Lever Previous Skills to find a Better TEFL Job

A reader of this blog commented the following after reading our post about better targeting your job search:

I was totally unaware that I could use my engineering background and combine it with TEFL. That’s something I will look into deeper.

I assume I would approach engineering companies (local or multi-national), universities that teach engineering, etc?

Would I need any additional training for that type of work?

I see there are Business English certificates. Would I need that?

Good thinking all around!

Use your previous experience to leverage a better role for yourself in your new occupation.

Universities, colleges and even high schools that teach what you have previously studied and the area in which you have worked are the best/perfect fit.  You’ll find like-minded people and you will understand the problems your students are facing in their education.

Even if you were an art major, possibly one of the degrees least likely to help you find a job in our Western culture, an art-oriented school will be more interested in you than in me.  And you are more likely to find common interests that will make your daily life on the job more interesting.

Most extreme of possibilities?  If you have ten years experience flipping hamburgers?  Check out the headquarters of the big chains in your targeted country.   I once taught executives from a major international company how to exchange email and other correspondence with their head office in another country.  All their communication, of course, was in English.

Specialty certificates are useful – but it is probably better to get a more general TEFL Certification just to learn the basics of teaching English first. You already have the specialty language skills of your particular industry.

A good resource would be:


TED’s Tips™ #1: I hope this post gives you some optimism about looking for a GREAT fit, rather than just any job.

Teaching Internships in China

A Real Decision for a New Teacher

Our Featured Monthly Comment/Question – relevant to many newbies . . .

I will be 41 in December. I have a BA in Philosophy and have spent about 5 years as an Associate Teacher [a.k.a. Substitute].

I was offered a job, and awarded E2 Visa sponsorship from a school in S. Korea. At the last minute (days before I was to leave) the recruiter informed me that the school was retracting the offer.

So I figure a TESOL/TEFL Cert. will be a great benefit/ make me more marketable.

Any thoughts or feedback is appreciated.

My response was as follows:

Forty-one isn’t all that old, so don’t count yourself out of the running yet!

In terms of training, the great majority of TEFL programs are fine. TEFL methodology is not rocket science. It is important to know, but most people can master it in only a few weeks. Thus all the four-week courses.

What is important to check is that it meets the generally suggested international standards which are usually thought to be a minimum of 100 hours and preferably at least six hours of observed teaching practice with REAL EFL students (not your teacher trainee peers) and that you receive detailed feedback from an experienced EFL teacher.

All that said, most people would agree that it is best to take your TEFL Certification in the country where you first intend to teach.
That may not be possible in Korea though.

Don’t give up – I was exactly 41 when I took my first EFL job – also in Korea. My first six months were a real mess – but I got past it and the last 17 years have been just fantastic. Nothing wrong with getting all the bumps in the road smoothed out right at first!

Training? Great idea. Though, particularly for Korea I wouldn’t assume that is why things fell apart at the last minute.

Never hurts to build the resume and improve your skills though – can’t hurt!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Building your resume is always a good idea.

TED’s Tips™ #2: If an offer falls through, don’t take it personally. It can mean anything from a teacher the school thought was going to leave decided to stay to a highly qualified candidate just walked in the door and they won’t need to buy a plane ticket for themas they would for you.

Teaching Internships in China

Life Abroad: Finding Yourself – Who are you really?

Spending some time abroad gives you a great opportunity to find out exactly the person you are.  And if you have opportunity to spend time in two or three or more countries, you will be able to define yourself quite well.

Why?  Because when you find yourself in a new land, people there have no expectations about the person you are.  About how you might behave, about what you are like.   No friends, employers or family who feel they need to put you in a preset box because they already know all about you.  Or so they think they do.

This is a real opportunity for you experiment a bit.  Want to be a bit more extroverted?  King of the karaoke room?  Or would you like to learn to take the back seat sometimes and listen more to others?

What happens here is that no one has any expectations, so whatever  you do is just fine with your new friends, companions, coworkers or employer.   Unlocked from that cage of expectations, you are suddenly truly free to find out what feels most comfortable to YOU.

I am not suggesting that you target the new culture and country and grab from there how to behave.  I met a guy once who after a few weeks backpacking in country X decided he would squat like a back country villager when he was in a group of people.

Now – I quite doubt that was real  guy and I am sure he would figure that out himself after a while and maybe he just needed to visit a few more places.  But also, maybe he just needed to experiment with that a bit before he figured out it wasn’t really him.  That he wasn’t really a back country peasant (nothing against back country peasants, mind you . . .).

If you get a bit of practice at it, getting a fresh start in several countries,  you’ll begin to realize just what feels comfortable for you.  And how you might behave free of any outside factors: some social inhibitions apply, of course!

If you are having personal problems or mental health issues, I don’t recommend life overseas as the support system you are used to probably doesn’t exist and won’t be there for you when/if you need it.

But if you are a perfectly healthy person who just wonders what it might be like to be free of the constraints placed on you by being in the same place around the same people for a long time then life abroad for a year or two might be a good fit.

Are you curious what you might be like given the freedom to experiment with yourself a bit?

TED’s Tips™ #1:  I don’t usually write “touchy feely” pieces like this, but I just thought I would stretch my own personal envelope!

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Some Real Basics about How to Teach English

A very common sense question from a reader was this:

I want to ask about functional notional approach in teaching English

I mean how to teach English as a function or as a way to communicate

Simply put the “functional notional approach” is about teaching “functions” – or the uses of the language rather than teaching the more traditional grammar-focused lessons.

I believe that teaching functions is FAR more useful for students and increases their motivation to learn. This is especially true with adult students when you are teaching them occupational language.

What is communication and conversation?

It is simply the back and forth of questions and answers, no?

The best way to think of how to teach functions is to fill in the blank here: Asking and answering questions about ________. (weather, your job, hobbies, your weekend, etc.)

That is a function statement.  The point from which you might begin to build your lesson.

Teaching functions affects student motivation as they can see that there is a REASON for learning the language in the lesson above and beyond just learning how to use, for example, the present perfect continuous forms of verbs. That even puts me to sleep . . .

TED’s Tips™ #1: Teaching functions type lessons really improves the motivation of your students.   One of the best things to do is to ask them what they might want to Ask and Answer Questions about.   Then the lesson is their idea and you know you are teaching something they want to know about.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Once you have the Asking and Answering part down – just build your lesson with the common sense language that would go with it.  Teaching English is not rocket science – but there is a good method to the madness.

Teaching Internships in China

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