TeachingTraveling.com: A looming question for folks aiming to teach ESL abroad is whether its worth it to complete a TEFL course and become officially certified.
To help shed light on this query, let’s welcome Brian, a friendly English chap who I first met on a ruckus island in Southern Thailand.
Brian has just completed his TEFL certification and has some words of wisdom for us. Brian, first off, why did you decide to get TEFL certified?
Brian: I see the TEFL certification as my route to a life of traveling, or at least a way to give me the means to live anywhere I wish in the world.
TT: Nice! Which programs did you look at and where, and how did you decide on a particular one?
B: I looked at various courses on the Internet, and the i to i TEFL certification caught my eye because it was primarily an online course, but also gave me some classroom experience, even if I was only teaching to my peers. I didn’t have the flexibility to be tied to a classroom for x amount of time, so the online nature of the course was perfect for me. As it cost about $800, it was great value financially as well. I chose to take the course while based in Australia.
TT: Interesting that you did a combination of online and in-person coursework! In the TEFL course I completed (all in-person) they emphasized the importance of having as much practical, in-person experience as possible, both for practice and for employability.
That said, I’m sure you were able to get real value out of some of your online coursework. What were some details of your TEFL certification program?
B: Basically the course was broken down into modules as follows:
- Nuts and Bolts of English Grammar
- Teaching One to One
- Teaching to Young Learners
- Teaching to Large Groups
- Teaching with Limited Resources
- Weekend Classroom Module
The first five modules were done online, and I probably spent about sixty or seventy hours completing them. The names are self-explanatory.
The classroom module was done over the course of a weekend with other i to i students in the Brisbane area. The weekend part of the course was about looking at what you had learned online and honing your own skills in teaching.
We all had to take part of the class and were given pointers on how to go about doing things to make the classes more fun and interactive for our future students. We were also given feedback, in both real time and after we had done our “segment,” regarding areas that perhaps needed a bit of work. I was told, as I am so often in life, to slow down.
TT: Ha! So did you have time to hang out in the city where the course was based during off time?
B: I had a limited amount of time in Brisbane, Australia when I traveled there for the classroom part of the course, but not much. However, I have since returned and have been living in Brisbane for a short time. It’s a great place: a must if you go to Oz.
TT: For myself, my month-long TEFL course in Costa Rica was so intense that I had very limited time to sightsee around the country, though I did poke around a bit… and heaven knows I got a ton out of the course. Now, I know you haven’t started officially teaching yet, but do you think it was worth it to do the whole TEFL training?
B: Even though I haven’t yet started teaching, I know the course was the best way to go for the following reasons:
First, it was good to get a refresher on the nuts and bolts of English grammar, it’s like playing a game you have known how to play for years, but suddenly looking at the rule book and realising why you play it in the way you do. Knowledge of the rulebook is crucial if you want to teach someone else the game.
Once the grammar section of the course was complete, the course was all about learning how to go about teaching English. This was definitely what I found most useful and interesting in my studies. Before doing the course, I wouldn’t have really known where to start.
I know from speaking to English teachers all over Asia that having the TEFL certification will get you more money from an employer. It is possible to get jobs without one, but the pay will be less if you just walk in off the street without a TEFL qualification. With TEFL certification, you’ll also feel more prepared.
TT: Thanks so much, Brian! I know that for myself, the month-long TEFL course I took in Costa Rica at Maximo Nivel with Natalie (profiled in this TeachingTraveling.com article, here) was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken in my life, education-related or not. I use the techniques and frameworks I learned in that course on a daily, if not hourly basis! I would echo you that anyone considering teaching abroad for longer than a few weeks of volunteer work could get a great deal out of TEFL training.
Readers, what is your experience? What are your questions? Chime in!