It Takes All Kinds to Teach English

Just who will my colleagues abroad be?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a career embraced by a diverse group of people.  Don’t be shocked when you learn the backgrounds of your new coworkers!

Like, Who?

Most EFL teachers are just like you and me.  They’re interested (and interesting!), adventurous people who saw a great chance and jumped at a life abroad.

For example, not too long ago I had dinner with a Chicago attorney who had just attained his TEFL certification.

Besides lawyers, I’ve come across hotel managers, sports coaches, manual laborers, former soldiers, social workers, businesspeople, a factory manager, a ship’s pilot, reporters, therapists, salespeople, public school teachers, a petroleum engineer, and…well, those are only the ones I’ve asked! While it’s always interesting to find out what someone did before they chose to go into teaching abroad, I’ve ceased being surprised. There is just so much diversity of background among English teachers.

So, why are they teaching abroad?

There are thousands of reasons a person may switch careers and start teaching overseas, but the best one may be, simply, “why not?”

I occasionally overhear someone say that so-and-so has “run away” from their home country or “escaped [insert country’s name here].” I don’t like to think of it in those terms—in my experience it’s more likely that ESL teachers are running TO a new, interesting, exciting and fulfilling lifestyle. They are grabbing their dream of seeing the world and making the most out of life. The reasons they first come abroad are as diverse as the teachers themselves.

OK, but why do they stay abroad?

There are many reasons why someone would go abroad and why they would stay abroad. I think most people who live abroad long-term do it because they love it.  They’ve fulfilled their personal and monetary goals and don’t feel pressured to “go home.” For myself, I recently retired abroad—not my plan originally, of course—and I love it!

I may be an exception, however, as most EFL teachers will find themselves pulled “home” eventually. But I’ve decided “home” is now a wonderful, tropical island which I may never move away from!

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Take a few moments of self-reflection and explore what YOUR reasons are for wanting to teach English overseas. When you do this, though, don’t pressure yourself to come up with some cast-iron “heavy” reasons. Maybe you’ve just got good old-fashioned curiosity!

TED’s Tips™ #2:  The next time you browse a forum where expats discuss life and work abroad, pose the question of what people did for a living before they transitioned to a new country. The answers and the diversity of people and careers may well surprise you!



Teaching English Abroad: Realistic Expectations

We get a lot of questions here from people thinking about teaching English abroad. Some of these questions are missing all logic and practical reasoning, a lot of these questions, relating to working abroad, are asked with totally unrealistic and unreasonable expectations!

Here are some statements and questions which have made their way to me:

“Of course the school will plan long paid vacations as they will want me to travel around their country.”

“I don’t need to wear a suit and tie, do I?” asked by someone who will be teaching at a university.

“How will I negotiate my ‘relocation package’?” asked by someone who is off to a country where airfare, accommodation and other relocation costs are not included

“Should I ask the students any questions?”  from someone who will be teaching Conversational English.

“I won’t need any training as we will just chat, right?”

Let’s set the record straight now…Teaching English abroad is not about YOU! It is all about the school that has students who need your help!

Sorry to disappoint you, but you are not doing them a favor touring their country thus they will not plan or give long paid vacations to you (unless you land a good university position). And don’t expect a ‘relocation package’ unless you have a graduate degree with lots of experience!

Unfortunately, of course, YES, they might like you to wear a suit and tie in some schools.

And again, YES, you should ask your students questions!  Or do you plan to talk about yourself the whole time?

To receive English education from an English native is a privilege in many countries.  They pay a lot of money to attend your class and they will expect you to meet their needs.

Use your common sense when heading abroad, the basics of how to seek work and how to succeed at a new job will be the same all around the world.

Dress for success

My tip to you is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If your fellow foreign teachers dress in ragged jeans, t-shirts and flip flops does that mean you should do it too? Dress in the same way your host country co-workers are dressed, if it’s a suit and tie (common for university jobs) you better suit up!

“Should I ask the students any questions?” Please. Yes. Ask them!

Your students need to talk to practice, to get more confident and familiar with the language and gain experience. You might think that you are an interesting foreigner and you might be…but only for a few minutes.  You can’t expect people to pay to sit in a class just to hear all about you? Students need to talk, help them to talk about themselves (which they will find much more interesting – don’t we all?) rather than you talking about yourself!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Dress for Success

Dress as your local co-workers dress, not as other foreigners. This is your career, take charge!

