“Ah, but it’s not for me”. “I don’t think I could do it”. “Yeah, it sounds great, but I just don’t see myself teaching English as a Foreign Language”.
As the leading TEFL course provider, these are phrases that we cannot stand. You see, we know there’s a teacher in a classroom somewhere, who’s inspiring students, having life-changing experiences and enrichening their career – and we believe that person could just as easily be you.
Yes, fine, it’s maybe not as easy as deciding one day to become a TEFL teacher and then booking a flight the next. However, with the proper support and guidance, we know you could be going from indecision or scepticism to teaching English abroad in a new, exciting country – or you could be teaching online, running your own business and setting your own hours.
So, why not you? Maybe you think the requirements are too high. Or, quite reasonably, you could have accessibility issues that prevent you from dreaming about teaching in person across the globe. We’re here to tell you that there are answers.
What do you need to get going? What myths need to be shattered in 2023? Let’s have a look and see if you have what it takes to TEFL this year.
(Spoiler: You do.)
One of the first hurdles people come to when they think about TEFL-ing concerns qualifications. Often, teaching English as a foreign language is seen as a pursuit only for those with a degree, or at least, those planning to go to university or college.
This is nonsense. The qualification you need for TEFL, unsurprisingly, comes from doing a high-quality TEFL course. The industry standard is a 120-hour certificate from a well-accredited course provider. These are affordable, comprehensive and self-paced, meaning you can start and finish the course as and when you like.
Do you need any special qualifications to be accepted for a TEFL course? Well, no. All you need to get started is fluency in English.
A good TEFL course will sort you out with round-the-clock support from experienced tutors, who will give you feedback and guidance, help you if you’re struggling, and answer any questions you have throughout the course.
Once you’ve got your TEFL certificate it’s just a case of deciding where you want to teach. If you have a bachelor’s degree then the world is your oyster, but don’t fret if you don’t because there are still lots of options. Latin America, Europe, and Cambodia are all great options to look into if you don’t have a degree.
So, if you were under the impression that you weren’t qualified enough to start teaching English as a foreign language, guess again. Within weeks, you could be holding a certificate.
For the able-bodied, it’s sadly very easy to underestimate accessibility issues for others. In recent decades, important legislation has come to the fore around issues of accessibility, in terms of physical and non-physical impairments, but it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that many prospective TEFL teachers have been put off from pursuing their dream due to accessibility problems.
That needn’t be the case. The online sphere has opened up a whole world of options, meaning TEFL teachers can work from home, and set their own hours. This is particularly important for those with chronic long-term health conditions, as a rigorous, set workload in teaching can mean real strain. If you want to teach abroad, don’t feel put off either – educational institutions are beholden to inclusion legislation. For an around-the-world guide, check out the UN’s resource on Disability Law by Country. In short: the provisions should be there for you to teach, wherever you want to go.
If mental health conditions in particular have put you off doing a TEFL certificate, let alone finding work, it’s understandable. However, most reputable course providers will have experienced, empathetic tutors available, and the study is self-paced. If you need a break, you need a break; no questions asked.
Non-native speakers also face an accessibility barrier. Some employers insist on passports from certain nationalities – normally those where English is the primary language. However, this kind of ‘native-speakerism’ is starting to recede and non-native teachers with a good-quality TEFL certificate and a proficiency certificate, such as the IELTS or TOEFL, can find opportunities to teach worldwide.
Is it a perfect situation in terms of accessibility? Let’s be frank, in the world of work, not yet. However, the opportunities are available, and any course provider or recruiter worth anything should be able to guide you where necessary.
What a great TEFL teacher needs
Right: so what does a person need to be a great TEFL teacher?
The most important weapon in your arsenal is motivation. No, this isn’t a self-help guide, but motivation is a mental attribute worth a massive amount. If you don’t have the get-up-and-go to investigate the right course for you, where you’d like to teach, and what you want to achieve, then you’re in trouble.
People willing to dedicate time, effort and money to a high-quality TEFL course will find jobs. The demand for English teachers worldwide is enormous, both online and off. Those who are speculative, don’t put the effort in, and are only half-invested, probably won’t make much of their TEFL career if they have one. So, motivation is vital.
