It’s less than a year now when I did my TEFL course here in Thailand. Did I end up teaching English, then? Well… No. But it got me a job anyway. I ended up choosing Social Studies in an English programme over English teaching, for a few different reasons. You can read about it here. In this post I will try to give you a few pointers, hopefully making it easier for you to decide where to do yours.
Should I do 100 hours or more?
These days 120 hours plus observed teaching practice is the TEFL course certificate that most schools want to see, whether it be in Thailand or elsewhere. I wouldn’t advise on opting for an online course either unless you already have some teaching experience to back you up. You might save money (a little bit, not much anyway), but it would be harder finding a job. If you are a NNES, don’t cut the corners in this one!
Study in a group or be the solo participant
If you are very gregarious and want to make new friends, do a course where you get to meet other people. Besides making new friends, your course mates can offer support during and after the training, and later on, they can prove to be valuable contacts when job hunting. Often vacancies are promoted by word of mouth, so it’s useful to have a good network of teachers around you.
I kind of missed the peer support since I was the only one doing the course. Would’ve been super nice sharing my feelings, both insecurities and the small joys, with someone who is going through the same thing. Then again, since I was the only person on the course, I got really good guidance and my teacher’s undivided attention. In summary, ask about the trainers per student ratio and you will get an idea of how much time a teacher can dedicate to you.
Choosing the right TEFL school and location for you
I chose Paradise TEFL in Thailand because of the location. I love Koh Phangan plus my ashtanga yoga teacher training was to be held in the same spot. I think Paradise TEFL was the only place offering TEFL courses on the island 2 years ago when I made my decision. Now I think there might be another one. TEFL schools often have contacts to local schools so if you think you’d like to end up working in Chiang Mai, better to do your TEFL there, rather than in Bangkok or Phuket.
Remember to check that your TEFL course provider is accredited by an international accreditation organization. There are more than a few of those organizations as well. Some are listed in this article, in addition to some good advice.
Naturally, I also checked the credentials before making up my mind. All seemed good, so I enrolled in the course. My teacher, a lovely British lady called Caroline suggested that I could start with the assignments beforehand, in Finland. I had nothing against that. I knew it would be time-consuming listening all the podcasts and writing the essays.
Practical teaching included?
This is especially important for non-native English speakers. We have to work double hard to land a job. This is why you should definitely choose a course which has teaching observation and teaching practice.
The Thai education system is most likely very different from the one in your home country. Therefore, it is a good idea to get a glimpse of it before immersing yourself into it completely. For NNES, if you would like to get some more advice, check out this site for some extra tips. It suggests, eg. preparing an introduction video or a demo lesson to prove your skills.
Work on the assignments beforehand if possible – and how to make it easier
Not all the schools offer this opportunity, though. Some courses are really intensive. 4 weeks on the spot “day and night”. Not much free time. I was really happy that I was able to do some work beforehand. It took the pressure off and I was able to have a few lazy days on Koh Phangan, going to the beach or parties, or just cutting some slack every once in awhile.
I’ve got one tip for you in terms of these assignments: incorporate podcasts and webinars into your everyday life. I put headphones on whenever I went walking with my dog, running or was traveling from one place to another. In addition, if I was cleaning or cooking I watched some webinars. You cannot perhaps make notes simultaneously but you get familiar with the material. I often “examined” myself or reviewed the material in my head doing these same things. Believe me, it’s worth it!
Keep your eyes on the prize
Sometimes it’s hard work, occasionally it’s just boring. You are tired, no motivation. Couldn’t be bothered writing a single essay anymore. Or the kids are being noisy and difficult during your practical training and you are wondering if this is really for you.
But don’t forget that the discomfort is only temporary. Sure, it will be challenging and you’ll be making some mistakes along the way but that’s how we learn. Remember, you are creating a whole new life for yourself: a new occupation in a foreign country. No doubt, you will be challenged at times. and this leads us to the final thing to consider:
Ask if the school is willing to help you find work after the course. And how long are they willing to provide these services. Some places guarantee you a placement after completing the course and I guess that is a huge relief. Then again, you are not able to negotiate on the terms that much. In general, if you are a NNES you cannot be too picky about the location and might need to settle for a lower wage, at least if you have little or no experience.
There are so many schools and programmes to choose from nowadays. Do your background check and ask recommendations from different people and different sources, if possible. I hope you found this post useful. If you have some other points to consider, please share with us!
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