Understanding what teaching is really about and what makes people TEFL abroad.
From the very moment you are assigned a classroom for the first time and placed with a student who isn’t a native English speaker, you become acutely aware of how important the time spent with you in a lesson is for the student. Speaking English fluently is like a gift, even more so is the ability to teach. English teaching isn’t easy, in fact, it can be one of the most difficult jobs out there. This is especially true if you aren’t able to be patient and willing to work with your students to help them achieve their full potential.
For the most part, it is a very selfless job. There needs to be a block in your mind of personal interests and instead, there needs to be an intense focus on understanding what it is the student needs or wants from a lesson. It’s difficult work.
For any work as rewarding as TEFL, there will always be downsides along with the many benefits. While there is a lot of attention focused on the technical and tedious grammar points, there is so much more to a TEFL course. The dedication, care and attention that goes into the eight hours a day of work can’t go unnoticed. With an average of ten students a day, every lesson is sure to be quite unique and individually tailored in accordance with the requirements of the student. From children to teenagers, business students to exam students and the older students with an incredible interest in expanding their knowledge in their abundance of free time (of which they love to keep me updated on)—it is important to understand the hard work that goes into each forty minute session. Here is part of an interview we carried out:
“For me, TEFL is the next stage in a career path I have been creating since I was sixteen years old. As a young teenager in 2013, I was looking for any possible opportunity to travel during the summer without spending great deals of money. It was then that I stumbled across an English immersion program that I found myself becoming increasingly interested in. This program was open at no extra costs to volunteer “native English speakers”—a term I understood, but had never seen as one of the only requirements for a job. While investigating further I began to discover the world of conversational English with foreigners and its increasing popularity within Europe and Asia.
For three years I participated in this sixteen day summer program in different regions across Spain gaining insight into the Spanish culture and the more modern-day interests of Spanish teenagers. It was upon reaching my final year as a volunteer—this past summer—that I started to investigate the opportunities of developing a career in this field. Discovering good tefl courses abroad seemed almost too perfect—it was exactly what I had been doing for three years but allowed me to teach in places of higher education and was considered an actual qualification. Nevertheless, with the tefl training I had received, I was now given me the opportunity to do the two things I love most—travelling and teaching English. I feel as though I am genuinely helping a community of people in their journey to achieve a higher fluency and understanding of English. It is an incredible feeling, being appreciated for something as simple as being a Native speaker.”
How to Find Work Overseas
It seems, after having made the decision to leave the comfort of your own country and work further afield, the usual endless process of submitting application upon application suddenly becomes one hundred times more difficult! Whichever country you may decide to start searching in is always the same; looking for a job overseas is hard. I know, I have done it!
It’s a daunting process but it can be made easier with a bit of organisation and the power of the internet. Google is of course one of your biggest tools, but before I talk about the actual search let me suggest things to do in preparation.
First of all, narrow down your options; for example, pick a country and focus on this. Something I did not do! Create a description: ‘I want to work in Columbia, teaching children, I can speak Spanish, I have experience in…I have a degree in….’. This means the contact reading it can immediately think about any teaching companies he or she knows of in Columbia that may help you. Instead of doing this I had a fuzzy idea of what I wanted to achieve, thinking I was keeping my options open, but it actually left me with fewer options. I made the mistake of sending out implicit emails to people asking if there were any teaching opportunities they knew of in the whole of South America. This does not help any contact recognise how they can help, you need to be specific if you want results.
Having a whole list of countries with a wide range of tefl teaching abroad jobs is actually just confusing! Of course be open to change, but being too broad gives yourself more of a challenge. Trust me!
This previous point goes hand in hand with the next; being as specific as you can when describing the work you want to do. For example in regards to teaching; do you want to work with children or with adults, and in what kind of institution? As there are many types of educational facilities. Of course this is not always possible and there is not always a tailor made job for you out there, but be clear in yourself so you can ask the right questions. Maybe write yourself a job description, using keywords for job searches such as teaching english abroad tefl. For example, one to one, teaching assistant, nursery teacher etc. By doing this it also allows you to eliminate unwanted options forcing you to apply for positions that are suitable. Another thing I failed to do, meaning I had one thousand tabs up at once all showing different job specs, making me ever more confused!
Once you have those two things planned out; the country you wish to go to, and the type of organisation you want to teach in, you then have the internet at your fingertips. Google being your main tool, but also websites such as http://www.goabroad.com/ or http://www.gooverseas.com/ are very useful in helping you narrow down jobs, you are able to input certain terminology to cater the search to your needs. What is more, LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/, is a network used by professionals all over the world. It might be an idea to create a profile so that you can learn about other companies and connect with other professionals in the same industry, building relationships that could come in useful in the future. There is also a ‘jobs page’ in which you can discover opportunities, and LinkedIn can alert you when jobs arise that match your interests.
