Short-term TEFL Jobs

This is another post inspired by a comment on the website.  A reader wrote:

I thought about doing short term contracts over the space of about 1 year i.e. 4 months in say 3 countries. Would I be best to apply in country?

Devil’s advocate here . . . my response follows below and it will likely be unpopular with a certain segments of the TEFL crowd, but I will try to give you a good understanding of the issues at hand.

Here we go . . .

I am not a big fan of short-term contracts as they usually meet the needs of the teacher and do very little for the schools/students involved.

My personal opinion is that it takes even a skilled and experienced teacher a couple months to really get to know a school/culture/country/group of students and to become really effective. So . . . about the time you will become useful to a school, your thoughts will have already moved on to your next assignment and you will soon be gone.

I realize that is a rather harsh view of short-term teaching, but it is what I have observed during my 20+ years abroad.

Students, particularly younger students, need some consistency in their lives and classrooms and in their teachers.

Just as an analogy, have you ever worked a job where you got a new boss every three or four months?  I have and I well remember a different focus with each one.  Each one thought different things were more important.  What was stressed by one, was ignored by another or we were even told that the old way was the wrong way.   Where does something like take a student?

Also, in the past, when you knew you were going to leave a job in the next month or two, did you always give 100%?  Or was your mind wandering on to the next job?

I’m not totally against short-term teaching jobs – really.  Summer and winter camps where everyone – including the student – knows this is going to be a short-term intensive program, that’s a different story.

But  do, please, put the student foremost in your mind if you wish to be a teacher.  They need to come first.  If that is an unpopular view then so be it.

TED’s Tips™ #1: It is only fair that we think about how our behavior affects our students.  Teachers coming and going can have a pretty negative effect on students.  I am sure there are teachers who can handle this to the betterment of their students, but I have not met many of them.


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