If you’re on a gap year, looking to take a career break or just want to try something different, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) could be the answer. It’s the perfect blend of travel, adventure and giving something back. And as an increasing number of people all over the world want to learn English, there’s no shortage of opportunities.
From teaching young children the alphabet to discussing international business with a group of adults, the chance to make a difference is one of the main attractions to TEFL. There’s no better feeling than when you see a student suddenly understand what you’ve been teaching them, and their face lights up. Knowledge is the greatest gift at all, and it’s right there to be passed on.
It doesn’t matter if you have any prior teaching experience or not, as a native English speaker you’re more than qualified. Of course if you’re a total beginner it’s probably better to start off with younger children who are less linguistically demanding than say a group of university students. Once you gain confidence in yourself and your ability to control a classroom, in addition to delivering fun and interesting material during lessons, then you can go almost anywhere.
An important point to consider is that teaching isn’t for everyone so you really have to want to do it. Standing up in front of a class can be daunting, so make sure you’re under no illusions as to what it entails. Don’t waste the students’ time either- they are there to learn and in some cases are only able to attend one lesson a week. If you can’t tell them something useful then either ask for some help or take yourself out of the situation. Before you jet off to exotic locations to teach, why not see if you can do it at home first? A few hours at a community centre or sports club can be invaluable experience. Suddenly realising what you’ve got yourself into halfway into your flight is a terrible feeling, so make sure you’re prepared.
Turning up and just expecting to be a good teacher is unrealistic and will not only make you look foolish but you won’t enjoy the experience. Preparation and planning is the key; taking a TEFL course before you go can be a fantastic idea as it will teach you the basics and what to think about when it comes to planning and delivering a lesson. There’s huge range available, from short online 10 hour classes to more thorough 100 hour sessions and even professional diplomas like the CELTA or Trinity College TESOL. Depending on your previous experience, how much money you have to spend and what kind of situation you’re going into, TEFL courses can be invaluable.
If you’re thinking about making a go of teaching English professionally, and many people do, most schools abroad look for the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) or Trinity College Certificate in TESOL at minimum. These are in depth professional qualifications that prepare you incredibly well for life as a TEFL teacher. More expensive and considerably longer than online or 100 hour courses, they are much more valuable and can earn you more money. If you’re going to make TEFL your vocation, do it right and get properly qualified!
For people on gap years or career breaks, combining TEFL with some other experience is the most popular thing to do. Spending 6 months teaching and 6 months travelling around south east Asia, south America, Australia or Africa gives you the best of both worlds. Of course you can alter the timescales to suit your needs, but you get the idea. Other popular choices include blending TEFL with community development or adventure holidays. There are so many options out there the choice is really yours to make.
One of the best companies to travel with and teach English is i-to-i Travel. Specialising in gap years, volunteer placements, working holidays, challenges and just about anything else you can think of, creating your own adventure and unforgettable experiences is the name of the game. With a range of TEFL courses ranging from 20 hour classroom based to 140 hour comprehensive training, you can prepare yourself in the company of others while having a lot of fun along the way. Combine an i-to-i course with a TEFL placement and you’ve got the makings of an incredible journey!
At the end of the day, teaching English allows you to travel the world and have a lot of fun. You’ll be helping people in ways you can’t imagine by giving them the most precious resource available- knowledge. Whether you’re in Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, China, Peru or Tanzania, there are loads of opportunities out there, you just have to seize the moment and take them. Happy travelling!