Five Questions of a TEFL Newbie

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BridgeTEFL has been certifying teachers since the 80s but we still come across questions that none of us have ever heard before. Here are some of the top questions from people who have just discovered TEFL or recently begun their research; we hope the answers will help you in your plans to teach abroad!

1. I’m not that great with kids, are there any opportunities for me?

Yes! There are plentiful opportunities for English teachers to find jobs that are not just with elementary school students. If you are more keen on teaching older students in the high school range, opportunities abound. In addition, classes for adults and business people are popular in places like China, Argentina, and South Korea. So if working with young kids is not your cup of tea, that doesn’t mean you cannot TEFL abroad.

2. I don’t speak a word of the local language, and I don’t have time to learn the language before I leave… How will I survive?

Going to a foreign country by yourself without speaking the local language can be daunting.  In the more distant and less frequented places, it might be rare to find a local who can communicate with you, but consider these challenges as opportunities to adapt to a new environment. In addition, many teaching contracts might include language classes in the local tongue so you as a teacher can function better in the country you are teaching in. Bringing self-study materials in the target language might be worth considering, too.

Also, see this article for more ideas on how to best learn the local language.

3.I’ve never taught before, how can I ensure I will do an OK job?

Nervous about your first TEFL job because you’ve never taught before? With your new training, you have been well equipped to dive into the world of TEFL teaching, so rely on your freshly acquired skills to assist you in this first step. Many TEFL teachers work abroad without ever taking a certification course, so consider your recent training as an advantage. There are numerous resources out there for teaching materials, ideas and activities, so there are clearly many other people in the same boat. Additionally, if you have the time and determination, you could help out at a local ESL or Refugee center in your community. There is almost always a need for volunteers, and the experience might be very helpful in coping with any jitters.

4.  I’m not planning on making a career out of TEFL, is this experience going to help me in my pursuit of other types of work??

In the long run, teaching English abroad for a short while will not derail you from your long-run aspirations or career plans. Realistically, going to teach English abroad after college graduation will not ruin all the other things you wanted to do. Due to less than favorable employment rates for college graduates, wouldn’t it look better to have lived overseas for a while teaching English than being stuck at a barista job or having to move back in with Mom and Dad? Going to teach English abroad on a volunteer basis looks great on a resume, and could show your consideration for others and willingness to serve.  Additionally, you will have been able to gain the valuable skills of cross-cultural fluency and the ability to work and communicate with people who are different from you. With so much rapid globalization, it would be beneficial to possess these skills. And besides, when is the next time you might be able to drop everything and go for a meaningful overseas adventure?

5. What if I change my mind and decide that TEFLing isn’t going to work out?

Since English teaching jobs are contracted, it will be rare to be able to cancel a contract due to not liking the job or finding it is not a good fit for you. Emergencies or other dire circumstances would be likely exceptions, but tread carefully and choose wisely where and for how long you would like to TEFL abroad. If you do indeed discover that teaching English abroad or teaching, in general, is not for you, then at the very least you were able to go on a unique and different adventure. Realizing that something isn’t for you can be valuable in the sense that you will get to know yourself better and maybe make better decisions as to what you might want to do with your life. Figuring out you don’t want to be a TEFL teacher in 6 months is better than realizing it years later after you’ve devoted yourself to the career path.

We’ve covered the logistics, but what about the destination? See our list of the top five places to teach abroad as a newbie! 

If you’re new to TEFL, it’s only natural to have plenty of questions! Here are some more common TEFL questions to ask to decide if it is a good fit. Thinking TEFL may be the right path? Read more about the TEFL experience. 

October 30, 2012