No careers are perfect. With a career in TEFL you will enjoy yourself, be fulfilled, have fun and make great friends. But there will also be times when you question your choices. Everybody feels this from time to time, it’s normal.
When you start on your TEFL journey, there are many things that you should reassure yourself about. Here are 10 which we think are the most valuable.
1. When you start your career, you will find yourself spending a lot of time preparing lessons. It’s definitely worse in the first year of teaching. Just remember than in the years to come you will have you will have done all that preparation and you’ll be able to re-use it.
2. It is likely that your manager will observe you teaching at least once every term. Some teachers are very worried about this, but really there is no need. The observations should help you learn how to be a more effective teacher, not to judge you and make you nervous. A good manager will give you constructive feedback.
3. Try to attend online or face to face CPD events (Continuing Professional Development). They will keep you up to date and improve your teaching skills. There are many around, all free and all online – the challenge is to limit yourself to those which are most valuable and given by respected people in the industry. Look for anything from IATEFL or other national bodies, or anything from International House.
4. Unless you are very lucky, you will not earn a fortune being a TEFL teacher. But you will have a career where you help people grow and develop, you will meet interesting colleagues and get an insight into the different cultures of both your colleagues and students. You may have the opportunity to travel the world, learn foreign languages and live in fascinating places.
5. There is a varied career structure within the TEFL industry so if, after a few years, you want to move on from being a teacher this is eminently possible. There are academic management positions, teacher training, materials writing, or text book writing.
6. There are always more qualifications you can get. If you have a CELTA, you could do a DELTA. If you have a postgraduate Diploma in TEFL (Dip. TEFL) from a university, you could do a master’s degree. You might have been teaching English for many years, but your managers might suggest that you do a YL (young learners) specialist course if those are new classes that you will now be taking on. You may want to learn how to teach IELTS to boost your career, or become a specialist in teaching Business English. There are always lots of opportunities to develop and grow as a professional.
7. You don’t need to speak any foreign language to be able to teach foreign students. If you are teaching in the UK, you might have mixed nationalities in one class, so it is very unlikely that you will speak all their languages, or you might have a mono-nationality class which consists only of Chinese students. Very few ELT teachers speak Mandarin or Cantonese, but they successfully teach them.
8. Some organisations employ teachers without degrees or TEFL qualifications. This diminishes the TEFL profession. When you are looking for a job, steer clear of these employers, because they are less likely to treat you well, and less likely to support you to grow professionally.
9. The most fulfilling staffrooms to be a part of are international and multicultural. There are many people around the world with excellent TEFL qualifications, and who make excellent teachers and supportive colleagues. Anybody who has learnt a language as second language is likely to have a better knowledge of grammar and will have gone through the process of learning it, so know what is effective or not with their nationality and/or culture. If an employer is advertising for just “native” teachers this does not make for a good environment, and we’d advise you to steer clear.
10. The last and most important thing to remind yourself about is always to be kind, patient and considerate to your colleagues. In your staffroom your colleagues will help and boost you when you need it, and you can do the same in return. Your students will come and go, but your colleagues will be by your side all year.