You’ll need to show a willingness to adapt and be flexible. Your first job in teaching might not be the Dream Job in your Ideal City, it might be something that gets your foot in the door. Expect the unexpected, and prepare to adapt to something outside of your comfort zone. Any tenured TEFL teacher will tell you it’s the best way to set yourself up for a career in teaching English. Hours, location, and types of students; there are whole lot of variables in a teaching job. Be agile enough to respond.
Sadly, we do still need to pay for things. Having some savings tucked away is a huge advantage, and we’re not talking about a Scrooge McDuck-style existence here. We can’t tell you the exact amount you need to save up, but your first month in a new country can be expensive, from travel and accommodation to everyday purchases. Prepare well, and you’ll navigate that first month with relative ease. All this said some employers provide benefits like a roof over your head and reimbursement for flights – be sure to check your contract carefully when the time comes.
Wanderlust is also important, whether you’re working from home or abroad. Why from home? Well, you’ll need to get to know other cultures, how people learn and what their lived experience is. That way, you can write better lesson plans, and relate to your students on a more personal level.
If you’re travelling, well – it’s obvious. Sticking to the big cities has its advantages, but exploring the backstreets and the countryside can be so, so rewarding. That’s true wherever you are. Don’t be afraid to seek out adventure.
What you don’t need to be a great TEFL teacher
It’s not that we have a chip on our shoulders, but there are some common and damaging misconceptions about teaching English as a foreign language.
Perhaps the most prevalent is that it’s a young person’s game. TEFL, to the uninitiated, is a pursuit for students on a gap year, or for folk in their early to mid-20s. This is a line of thinking that ignores the wealth of brilliant and experienced TEFL teachers, as well as those who are changing career, want a new challenge in retirement, or just fancy a change of scenery.
You don’t need to be still be asked for ID at the bar to be a TEFL teacher. This is, patently, utter nonsense. Yes, there are upper age limits in certain countries, but some very basic research will uncover the truth that you can TEFL whatever age you are.
Conversely, some people believe you need considerable experience to be a great TEFL teacher. Sometimes, bafflingly, people think you need to be young and have teaching experience, which doesn’t add up.
When you’re climbing up the TEFL ladder, onto your second or third job, the experience you build will be important, yes. But you have to start somewhere, and most employers are cognisant of that, primarily because they weren’t born with an extensive CV, either.
Yes, you should absolutely try to build experience where you can, and it’ll no doubt help if you’re applying for your first job. Volunteering is a good idea, and there are fantastic refugee charities looking for English teachers, but if experience was a prerequisite to getting started teaching English, nobody could do it.
A degree, as covered, isn’t entirely necessary when you’re getting started in TEFL. Of course, it can help, especially if you have designs on teaching in a country with strict immigration legislation, but to land a first job? The most important thing is high-quality TEFL training from a respected course provider.
“This all makes sense, sure. But what about knowledge of other languages?”, we hear you ask. If you’re a polyglot and can seamlessly get into conversations around the world that’s a great attribute. However, is it necessary to speak other languages in order to teach English? No! TEFL does not require you to speak the language of your students.
Some things don’t neatly fit into a “What you need” or “what you don’t” category, and are difficult subjects to breach.
Yes, we’ve mentioned the benefit of having some savings. However, the reality is that a TEFL course in and of itself is too expensive a purchase for some. That’s entirely understandable – two years of a global pandemic will do that. However, high quality TEFL courses have become increasingly affordable, and many offer finance plans so you can pay over a series of months at a rate that works for you.
TEFL courses used to only really exist in esteemed colleges and universities, but that’s no longer solely true. Yes, the CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL continue to ready students for a life teaching English, but high-quality providers have a range of online options, or classroom options, that’ll suit anyone.
We believe that people from all walks of life should be able to pursue TEFL as a career. Disability, financial situation, native language; these are barriers to be broken down, rather than gates to keep people out.
Do you have what it takes to TEFL in 2023? We think so. And we’ll bet after reading this that you’re starting to think so, too.