Published 8th August 2019
Do you feel stuck in the same 9 to 5?
Are you sick and tired of waking up every day and doing the same old same old?
Dream of starting fresh somewhere completely different?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions (or all of them!), then you’re probably already thinking of teaching English abroad. And why wouldn’t you? Living in a fabulous city, having a fun job, and getting paid to do it – what’s not to love?
So the next question is, what do you need to teach English abroad?
A sense of adventure
First things first, before we even look at the nitty gritty of qualifications, you need to have a sense of adventure. Moving abroad to start a new job in a new city can be challenging even for the most hardcore travellers. Culture shock, settling in to a new job, leaving friends and family behind – all at the same time – can be difficult to say the least.
If you are totally freaked out by these things, then maybe a TEFL life is not for you. But if your excitement and anticipation for the travelling you’ll do, the food you’ll eat, and the people you’ll meet outweighs those challenges, then you’re good to go.
Living abroad can bring with it its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, it’s not all colourful cocktails and sandy beaches. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a job rather than a holiday, and an exhausting one at that.
You are expected to prepare your lessons and carry them out with professionalism and enthusiasm. You need to be able to manage your classroom effectively, no matter how many students turn up. You may also be required to cover for another teacher. If a colleague calls in sick, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and cover their class at a moment’s notice. As a TEFL teacher you need to be a team player and be able to step up to the plate when needed.
Start up cash
If we’re brutally honest (which we always are), we can’t forget to include some cold hard cash. You will need some capital to cover a deposit on accommodation and your first month’s rent, as well as living expenses until you get your first pay cheque. Not to mention the funds you’ll need to pay for your TEFL course and your flights and visa.
Because you’re never really 100 percent sure of what your living and working situation will be like until you are there, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have enough funds to not only start the journey but look after yourself until you can support yourself.
A TEFL certificate
While a Bachelor’s degree is not essential – though it will open many more doors for you job-wise – a TEFL certificate is non-negotiable. You will need to have an accredited, internationally recognized 120-hour TEFL certificate behind your name before even starting your job search or else you needn’t bother looking.
Many people might scoff at the idea of a 120-hour qualification, but the TEFL course is so jam-packed with learning theories and teaching methodologies that it provides you with a solid understanding of teaching English as a Foreign Language. The practical side too gives you an idea of the logistics involved in teaching a class of students who don’t speak your language.
While we most certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that if you speak English you can teach English, a certain level of English is still important for a TEFL teacher. You don’t need to be a native speaker but you are, after all, teaching English so you need to have a good grasp of the language. If you’re not a native speaker you need to prove you have at least a C1 level of English in order to be a TEFL teacher.
You also need to have a thorough understanding of the language so you will be able to teach vocabulary and explain grammar effectively to your students. Your TEFL course will give you a chance to brush up on your linguistic knowledge, but be sure to take along a resource book of some sort for reference.
Don’t leave home without it! But it’s not only a valid passport you need, you’ll probably also need a visa for wherever you are going. Make sure you know exactly what visa you need to work in the country you are jetting off to, and make sure you apply for it in good time.
A teaching toolkit
No self-respecting teacher would set foot into the classroom without their own teaching toolkit. What’s in it, you ask? Pens, pencils, blu-tak, whiteboard markers, notebooks, stickers, a USB – those sorts of teacher-y things. But also resource books that you can refer to whenever you need some grammatical advice or lesson inspiration, and an arsenal of games and activities for you to use in the classroom.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you need to teach English abroad, but these are the essentials. If you make sure you’ve got these in your suitcase before you set off on your TEFL adventure then you’re A for Away. Bon voyage!