Choosing a TEFL Program
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a good way to fund your travels as well as an opportunity to experience different cultures and meet new people. How do you go about doing it?
One of the best and easiest ways is to obtain a TEFL certificate. Many language schools require them. And many schools offer teaching certificates, as well as the guarantee of jobs. But how do you know if they are legit or are only after your money?
Research is the key, says Martin Benik, partner at Next Level Language Institute in Prague, Czech Republic. Don't send your money to an unknown school.
But how do you weed out the good from the bad?
Benik advises asking lots of questions not only to the administration, but also to graduates of the school's program:
- Have the graduates found jobs?
- How easy was it to obtain employment?
- What kind of job assistance does the school offer?
If graduates found it easy to find a job, that's a sign the school has a good reputation among language schools and their graduates are in demand. Teacher/trainer Kenny Arnold also suggests asking graduates if they felt prepared to teach when they were finished with the course.
Also ask questions about the trainer's experience. Benik says trainers should at least have an MA in Linguistics, English, Education, or another related field.
- Ask what you can be expected to learn. Most programs are only four weeks long. Will you be qualified to teach at the end of the course? Graduates should not only be able to put together a quality lesson plan but also teach a good class. Appropriate classroom behavior (how to dress, etc.) should also be addressed. Arnold adds teaching methodology and classroom management to other important musts when looking at a school's program. Arnold also to make sure the curriculum is specifically geared towards English as a second language students.
- Find out about the teaching experience the school will offer and how many practice teaching hours you will receive. Teachers usually teach a mixture of one-to-one (1 teacher, 1 student), in-company (teacher goes to a company and teaches their employees), and public (school offers open courses to the public at their location) courses. Will you get experience teaching all three aspects? Or will you do your practice teaching on your classmates? Do you want to teach children? Ask if it is possible to do your practice hours in a high school. Also, how many hours will you have the opportunity to teach? Benik says industry standard is six to eight hours; his school offers 12.
- Does the school offer any settling in support? Most schools will offer assistance at finding temporary housing while you are in the course. What is the quality of the housing? Is it in a safe area of town? How accessible is it to the school and to public transportation? Who (if anyone) profits from the housing arrangements? Benik says the prices for housing is often the same, but the quality can vary widely.
- The tuition at many schools is also nearly the same. But what will you get for your money? Look for hidden costs. Do you have to pay for copies, Internet access, your teaching materials? Extra settling in support? What are the teaching resources on site? Ask what books are in their library.
Twenty-five-year-old Doug Brown from London graduated from TEFL Worldwide (www.teflworldwideprague.com). He originally began his research looking at schools in the U.K. He liked TEFL Worldwide and chose to attend the course in Prague so he would receive his practice teaching hours with non-native speaking students. His big question was how easy would it be for him to find employment. What drew him to the TEFL Worldwide program were the qualifications of the trainers as well as the application procedure. Brown had to write two, 2,000-word essays. Benik echoes Brown's recommendations, saying the school should have clear criteria that potential students must meet before being accepted into the program and some sort of application procedure.
For 23-year-old Jennifer Carlin it was the response of the staff and the cost of the program that sealed the deal for her. She graduated from Next Level Language Institute. When she first started her online research she narrowed her choices to three Schools, based on the information provided on their web sites. She then contacted them individually and made her final decision based on the promptness and thoroughness of the responses she received. Benik warns about schools that don't answer your questions promptly or fully. He says it is a red flag if a school only answers some of your questions or the answers are not to your satisfaction.
Both Brown and Carlin are teaching in Prague, but what if you wanted to go elsewhere? Ask your school who else recognizes the certification you will receive from them. Brown liked TEFL Worldwide because their certificate is connected with Trinity College in England and is recognized around the world. Arnold agrees. If you are looking to make teaching English a career, chose a school that offers an internationally recognized certificate. Some schools also have language schools and may hire you to work for them when you have earned your certificate. However, some school's programs are not recognized by other language schools, so if you are looking to work in a few different places a school like that may not be your best choice.
Do You Have What It Takes?
So this is sounding pretty good, but do you have what it takes? Flexibility is the key. You must be willing not only to make a big living move but perhaps a major job change as well. Arnold says teaching experience is a bonus, but not necessary. He says EFL teachers need patience, good public speaking skills, as well as a good command of the English language. The majority of programs also require a university degree. Both Arnold and Carlin warn that neither the course nor the job is all fun and games. Arnold says students are expected to produce and learn a lot of material during their training. After you've secured your first job, Carlin warns that teaching is stressful and a lot of hard work in the beginning. Arnold agrees and he reminds potential teachers that they are responsible for their students improving in all aspects of the language.
Final advice? Carlin says don't let insecurities about finding a job hold you back. Brown advises, "Just do it. It is as easy as buying a carton of milk."