Do you want to see the world and get paid to do it? Me too! The last-minute cancellation of a planned month-long family holiday and a two-year unhappy stint in boarding school gave me a passionate desire, at a young age, to get out and discover the world on my own terms.
Becoming a TEFL Teacher enabled me to this and is one of the best things I’ve done.
In this post, I will give you some reasons why you should consider doing it too!
#1 Opportunities to travel
It is often said that getting a recognised TEFL qualification (CELTA or CertTESOL) is like having a second passport…this is true! Combined with a university degree, either of these certifications will open doors to English teaching work in nearly every country on the planet.
If, like me, you don’t have a degree but are CELTA or CertTESOL qualified, don’t panic! Many countries will still allow you to work on 12-month or part-time contracts.
Be aware though, choosing to work part-time hours often means working around the timetables of the full-time, degree qualified TEFL Teachers. In my case, in Bangkok, contracted, predictable work was not possible. Last-minute cancellations were commonplace which meant not being paid.
While you may have to jump through a few hoops without a degree (not to mention do a border-run every three months to renew your 90-day visa!) in countries like Thailand, choosing to work in their neighbour, Cambodia, will happily allow you to secure a 12-month contract and visa.
#2 Broadens the mind
Living and working as a TEFL Teacher in a different culture is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself. It is natural to be nervous about doing this, but it quickly becomes a rich, liberating experience to live in and around communities that are sometimes, on the face of it, so different to your own.
In my own experience, in order to get work, I moved to an area of Bangkok where I was one of the only foreigners living there at that time. At 6’1″ I stuck out like a sore thumb! I was very self-conscious at first but quickly assimilated and drew friendly smiles and waves.
There is something incredibly gratifying in meeting new people and making a place your home. Even if only for a few months at a time.
It is so easy in these times of 24-hour news cycles and social media to get bogged down into a narrow existence.
It is so easy to forget that there is a big world out there!
#3 Immersive language learning
An extended stay in a country allows you to pick up the local lingo!
During two years of being a TEFL Teacher in Spain, I went from zero Spanish skills to upper-intermediate conversational and comprehension ability.
One of the best ways to pick up a language is to teach young learners…you need to know what they’re saying about you!
My first year in Spain was teaching in-company and Adult Group Classes in Madrid. In this environment, you will learn some basic Spanish, but if all your fellow teachers, peers and students speak English, it is too easy to get by without speaking Spanish.
Then I moved to Alicante City for my second year. There was less teaching work available, but it was by the sea and was a change from city life.
So I chose to teach children. After their normal school day. Most did not want to be there.
In classrooms without windows.
This was when my teaching career really started and is still the toughest working year of my life. It was exhausting, physically and mentally but so, so rewarding.
Things I didn’t get:
An easy time at work
Things I did get:
Super-charged teaching skills
Huge satisfaction in seeing the learners progress with a smile on their faces
To engage with the community in Alicante
….and I could suddenly speak Spanish!
You see, teaching children who don’t want to be there means that you need to know what they are saying about you and each other!
You learn because you really want (and need!) to learn. It is truly immersive!
It was so tough at the time but I’m so glad I did it.
#4 Confidence and people skills
Prior to becoming a TEFL Teacher, my confidence was at rock bottom. The same corporate job for years and fear of change meant playing life very safely.
Deciding to retrain as a TEFL Teacher is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Completing a CELTA is such an intensive, amazing experience in its own right that it will sky-rocket your confidence and self-reliance.
Things that build up your confidence when you have a CELTA or CertTESOL:
- Taking that qualification on the road with you
- Plotting your career path around global locations
- Attending interviews via Skype or in foreign countries
- Having the courage to say no to people
- Building relationships with people in cultures other than yours
- Learning new languages and making yourself understood
These are all incredibly empowering and give you attributes and skills that you never imagine you could possess!
Now, I am comfortable with meeting new people from all walks of life in any situation.
Public speaking is exciting and fun rather than terrifying (like it used to be for me)!
But the best thing is, you feel like you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it!
#5 Interesting work
English is unique in this tech-driven, modern world of ours.
It is the global language of the Internet, business, diplomacy, international politics, humanitarian work, and International Law.
Love it or loathe it, through the success of Hollywood movies, UK and US music, and streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, it is a major language of entertainment, dancing, partying, protesting and chilling!
All these factors are driving the seemingly endless thirst for people to learn English.
As a TEFL Teacher, you will never struggle to find work. There are a multitude of job boards catering for roles for every type of teacher.
In my time as a teacher, I have trained Vietnamese government officials, Young Learners and company directors in Spain.
I have taught teenagers on residential Summer Schools in the UK, pensioners, and people made unemployed by the 2008 global credit crisis.
I have taught in classrooms, boardrooms, hotel lounges, restaurants and churches. I have taught in parks and bars. More recently I have become an online English teacher.
Are you entrepreneurial or do you want to have more control over your working hours?
No problem! Many countries will allow you to work on a self-employed basis.
#6 Creative outlet
Let’s be clear about one thing. Teaching English is not boring!
Stimulating and effective lessons demand that you exercise your creative muscle!
For example, my love of music has been integrated into my lesson plans for all levels and types of student.
Company directors do not just want to study balance sheets! Song lyrics make rich material to study and practice many vocabulary and grammar points.
Young Learners on summer camps love dressing up and making their own videos to popular songs, role playing TV interviews and sports commentary, with all roles and direction conducted in English!
I hope this has helped you see some of the possibilities available to you by becoming a TEFL Teacher. If you want to travel and work, are ready for an exciting new career or even a break from your current career, if you want to exercise that creative muscle, you just might find that taking a CELTA or CertTESOL and getting on the road is the best thing for you.
Enjoy the ride!!