I don’t know if it’s just me, but September has always been the worst month of the year. Officially the end of the summer, with that back to school feeling hanging in the air; give me January blues or April showers any day. But what if I told you the summer could last forever with a TEFL or CELTA course? Your passport to anywhere in the world, if you are in a similar September slump and are longing for sunshine, have a read of this.
One thing I’ve learnt writing about adult learning is we love an acronym. In simple terms, TEFL means teaching English as a foreign language. The most commonly held qualification by teachers living and teaching overseas, if you are over sixteen and can speak the English language fluently you are ready to go.
After completing a TEFL course, you are qualified to go and teach English pretty much anywhere in the world. With popular destinations such as Thailand, China and Indonesia topping the list of places to go, it really does sound too good to be true. Sucked in by the thought of a never ending summer holiday, I spent a weekend on a TEFL course to find out a bit more about it.
7 unexpected things you might find on your course
Sure, you will spend the course dreaming of living in the sun, but there’s also some other unexpected things I took away from my two days of learning.
1. It can be pretty scary – with absolutely no teaching experience, I was not prepared for the terrifying feeling of standing up in front of my peers for the first time. Once you get past the butterflies, you realise that practise really does make perfect, but be ready to feel thrown in at the deep end.
2. A CV workshop – In my head my English degree and job as a writer would allow me to walk into any TEFL position, so it wasn’t until I sat through the CV workshop I realised I was wrong. With plenty of students out there who can speak the language, even if you have no teaching experience, it’s important to adapt your CV to showcase transferable skills.
3. A much needed reality check – Sure, it sounds great packing your bags and moving to Thailand, but it isn’t until you consider the practicalities that it all sinks in. A little overwhelmed, I definitely didn’t feel ready to pack my bags and fly off right away once my tutor had talked me through the reality of relocating.
4. It’s not a holiday – Pretty similar to my previous point, this is an important one. Sure, we’ve all cried on the way home from an amazing holiday, but living in a foreign country is very different. My advice would be to make sure you do research into the culture, climate and location before applying for jobs abroad.
5. You meet some great people – Doing this job I go on a lot of courses and most of the time conversation with my fellow students is a little awkward. With TEFL, I found myself surrounded by a group of people with similar interests, all working together to pass the assignments. With a few new Facebook friends by the end of the weekend, this was definitely an unexpected highlight.
6. It takes a while – I naively thought I could do a weekend course and be ready to go. Although this is technically true, a lot of the jobs abroad expect you to have the longer 120 hour course. If you are really dedicated this takes around three months to complete. Be prepared to spend time outside the classroom on your learning.
7. It’s definitely not just gap year students – Expecting to be one of the oldest students there (at the age of 23) I could not have been more wrong. Finding myself in a really mixed group, it really is never too late to give it a go.
Other options out there
It’s also important to remember TEFL is not the only option.
CELTA – A certificate in English language teaching to adults, the Cambridge CELTA course is far more intensive, lasting four to five weeks. A good option if you are looking for a better paid or more competitive job, a CELTA course costs £1500 - £4000. You also need to be at least 20 and have formal education qualifications.
TESOL – Four weeks of intensive study, TESOL is all about teaching English to speakers of other languages. Mostly for teachers, a TESOL course is handy if you want to teach in an English teaching country, typically immigrants or refugees.
Our favourite places to study
With so many courses to choose from, where do you start? Although this all depends on location, budget and time, we’ve handpicked a couple of our favourites.
Westminster Kingsway College – A great place to go if you want to do a CELTA course but cannot afford to take four to five weeks off work. Westminster Kingsway offers a part-time CELTA course over 22 weeks.
UK-TEFL – With classes in Birmingham, Manchester and across London, UK-TEFL is a prestigious organisation that helps you find your perfect job after the course.
Teach TEFL first – A great place to look if you want to learn from the comfort of your own living room, Teach TEFL first offer a number of different online courses.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.