The money isn’t great and the conditions are sometimes lousy. In spite of these two problems, I think teaching English as a foreign language is a wonderful job. A TEFL certificate is your passport to travel and work anywhere in the world. I’ve met some wonderful people, had some fantastic experiences and I can look at myself in the mirror and genuinely say I have made a difference in people’s lives.
Kazuhiro was one of my favourite private students. He attended classes twice a week after work and we never managed to get through the exercises I had planned for him. All he wanted to talk about was football, politics and the best places to visit in London. Every month, we’d have the lesson in one of London’s many Japanese restaurants. After returning to Japan, he invited me to visit him in Tokyo. I paid for the flight but he insisted on paying for everything else and he was the perfect host, showing me the best places in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Maria was the Colombian director of a language school franchise in Ecuador. Her English wasn’t bad but she felt it was. We had private lessons in her office three times a week and she gained in confidence as the lessons progressed. After successfully giving a speech in English at an international conference, I found a hard back copy of her favourite Gabriel Garcia Marquez book on my desk with a thank you letter and a gift voucher attached.
When my lovely exam preparation class received their results and found they had all passed, they invited me to a Korean restaurant in London. We ended up drinking far too much but I was very touched when they presented me with a huge card and a very expensive gift – a Lotus watch! They all went on to study at university in the UK and we still keep in touch.
When I took my Trinity TESOL course in 1996, I never imagined I would still be working in the field over fifteen years later. During that time, I have worked as a teacher, Director of Studies, course designer and as a lead teacher trainer. I have worked in London at international schools and at one of the world’s top universities, in Ecuador in South America where I taught the local head honcho of General Motors, and have spent the last few years training teachers in Granada, one of the most beautiful and enticing cities in Spain.
As I’m writing this, I’m sipping a cold beer and looking up at the amazing Moorish palace known as the Alhambra. Thoughts of catching dirty tube trains to get around London are far from my mind. But, one day, I might tire of southern Spain and yearn for a change of scene. As a TEFL teacher, I know I can find work in China, Brazil, Turkey, wherever I want. I might not have an expensive house or a fast car but I do have a degree of freedom which – at this point in my life – is exactly what I want. We are now living in a world in which the old certainties are no longer present. We have undoubtedly lost a sense of security but we have also gained a willingness to seek contentment and excitement further afield, to cross borders and have new experiences.
Being a teacher of English as a foreign language provides you with the opportunity to experience other cultures and other ways of being. I hope this short guide demonstrates why you should consider leaving the rat race and train to become a TEFL teacher. It might not be a job for life but living for a year or two in another country is a wonderful way to develop professionally and personally.
This is not a book that tells you how to teach as I firmly believe that teachers learn through observation, experimentation and reflection. Rather it’s aimed at people who want to get an overview of TEFL and find out what to do before, during and after taking a TEFL training course. After reading it, I hope you will have a better idea about teaching English as a foreign language and whether it is a job you might be interested in doing.
I have been training TEFL teachers for a number of years and the idea for the book arose from conversations I had with people about TEFL and discussions with people who were considering doing the course, people who were in the middle of doing the course, and people who had completed the course – but weren’t really sure what they had got themselves into and where it could lead them.