly meet all sorts of ESL teachers;  pirates, retirees, gap-year students, veterans, you name it,  but most ESL teachers are doing it because they love the sense of adventure, the excitingness of everything, trying new things, and  the mystery of the unknown!!

Ok ok… I bought my ticket… now what?

Was your ticket one-way or two?  Research your chosen country because some do require a two way ticket before admittance into the country.  Congratulations on your brave and tough decision.  You are about to enter into a fascinating and wonderful world.  You will learn about the joys of teaching?  When you talk to your friends and family they will be impressed with your courage to do something out of “the norm”.  I know that everyone who I spoke with always said, “You’re so lucky, I wish I was doing that.  I’m stuck in this stingy office all day!” Ultimately teaching ESL is very rewarding.  There is a sense of accomplishment, and an unwritten and untaught rule about improvement.  Trust me; you will always want to make that next lesson better! What you get out of teaching ESL is solely based on what you put in.  Remember to have a great attitude going into it!  By the way, I love Starbucks.

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