Archive for the ‘Teaching Abroad’ Category

TEFL Certification | Why Getting a TEFL Certificate Matters

Posted by Drew On September - 16 - 2009
Teaching English by Alicia Nijdam

Teaching English by Alicia Nijdam

Do you love a challenge? Have a flair for teaching? Are you looking for a way to get out, see the world, and experience a new culture? Then it is official. Teaching English abroad is one of the best options out there for you, and positions are widely available all over the world.


The problem is that you are not the only with this idea and competition for the high paying jobs in exciting countries is heating up. That is exactly why you may want to look into getting your hands on a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate ( TEFL certificate). Now, this isn’t to say that you need one, and there are a plethora of opportunities for you to land a job teaching English without one, but this certificate can really open up the door to the world.


Requirements for Teaching English


It was not long ago that very little was required of English teachers in order to be hired for a teaching position. In fact, in some places all that was required was proof that you were a native English speaker and a degree of some kind. These days that is all starting to change as governments and school administrators are realizing that in order to teach English to students a lot more is required than a simple grasp of the language. In order to be successful, an English teacher abroad must possess planning skills, organization, creativity and have an understanding of the teaching discipline on the whole.


It really isn’t as easy as some people think to walk into a foreign country, with foreign students, and try to teach the intricacies of the English language. Believe me, I know first hand. When I journeyed abroad to start teaching I was under the assumption that it would be like summer camp all over again. (I worked as a summer camp counselor for the better part of 7 years) I really had no idea what I was in for and I could have been much more prepared had I invested in a TEFL course.


Is a TEFL Certificate for Everyone?


Does this mean that I think all people should get their TEFL certificate in order to teach abroad? Does this mean there is no way to land a job without one? Absolutely not. The truth is that I took the hard road, and a large number of institutions are starting to realize that. Even if a TEFL certificate is not required, schools and institutions are going to bump the resumes of certified teachers right up to the top of the list. Not only does that mean that you have a better chance of getting a job teaching English in general, but it also means that you may get first crack at the top rated jobs, the highest paying jobs, and the jobs in the best destinations.


The best part may even be that such a certificate opens up borders at home, as well as around the world. Many teachers who choose to obtain the certification actually opt to stay home and teach ESL rather than move abroad. The point is that the TEFL certificate really is an opportunity to improve your knowledge and provide you with education that can be used for the rest of your life, no matter which career path you ultimately choose.


I have nothing to gain from promoting the certificate and I do not have one of my own. The fact is that the benefits of the course far outweigh any of the drawbacks. When I return home I may never choose to teach English again, but I will be taking a serious look at the TEFL certification program in order to lay down the groundwork and keep borders open for the rest of my life.


Even if you choose to never use your certificate and never move abroad, having it in the back of your pocket can ease your worry and give you the peace of mind that you do have something to fall back on.


That is just my two cents, take it for what it is worth.

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Teach English in Korea | Get a TEFL Job Overseas

Posted by Drew On June - 8 - 2009

An Opportunity to Get Paid to Travel that you Should Grasp

An Opportunity to Get Paid to Travel that you Should Grasp

Korea:  It’s Worth It

By: Curtis Broker

So you want to teach English in Korea?  Well then let me bestow upon you some wisdom that I have acquired having spent a year in Korea and now very much looking forward to going back.  The first time I went over I tackled the whole process cowboy style, found a recruiter and before I knew it I was signing the first contract that came my way.  I had an amazing time my first year don’t get me wrong, but there are just some things that I know now that I wish I knew then. 


The VISA Process for Teaching in Korea

The visa process is ever changing and even in the span of just eighteen months since I applied the first time the requirements have changed.  This is what I would recommend any person do with regards to the order of things that need to get done.  As soon as you know you are going to Korea and will be leaving within 6 months head out and get transcripts from your university (a 3 year degree is required to teach in Korea), and grab a police background check (this needs to be notarized before bringing it to the closest Korean embassy where it will be notarized again).  This should start you on your way to getting all of your things together.  Once you find a job and agree to a contract its all engines go on Fedexing everything over to your school.  Use Fedex because there is Fedex in Korea as well.


The package should contain:

Photocopies of your passport, your original degree, sealed transcripts, criminal background check that has been notarized by someone like a lawyer and the Korean embassy, 4 passport photos, and a signed copy of the contract that you have with the school.


Note there are fees associated with obtaining most of the things on the list so de be prepared to pay for them as well as sending things over isn’t exactly cheap either.


