From TEFL Courses to Teaching Abroad

It’s been just over a year since I finished my TEFL course in Ban Phe, Thailand on Christmas Eve 2010. After finishing my TEFL course, I had full intentions of jumping right into a teaching position, but my hesitation came from committing to a contract for an entire year or longer. I was enjoying the lifestyle of being a traveler, meeting new people and changing my environment when I felt ready to move onto new adventures. The TEFL course itself was an adventure and it was a starting point for gaining the confidence to embark on path of teaching English as a second language. Just because I had spoken English my entire life, gotten a college degree and worked in a professional occupation where English proficiency was essential didn’t give me the slightest idea of how I would pass this knowledge onto someone who had little to no exposure to the English language. My TEFL course provided me with insight into lesson planning, classroom management techniques and two weeks of in-classroom training. Most importantly, it provided me with some much-needed confidence that I could be a teacher.

I set out around Southeast Asia in the spring looking for a teaching position for the upcoming semester set to begin in May. After much indecisiveness, there was only one place I could see myself settling down for the year and that was Thailand. I applied at 3 different schools in the area of Krabi in the south of Thailand. After interviewing with the administrator or head of the English Department for each school, I was asked to do a teaching demonstration in the class. I had one day of preparation for two of them and the other I was asked on the spot and I had about an hour to prepare. I found this to be incredibly intimidating and much more difficult than most interviews. Instead of trying to impress one person, now you essentially had a whole class of people to impress. There are a high number of English speaking foreigners traveling the world looking for a way to support a lifestyle of living abroad and you are easily replaceable.

It is crucial to take pride in how you present yourself to the school and the students. Learn about the cultural expectations of how a teacher should dress because something as simple as wearing a top that shows too much shoulder may be deemed inappropriate and cost you the position before you even begin your demonstration. Although content is important, sometimes you do not have much time to prepare and they are aware of that but noting other things instead. You won’t always know the level of the class or how well behaved they are going to be. One of the most important things they are looking for is your ability to manage the class. They want to know you will be able to lead and guide your class and not fall apart in front of the students.

I expected the class to go smoothly and exactly as I had planned but I unfortunately didn’t think my lesson plan all the way through and as I realized this about halfway into my first teaching demonstration, it caused me to get nervous and lose the focus of the class and the lesson. It is ideal to have a well-prepared lesson plan, and I recommend having a few lesson plans already prepared before walking into an interview or leaving your resume in case it turns into an unexpected impromptu class demonstration.

It is better to be over prepared than under prepared. It will help you to stay focused and be best able to maintain the interest of the class and manage the class in an organized fashion, while impressing your prospective employers with your ability to lead the class.

Jenn Rose

About Jenn Rose

Jenn Rose is our Teach Abroad and Voluntourism Expert. She has traveled, taught, and volunteered her way around the world -- and now she is sharing those experiences with The 'Buzz! Her articles will give you solid insight into what it’s really like to teach English abroad and how you can do volunteer while on the road.