Teaching English as a Foreign Language – TEFL

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while, know that I left my corporate job in Germany in July 2011, because it wasn’t rewarding and I felt like I wasn’t making a real difference in the world.

It sounds dreamy, I know, but it was becoming clear to me that I felt like I was putting all my energy into something that wasn’t really making a difference and didn’t seem to fulfil me in any way.  I had decided to go travelling to see more of the world, meet new people, learn new things, taste new foods and generally enjoy this beautiful world a bit more than sitting in an office for 12 hours a day!

Early in 2012, I was browsing the professional social network site, LinkedIn.  I had used it in the past to connect with various writers and editors.  I came across a South African lady who was also a writer but who was living in Thailand.  I hadn’t travelled to South East Asia yet and was curious as to how she had ended up there.

I sent her an email and discovered that not only was she a writer but she was also the owner of a company that taught the TEFL Teacher course.  Something inside me clicked.  That was it!!  Here was my way of ‘making a difference’!  I could teach English!

Normally people who enrol on TEFL courses do a fair amount of research before choosing a course but for me it was different – after 4 or 5 emails, I paid my deposit and booked my place. The company was Samui TEFL based on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand.

TEFL  (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), is known by various names such as ESL (English as a Second Language), EFL (English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of other Languages). All courses teach roughly the same thing.  All will teach you how to teach English to a person whose first language is not English.

There isn’t one governing body for TEFL courses around the world so it’s hard to know which ones are ‘good’ courses. Each course has a similar curriculum but ask if you can see what it covers to determine how thorough the course is. Remember also that each country will have different rules about teaching methods, dress code and attitude to teachers.

One thing to look out for are the ‘Teacher Practicals.”  There are online TEFL courses available but teaching practicals will give you the opportunity to experience real teaching with real students.  Your course instructor can give you feedback so you know where your strengths lie or perhaps what you need to work on.  Most importantly, it will allow you to see if teaching is really something you enjoy doing.

The course that I completed was 4 weeks long. It covered, amongst other things, Thai culture, Thai pronunciation and language problems, needs of children, teaching adults and teaching for special purposes, grammar, lesson planning, warmers and coolers, teaching techniques, classroom management, discipline in the classroom, concept checking, error correction techniques, international CV writing and job questions to ask.  It had 3 written tests, 10 hours of teaching practicals (children and adults) and an assignment which counted towards the final mark. Lesson materials, teamwork and attitude to the course all counted towards your final mark.

This course also went into a lot of detail about what questions to ask for a potential job.  Do NOT assume that employment rules work the same way as in your home country.

All students on our course were also encouraged to sign on to ‘Ajarn’ which is a job seekers website for teachers looking for work in Thailand.

In Thailand, you can expect to earn anything starting from +- 30,000ThB  (£600) per month, depending on your experience and your qualifications.   You generally get a few additional holidays as well as the school holidays and some companies will contribute to some sort of health insurance/medical cover.  It is possible to find work without a degree but it is a little harder and the salary won’t be as high.

You can be employed by a school directly, a language school (where people come after school or work to do extra English lessons) or by an agency.

I passed!

After my 4 week course (and passing with an A), I was offered a job down in the south of Thailand in a city called Hat Yai.  I work for an agency that hires me, and several other teachers, out to various schools in the city.

I’ve met a lot of westerners here, we all come from different places, have different qualifications and have different methods of teaching as well as different outlooks on life.  But together, we all have something in common… we all love teaching.

Next post…. my month on the tropical Thai island of Koh Samui and what I got up to when I wasn’t busy on my TEFL course.


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