Preparing to Head Abroad to Korea

There are plenty of posts and articles with advice on what to bring to Korea.  People have lots of suggestions and a lot of them are valid.  It is hard to find some things in Korea but you can usually find them and not having most of them isn’t the end of the world.  If you’re over 6 feet and have massive feet consider bringing your own shoes and don’t plan on buying them there.  That being said nothing is impossible to find and things can always also be shipped over to you.  This time when I head back I will be packing a lot less than I did my first time around.  I won’t need all the undershirts, the year’s supply of dental floss, and brand new socks.  For my build which is 6 ft with an athletic frame I had absolutely no problem finding clothes or shoes. 


Flying to Korea

I remember my flight the first time over to Korea was non-stop 14 hours and relatively painless.  You will most likely fly into Seoul but you may very well fly directly into your city as well.  Either way your school should have made arrangements to pick you up or have arranged a ride to where they are located.  Don’t fear not being able to find your way around the airport or to your pick up point.  There are lots of very helpful people working at tourism booths airport staff that are more than happy to help you find your way. 


Living Overseas in Korea

Once settled into your apartment, which should of course be supplied by your employer, you can start to get a feel for what everyday life will be like.  Travel in Korea as extremely easy for everyone without a car.  Get hooked up with a transit card (I believe in Seoul it’s a T-Money card).  You can use this on the bus or subway or even to purchase things from vending machines with just touching it to a sensor.  They make life a lot easier if you will be using public transit often.  Eating is another concern most people have when travelling to a foreign country.  Speaking from experience I really enjoyed the food in Korea and the culture and tradition that surrounds it.  There is a wide variety of new foods that are delicious.  Yes some are spicy but you can ask for things that aren’t, yes, there is a lot of Korean barbeque but even a vegetarian can find meals at these establishments.  There are of course chains that are familiar to us like McDonald’s and Burger King in the larger towns and cities.


Going out on the town can be an absolute riot once you know your way around.  Ask a fellow teacher to show you the hot spots for foreigners in your city.  There is usually a bar or two or three that are frequented by other teachers such as you and often are the meeting places for the best social events such as softball leagues, movie nights, or ski trips.  I wouldn’t recommend going to Korea by yourself and not getting involved in a social circle such as this.  English movies are shown with the original soundtracks and Korean subtitles so there isn’t a problem there, lots of places have the menu in English as well but any language barrier issues are usually over come with a little work. 


Learning the Language While Abroad

As far as learning the language is concerned, things are easier than most would think.  Korean isn’t like Chinese where there are thousands of symbols that each mean something different.  Korean is a phonetic language and the symbols can be explained using sounds in the English language.  I often tell people when talking about learning how to read Korean that it is much like a code language that you may have made up in elementary school to pass secret notes.  That’s at least how I relate it to my life.  With a little hard work you can have the basics of reading Korean down in about two hours.  You won’t know what you are reading but you will be able to sound it out phonetically.  This skill comes in handy when getting around the country; you can use it to double check things with signs that don’t have any English.  Reading the menu is a lot easier when you know what your favourite item’s spelling is.  It also of course goes hand in hand with learning how to speak the language as well.  Getting together with a Korean or joining a language exchange and making a real effort to learn the language and make friends which will greatly enhance your year abroad.


Think about it.  It’s an entire year in another country; make the most of it.  Keep an open mind and try to get out the most you can to experience the culture first hand and don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes.  Koreans are a kind people and are more often than not happy to lend a helping hand.


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The Look of a Potential Classroom

The Look of a Potential Classroom

The internet and job market is flooded with potential opportunities for work as an English teacher abroad. The problem is that there are so many sources focused on getting you to accept the position that no one really gives you the information you need to make an informed decision. Many people find that they end up applying for a job on a whim, or sign up with a recruiter only to be rushed through the entire process. Rushed into making final decisions that will shape their lives for at least the next year such as location, accommodations and even the contract they are signing.


If you really want to enjoy working abroad and getting paid to travel, then it is a necessity to sit down and consider your options. Weigh the negatives against the positives and make a final decision on a schedule that works for you, not the recruiter or company you are working with. The truth is that many schools and companies are in desperate need of a teacher, and there are a lot of scams and shoddy opportunities out there. If you feel pressured, take a step back and ask yourself why. So before you go jumping on a plane towards that perfect sounding job, think some important things over.