TED’s Tips™ #2: Be prepared to teach!

When you arrive on the job, be ready and prepared to teach! You can’t just walk into a class anymore and expect to have random chats with your students, prepare and be ready to teach new skills to your students.  Dazzle your employer and co-workers with your readiness. Learn how to teach and know what you are doing before you arrive, it just takes practice!  Get some training.

Teaching Internships in China

Experienced and Qualified Teacher wants to Teach English Abroad

We frequently hear from people who are qualified teachers, some who are even teachers of English as a first language in their home country.

IF you are a qualified teacher in your home country with a few years experience, you might want to check out for positions in international schools.

International schools will tend to pay as well as good schools in your home country, but will provide a lot of extras such as paid/reimbursed airfare, long paid vacations, free tuition for two or more dependents attending their school and some schools will even pay for your accommodation and local taxes.

Quite good packages.

You can usually teach in your special area as well, instead of having to switch over to teaching English.  If you are just finishing university and about to start teaching locally, do consider doing that for a couple years before heading overseas as your wages overseas in a similar position will be significantly better than if you were teaching English at a language school, public school or college/university in a foreign land.

Most international schools will want you to have a couple years of experience in your home country’s public schools before they will hire you.

If you are going to Teach English as a Foreign Language, do get some training as teaching English as a foreign language is a different than teaching it as a first language and the way you present language to your students is different.  Their needs and motivations will also be significantly different.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you are an experienced teacher in your home country, check out international schools as your best possible option.  If you do intend to teach English abroad, get some basic training as EFL is different from ESL.

Teaching Internships in China

“Winging it” in TEFL: It’s Just Teaching English . . .

A reader in our comments section once wrote: I think I could wing it.

Well . . . maybe you can!
Or maybe you can’t.

After all, many people think that if you can speak English, you can teach it.  But, I don’t really agree with that idea.

There are effective ways of teaching English and there are ineffective ways and most untrained teachers have no idea what really works and what doesn’t.  And one of the most difficult and frustrating issues for learners of English is pronunciation and untrained newbies almost never know how to teach pronunciation in a useful way that helps their students.

What many people are proposing when they suggest “winging it” is to go to a developing country and take the money of poor people who are paying what is for them a LOT of money to sit in your classroom.  These people are paying good money hoping that you know what you’re doing and hoping that you will impart skills that will improve their future.

Is that really the approach you want to take in starting your new life abroad?  I hope not.

Even the most basic of online TEFL training classes can help you understand the basics of method and give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t.  And that you need to minimize “teacher talk time” and why.

Come on, get some training.  Feel good about what you are doing and do it right.  It really is as simple as that.

TEFL Training isn’t rocket science and even just a bit of good basic training can make a huge difference in what you deliver to your students and how much they learn.  And if they feel they are getting their money’s worth from you or are being scammed.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Deliver what your students are paying for.  They deserve your best efforts.  They really do!  Get some training.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China

How do I Find my First TEFL Job?

Landing that First Job Teaching English Overseas

The TEFL Job Search

This is, for me, the fun part. You’ll find hunting for a job teaching English overseas much less humiliating that the job hunt back home. In fact, not humiliating at all.

Schools and companies overseas actually NEED and WANT you! WoW! Kind of a nice self-esteem thing . . . and the first dramatic change that this life can bring to you.

This is a short page as I want you to get to work on this dream of yours – that can be a reality in just a few weeks!

Now that you have made the decision, I will allow myself, just for a brief moment, to be a salesman for the TEFL Career. Preaching to the choir, so to speak.

A Short Personal Story

My wife and I sometimes look at each other and say, “Would you ever have imagined, a year before we left (almost 20 years ago!), that we could have done all the things we have done? That we would have worked and lived in so many countries? That we would have been able to travel to so many different countries? That we could have learned and experienced so much?” Our answer is always, “Nope, could never have imagined it!” It still surprises us!

This life can be real for you!

One of the very best places to look for information is over at, a website I wrote some years ago to help answer all the questions people were asking me. The TEFL Job Search section there is better than anything you will find elsewhere on the Web.

Go ahead, fantasize a bit – cruise the jobs boards at: Dave’s ESL Cafe, ESL Jobs Now and even at

TED’s Tips™ #1: This is the time to branch out and check every jobs website you can find. Contact employers. You’ll be amazed at how easy it really is.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China