By Trevor Jones
Trevor has been teaching General and Business English, ESP and Teacher Training for the past 7 years in the UK, Spain and France to a wide range of students, following an extensive career in business management.
You want a new or a change of career, country or your relationship has just gone south.
These are just some of the reasons why people apply for a TEFL teacher training course.
But before you pay out a 4 figure sum for the course in an exotic location, plus accommodation and living expenses – STOP AND ASK YOURSELF SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
1) Do you really want to be a teacher?
The TEFL world is full of stories of people who did the course, but were never heard of in TEFL again. They found it wasn’t for them, they didn’t have the aptitude, the personal skills, they couldn’t live on the low wages, etc.
After I had been teaching for 5 years I did my DELTA. One of the lecturers at the university was a former teacher from my TEFL course. I will always remember his first words to me – “welcome Trevor, you’re the one who came through” – everyone else on my TEFL course had given up. This is not uncommon.
2) Are the TEFL school just after your money?
From personal experience some schools just want your money and make no real effort to check if you have the personal skills to be a successful teacher. You can learn to teach, but you do need some aptitude.
I worked for a short while for a TEFL school in Spain as a Teacher Trainer. They had an online questionnaire that they suggested you complete before you enrolled but you didn’t have to, and certainly many didn’t. The trainees flew to Spain and some of them had no idea what was involved, didn’t have the aptitude and had poor English skills themselves which should have been assessed before they paid. This subsequently led to many stressful hours and quite a few tears whilst on the course – literally.
3) Does the school offer a job after the course?
A number of schools offer new teachers some teaching work. Be careful.
How many hours are they offering and for how long?
It can just be a few hours a week in the summer when they are busy and nothing after. At €10 an hour, you will soon be on the plane back to the UK if you have a return ticket.
Before you apply for the course have a plan of what you will do after you have completed it.
4) What does the course contain and what is the qualification you receive?
A glance at job adverts will show you that CELTA and Trinity are valued as the basic TEFL qualifications, but there are other varieties that are not. Check the qualifications you will receive, will employers accept these?
How much teaching practice do you receive?
You can learn grammar and the methodologies for planning and teaching, but you need teaching practice to develop your skills. A good course will give you at least 6 hours supervised teaching practice with feedback which will help you develop. Some courses do not give this, online courses usually don’t. Employers will not be keen to recruit you without teaching practice. Before you apply for the course investigate it, and the qualification and what it contains.
5) Is an intensive course right for you?
It may seem attractive to take an intensive 4 week course and at the end of the course you are a skilled teacher, ready to teach. The reality is very different. If it wasn’t why would teachers in state schools have to spend years training? The 4 week course is intensive. You will work most of the hours in the day and often in the night for the 4 weeks, it is very stressful as I have discussed above. If you are prepared for this then go for it but there are other options such as the part time courses offered at some colleges which give you time to think about what you are learning and incubate what you have learnt. The part time route doesn’t suit everyone’s personal situation but it is certainly worth considering. It worked for me.
Teaching EFL is a great vocation and can give real job satisfaction. It is not well paid but can be very enjoyable.
To get the best from your TEFL training: -
- Take your time before applying, talk to other teachers, is it really what you want?
- Consider job shadowing or being a volunteer supporting a TEFL teacher to learn more about the role.
- Investigate the TEFL marketplace, is it really for you?
- Investigate the course, is it right for you?
- Look at your skills and prepare for the course.
- Have a plan of what you will do when you have qualified.
Best of luck
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