Finally, making sure your CV is up to scratch is extremely important. It needs to contain; relevant experience for the role you’re applying, skills, education and interests and you need this to be ready for as soon as a prospectus employer asks.
Teaching in Spain
Spain is a great place to be as an EFL teacher. English lessons are mandatory in all Spanish schools and more and more jobs require applicants to have at least a First Certificate qualification just in order to be considered for the role. The current economic climate has made it more difficult for Spanish people to get a job and so people are all eager to go the extra mile to stand out from the competition. All this is good news for those looking for work teaching English.
In terms of work there are different options for English teachers to consider. State and private schools hire native speakers to teach classes and they can offer a contract and a good salary but these jobs may be more difficult to get as they often require candidates to have a degree in teaching or other similar qualifications and perhaps also several years of experience. For those just starting out their TEFL career, do consider tefl internships abroad before starting to look for work in an academy. This can be a good option – once you have gained valuable classroom experience – as they may accept those with little or no experience or qualifications – however, having a TEFL and a few months experience is always going to make your application more attractive to employers. Finally, there is a great market for private classes. Teachers can advertise their services in public places or online and can expect to make between 10€-20€ an hour, depending on the student and what kind of lessons they want. It’s even possible to teach classes via Skype so you could give lessons to students all around the world from the comfort of your own home. Private lessons are a great way to develop your teaching skills as you are in control of the material and can personalise each class according to the student’s needs. Of course, the flexibility teaching private classes affords is one of its most appealing aspects although the work can be unstable so those looking for more job security may find this a turn off. A good compromise could be to get a contract working part time and supplement this with private lessons.
When it comes to choosing a location, the most popular places are the big cities, Madrid and Barcelona. The size of these places means that the number of language schools is high and that makes finding a teaching job easier. However, in Madrid and Barcelona particularly, living costs are high and since the money you can expect to earn as an EFL teacher is unlikely to be much more than minimum wage, a smaller town could be better if you prefer a higher standard of living. Personally I can only speak for Valencia but I would certainly recommend it as a place where you can enjoy a comfortable standard of living while still having as much to offer culturally as the larger Spanish cities do.
How to find work overseas
Working abroad is a unique experience that provides insights into a country that isn’t your own. It allows you to live a different culture, taste new foods and learn other languages, getting a new perspective of the world.
Not many people can have this wonderful opportunity, and many of those who could, fail to make it happen because they are worried to leave their hometown. There’s no doubt that it is a scaring decision, since you start living behind everything that is familiar to you. However when those things are no longer with you, you are given the chance to redefine your life and to realise the value of family and friends.
Of course, working overseas is not always as easy as in our home country, since you have to face new living styles, educational methods, and everything in between. As far as my personal experience is concerned, right after my graduation I started sending my resume abroad to work in a language school or in a translation company. Fortunately, my University offered an internship with a famous language school in Madrid where I could teach Italian and English to Spanish students, and Spanish to my colleagues. I also had the opportunity to improve my French because the school provided an extra language course for every teacher.
Tefl jobs abroad without a degree is one of the most popular options. In Spain, especially in big cities like Madrid, Sevilla or Barcelona, there is a high demand. As a matter of fact, the English level in this country is very low and people are eager to learn it everyday There are millions of reasons why everyone should find the strength to do it at least once in their lifetime. It’s a funny way to drop your routine, everyday is a new adventure. An experience abroad in your resume is like a bright shining star: it immediately grabs employers’ attention, showing them that you are brave, independent and can deal with international people without any problem. As a matter of fact, immersing yourself in an environment where you will be exposed to constantly, is the best way to learn to a foreign language. So what is it like to live and teach in Madrid?
“During these three months in Madrid, I dedicated time to myself more than ever, discovering some aspects of my personality that had been hidden before. Moreover, I had the opportunity to travel to surrounding cities during the weekend, such as Saragozza and Toledo, and to meet people from all over the world. Living in a different culture has allowed me to look back on my own life from a different point of view. I never realised how incredibly lucky I am to speak so many languages until now. It also allowed me to learn more about my own culture, being asked every day about aspects that I had never thought before. As a teacher of English, I think I also made a difference in the life of students. I took great satisfaction in playing a key role in enabling them to achieve their goals by learning English, creating a better future for themselves.”