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 (click for details and pricing) 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!
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The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!
Thursday 16th of June 2016
What's Brian natoonality? Is the certificate suitable for teachers from non-english speaking country? I am Polish, currently teaching in Taiwan. I haven't graduated from any subject related to English, thats why I am cosidering taking an online course. I think that along with my teaching experience this certificate could be useful. Any recommendations / opinions here?
Thursday 7th of July 2016
Brian is British. I'm not sure about answers to your questions, but maybe others can chime in. Good luck!
Tuesday 5th of April 2016
In my experience teaching in Korea, Taiwan and China I would say that studying grammar for TEFL is not very useful most of the time. I took a course like that before I started.
The reason why it is not very useful is because you don't stand in front of a class and start reciting and defining grammar rules in front of your students. Another reason why it's not useful is if you are teaching children or beginners. Kids or beginners of any age could care less about the difference between the past perfect and the present continuous.
You need to teach them how to use the language. I'd say studying grammar for TEFL is only somewhat useful for teaching advanced levels of English learners which most people do not teach to.
Think of it like this: Can you define what a modal verb is or a determiner? If your answer is no then ask yourself another question: Can you speak English properly? If your answer is yes to that last question then how did you learn?
You learned by being surrounded by people who speak the same language as you not by studying grammar rules in a book.
Here's a comment from a video on Youtube about grammar and TEFL.
"The problem is that the majority of teachers (Korean) have a great working knowledge of grammar but it has taken them years and years to perfect, but it is largely useless when it comes to actually helping students to speak and write and communicate in English.ï»¿"
Friday 23rd of January 2015
I am interested in getting my TEFL certification, but it will need to be strictly online due to my current work schedule. I have a hard time discerning what is a legitimate school where I would receive my TEFL certification to teach ESL and not just a certificate of completing the course. Can anyone provide any guidance please?
Tuesday 27th of January 2015
Regarding a TEFL school and online classes:
# 1: The TEFL school : 1) should be externally accredited, have pre-enrollment advice so you know where you can work and how their job assistance will be provided,
2) the course: should have 100 hours or classwork and taught but a university level instructor (not just someone who has a 4 week TEFL class and a year teaching). There needs to be a live student teaching component of at least 6 hours (some jobs require 20). If you do not have a required student teaching component you will not have experience behind you when starting a job. You will also be asked for that experience on your resume and in an interview.
There should be interaction between you and the instructor, preferably with your fellow classmates, live webinars (or videos), there should be the same rigorous homework, papers, projects, lesson plans as a 4 week in person class (not just automated multiple choice). The instructor should be giving feedback throughout the course that is constructive critique and criticism.
Here's a few articles on choosing a TEFL school and online classes http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/bid/47541/7-Key-Tips-to-Evaluating-a-TEFL-TESOL-Training-School
Tuesday 25th of March 2014
The information shared on this site has helped me decide just how to move forward in my pursuit to teach English abroad. I do have an ESL certification of 21 years with 21 years teaching experience with 2nd language learners. However, I believe additional CELTA TEFL would make me even more marketable in Europe. What to you think? Since I do have experience teaching 2nd language learners, I'm wondering if I the online course would be sufficient? Thank you for your thoughts.
Lillie of TeachingTraveling.com
Wednesday 26th of March 2014
So glad you're moving forward! You make a good point that you already have rich experience, so maybe the quickest possible certification would be the best. Regarding CELTA, I encourage you to read this new article: https://teachingtraveling.mystagingwebsite.com/2014/03/02/celta-certification/ and reach out to Tasha to discuss. Best of luck!
Wednesday 12th of June 2013
I did a month long TEFL certification (in person) in my hometown of London, and even after my university degree, it was the most intense thing I've ever done...but so valuable! It opens up a whole world of employment possibilities, and since it's internationally recongised, I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in teaching and travelling!