Published 10th November 2015

If you are a newly-qualified TEFL teacher, it can sometimes be difficult to find a job. Usually employers want someone with experience, but how can you get experience if no one is willing to give you a job? Doing volunteer TEFL teaching is a great way to get around this Catch-22.

Volunteer agencies understand that you are volunteering and so often do not require experience and, in fact, often offer on-the-job training. At the same time, volunteering opportunities are usually in communities where there is a need for English teachers but also a shortage. This may be because the school is in a remote area or the students cannot afford to pay for the lessons, so the positions are not as attractive to experienced TEFL teachers who are looking to make a living, or live in a thriving metropolis. But they’re great if you’re looking to gain some valuable experience as you’ll be given lots of responsibility.

The question is, then, how do you find out about these volunteering opportunities?

The first place to look is in your community. No matter where you live there are bound to be volunteering opportunities, but you just need to find ones related to teaching. Perhaps in your community there is a large number of immigrants or refugees who come from non-English-speaking countries and need to learn English to improve their circumstances in the country. Try find a centre that gives help and advice and find out if they offer language lessons. Chances are they will be free to the students and so they will need volunteer teachers. Adult education centres are usually a good place to look as well, as they could be in a similar situation.

Local universities may enrol a number of foreign students and you could offer your services as a private tutor to these students. If you make it clear that you need to gain experience and so you are able to offer free lessons or lessons for a very low rate, most students will be more than happy to take you up on the offer. Even though it may not be a classroom teaching situation, it will still be practical teaching experience. If possible, you could even offer free lessons to a group of students in a public place like the local library (always a good place to find students), in order to gain group teaching experience.

If you wish to go further afield, you will find volunteering opportunities are advertised through the same channels as paying jobs. Many agencies or organisations that need volunteers will put adverts on the regular job sites in the hopes of finding teachers. If you can’t find a job through those, there are loads of agencies that will place you in a position. This is definitely the easiest route because you simply specify what you are looking for and the agency will do all the work involved in getting you there, but it comes at a price. People find it odd to be paying to volunteer but you are usually paying for flights, accommodation and possibly even a living allowance. Essentially, too, you are paying for the agency to organise the whole experience for you.

Volunteering is a great opportunity to get some invaluable experience and give back to a community as well. Even though it may be difficult to spend time working for no salary, we think you’ll find it worth your while in other ways.