Location, Location, Location


All countries have diverse cultures, methods and provide different experiences for all kinds of people with differing interests. You may at first believe that teaching in Asia must be the same, no matter the country. This could not be further from the truth. Do your research, consider the subtle differences and really ask yourself what you want.


What interests do you have? Are you really into winter sports such as skiing, or are you all about the beaches? Is there a certain culture that has always fascinated you or a language you have been dying to learn? Answering these simple questions will give you a lot of insight on which location may offer you the most positive experience to get paid to travel.


Interview YOURSELF First



I urge you to remember that money is not everything. Some countries will pay you more to work there, and there is good reason. Of course a nice, big paycheck looks appealing from your living room couch, but if you cannot hack it out with the job you take, it simply is not worth the effort. Doing something you love and being somewhere you want to be will always allow you to work harder and be more successful. If you have mind numbing student loans or are money hungry, then all the power to you.


However if you are looking to experience new cultures and really get into the opportunity you have, do not let money be a deciding factor. Really and seriously ask yourself what is more important, saving money or having the adventure of a lifetime. This is a question many people fail to ask themselves in the haste of the whole process, and you can regret it rather quickly.


Do you Love Kids or Do you Really Want to Teach?


As you already know, when it comes to teaching abroad you have an almost infinite amount of options, as long as you are appropriately qualified. You can work with adults looking to improve their business English, college students, high school students or even children just getting started in kindergarten. The majority of the job offers you receive will be for teaching positions in private schools where the students will usually be between the ages of 7 and 14. If this isn’t your cup of tea, then keep looking. There are a number of opportunities that may not be readily present at first. Keep looking and do not be in a rush to accept the first job offer you get, even though there will be a lot of pressure to do so.


Consider how you handle children. Do you love one or two cute little kids? Well an entire classroom can be a lot different. If you work better with adults, then seek out a relating job, or vice versa. On major difference to keep in mind between private and public schools is that class sizes are generally much smaller in private academies. You will have a class size between 5-15 students usually, while public schools will throw a healthy, large group of around 45 at you, all at the same time. But then again, public schools offer a whole lot more opportunity for vacation. So once again, be sure to take the time to write down all the pros and cons so you can make a truly, informed decision.


Now in no way am I saying that this article is the be all and end all of getting a job teaching English abroad. There is a whole host of information you need to access and decisions you need to make. I am simply urging you to not get caught up in the entire process and be forced into an uninformed decision. Teaching abroad and finding a way to get paid to travel can truly be one of the best experiences of your life, but it can also swing quickly in the other direction. I have seen people break contracts to go running home, people screwed out of supposedly guaranteed money and seen people have complete nervous breakdowns. Is there a risk involved in teaching overseas? Absolutely. Will every job be cushy, rewarding and beneficial to your overall life plan? Probably not.


Make the Most of your Opportunities


However, you can greatly reduce your chances of having a bad experience, and increase the likelihood that you will have a completely rewarding and satisfying experience, by simply doing your homework. Do not buy into the selfless promotion of companies and recruiters. Many of them will tell you they are offering you the only chance you have, and that a better opportunity will not come along. The fact is that there are thousands of opportunities and hundreds that can fit your interests and desired lifestyle.


If something does not feel right, walk away. If the details of the contract seem unfair, negotiate or turn down the opportunity. The last thing you want to do is gamble on a year of your life just because you succumb to the unnecessary pressure. In the end, the more information you gather and the more questions you ask yourself, the more likely it will be that you have a positive experience. This while in turn make you a better teacher. Live life, have fun and take risks, just make sure they are calculated, and fun will follow you wherever you go.


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It is with great fortune and a bit of luck that I landed my job at one, if not the top private schools in Peru, and South America for that matter. Working with some world class teachers has been a truly wonderful experience. We also have some world class students (one student recently got the top mark in the world for Spanish) and promising young athletes, many of whom represent their country. I knew from the get go what was expected from me as a teacher as I have several cousins who are students in my school and knew what I was getting myself into.

To start with, my colleagues are truly one of a kind, a great staff with a great morale. The kids are simply wonderful, well behaved, hard working (for the most part) and polite. Mostly all students will acknowledge you as you walk by lots even just walking with you for a chat.

