Published 2nd June 2021
Some might say that a teacher is simply a teacher. While that might be true for other subjects, for teachers of English as a Foreign Language, it’s simply not. If you’ve been a TEFL teacher for a while, you’ll understand that there are a range of different kinds of TEFL teachers out there. We’re not talking about Business English teachers or English for Academic Purposes teachers or Young Learner teachers. No, we’re talking about the person behind the teacher.
As a TEFL teacher, your background and circumstances probably played a role in leading you to this career. There are many different reasons people become TEFL teachers. We are not yet at the stage where people grow up wanting to be a TEFL teacher, but their situation later in life will show them that TEFL should be a future consideration. This job is so flexible and there are so many ways to do this job to suit your lifestyle. What we end up with is hundreds of thousands of TEFL teachers, but many of them are in TEFL for the same reasons.
Read more: The Different Jobs of a TEFL Teacher
See if you can recognise which one you are.
The gap year TEFL teacher
You’ve just graduated from school or university with a degree in a serious subject, like Law or Finance or IT. You have a job lined up and waiting for you. But you’ve been studying your butt off for the last few years and you can feel yourself on the brink of burnout – and you haven’t even started working yet! You decide to do a TEFL course so you can volunteer to teach in Cambodia for a year before coming back to start your “real life”.
The backpacker TEFL teacher
You’ve just graduated from school and you have no idea what you want to do with your life, let alone what you want to study. Your mom keeps pressurising you to make a decision, so you choose to do a TEFL course and leave home! Okay, so your plan is not really that well thought out but you book a ticket to Thailand (because of beaches, duh) and you’ll figure the rest out as you go along. You’re hoping to persuade your bestie to come with you too – because YOLO!
The retrenched TEFL teacher
Life can really suck sometimes. You’ve just been retrenched. The job market is not looking good right now (does it ever?). You’re feeling pretty helpless with your life. So you decide to start fresh and do a TEFL course. You realise that even though you’ve never considered teaching before, you’re actually quite good at this – and you enjoy it A LOT more than your own job. Your confidence comes back and you decide to go the whole hog and go and teach in China.
The honeymooner TEFL teachers
Oh, you guys are so cute. You’ve been in a relationship for as long as anyone can remember. Both of you enjoy travelling and the thought of travelling the world with someone you love is just too powerful for you to resist. You do the TEFL course (together, of course) and spend your evenings on the couch, researching TEFL destinations that are open to couple teachers. You foresee many years of happy travelling together with annual trips back home to see your friends. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a destination wedding.
Read more: Can We Teach English Abroad as a Couple?
The broken-hearted TEFL teacher
Oh dear, you’ve just been dumped. Your forever-person decided that forever was a bit too long – well, with you anyway. Now you’re lonely and sad – and possibly angry – and everywhere you go you are reminded of your ex and what used to be. So you enrol on a TEFL course and decide to move away as far as possible from your hometown. Then, when you arrive in your new country you can re-invent yourself and leave your depression at home. And hopefully, meet someone new…
The mature TEFL teacher
Maybe you’ve just got divorced, maybe you’re just tired of your job, maybe you’re thinking of retirement. You want to do something that’s totally out of your comfort zone so you do a TEFL course. You’re a bit nervous because from all the adverts it seems like TEFL teachers are all 21-year old backpackers but you’re happy to give it a shot. After all, you’re not getting any younger!
Read more: Mature Teachers: Teaching Abroad Over 40
The digital nomad
You’re a millennial. You’ve realised that you don’t need to spend your life sitting at the same office desk every day. You have found yourself a niche of the internet where you can earn money blogging, writing content, editing, proofreading, trading, translating, transcribing – you name it, you can do it. And you can do it all from the comfort of your laptop. But the work is not always flowing so you decide to do a TEFL course so that you have a guaranteed source of income in the form of teaching English as a Foreign Language online. One day you might be in Rome and the next week in Amsterdam, and that’s the way you like it.
The online TEFL teacher
You’re tired of your job and are looking for a change, or maybe you can’t find a job you want. You sign up for a TEFL course because you find the idea of teaching English to people from all over the world intriguing. But you don’t want to leave home. Your family is here, and your friends and your partner has a good job so he doesn’t want to go travelling – and home is where the heart is, isn’t it? So you compromise and teach English online. You still get the joys of teaching but you also get to stay put at home.
Were you able to identify which TEFL teacher you are? If you are already teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad then you probably recognise some of your teacher friends in there too! Luckily, with so many jobs teaching English available, there is room enough for all of us – no matter what kind of TEFL teacher you are.