The Upper School consists of students 11-18 years of age. Once they complete Secondary 4 (S4) they choose which program they would like to follow: either LN which is the National Program or the IB which is the International Baccalaureate. All students from Secondary 2 and higher receive a laptop. Many classrooms are also equipped with smartboards, projectors and speakers. Our intranet system is excellent and departments are well organized. The school is English speaking, with some classes in Spanish and French (depending on the subject).

Because of the school I am employed at, there is a lot of pressure put on both students and teachers alike to remain at the forefront of education in South America. With that being said, the school day runs from 7:25am to 2:40 pm. There is a 20 minute registration/tutor period followed by eight 40 minute lessons. There are breaks between every two periods (20, 10 and 50 minutes in length). The average teacher teaches 28 lessons a week, some more others less. Each teacher also has yard duty once a week.

Some teachers are ‘tutors’ for the pastoral program which involves monitoring a group of students and doing various activities which relate to their well-being. During my first year as a tutor, I had a great group of students, each with a unique personality which added to the colourful classroom environment. Getting to know my tutees I found to be pretty easy, maybe because I was young or it could be that I shared my personal experiences with them which got them to open up. Either way, I could probably say that what I experienced as a tutor are experiences that not many teachers have throughout their careers. This year I am a tutor once again for the same year group but with a mixed up group of students that are just as wonderful as the previous year.

Moving on….during the first and third bimesters, staff are expected to run two activities a week. During the second and fourth bimesters staff members are expected to take part in supporting one of the four houses where there are a wide range of sports activities. Our house system it truly amazing and the students show a great deal of sportsmanship and support for others while still competing to win. Today, for instance, during house mini-sports I saw a student from one house helping a student from another house and showed him how to properly hold, aim and shoot a bow and arrow. These students are truly exceptional.

Being a Geography teacher has allowed me to travel around the country with students. During all outdoor education camps, students are required to do a Geography component. I have had the opportunity to go to the jungle three times in a year and a bimester, to Huaraz and St.Eulalia. For a Geography teacher, Peru is heaven as we have the ‘costa’, ‘sierra’ y ‘selva’.

Another aspect of school life at my school is service. Both staff and students invest a great deal of time in raising money for service projects. Our main goal is to help the less fortunate people of Peru to improve their quality of life. In the time I have been employed at my school the staff and students were responsible for doing earthquake relief work which consisted of rebuilding a school, building community centers (37 in total over the year) and ovens for the community centers. I have taken part in a service project where myself and a colleague took a group of 20 students to Cusco and built a greenhouse for a rural community at 4200masl. These kids ranged from 14-18 years of age and had to battle altitude, long days of hard work (including carrying logs 2km up a mountain) in cold and rainy weather. I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things to do in my life and to think that this group of 14-18 year olds created an 80 squared meter greenhouse is truly unbelievable in my eyes.

I have been involved in a service project where we went to a National Reserve and cleaned a 100 squared meter area of beach as well as constructed two eco-bathrooms. Students even take initiative and create their own service projects. I’ll be overseeing a student led project to build two community centers and two eco-bathrooms (of which is a design created by one of the students).

In the classroom, management issues are not much of a problem as the system in place is very effective and again, the students are wonderful. I have had classes that range from 18-28 students. Class sizes will surely get smaller in the following few years as the school is preparing to renovate and expand the school facilities.

I could go on and on about life at my school but that would probably turn this article into a novel. Simply stated, from my perspective working at a private school in Peru is absolutely great.

If you’re looking to get a job, I would research the British and American private schools in Lima and visit their websites (to name a few: Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Markham College, Newton College, San Silvestre, Colegio Peruano Britanico). They generally post job opportunities on their websites and it’s simply a matter of sending your cover letter and CV into the human resources department. Speaking about my school in particular, if the right teacher isn’t found to fill the position, that position will go unfulfilled until the proper candidate is found. You should have a teaching qualification, experience as a classroom teacher and be a native speaker of the English language.

Living in Lima is great. The cost of living is relatively low and the pay is half decent. Peru is a developing country with many opportunities. The gastronomy is amongst the best around the world and the native Peruvian drink is “Pisco”, a few Pisco Sours and you’ll be feeling good. Most people say to be careful in Lima, I would say just be aware. The worst that will happen to you is either getting pick pocketed or a B & E. Touch wood, nothing has happened to me. The people are friendly and will always give you the time of day. I have been traveling to Lima since I was a baby and I can see the changes Lima has made over the years, all for the better.

Traveling this great country is relatively cheap and there are too many places that you can visit, I won’t get into that as you can check out your Lonely Planet.

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