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

IT People Make GREAT EFL Teachers

Technology = TEACHnology = Good TEFL Method

This comes up so often that it is worth talking about.  This is actually the first time – and possibly the last – I have ever written specifically to a particular occupational group.  Strange?  But not.

Yes, people who work in information technology (IT) – in my experience as a teacher trainer – often make the BEST EFL/ESL teachers.

What?  Why?

I’ve taught a lot of IT people to be teachers and I have also communicated with a lot of them about changing their careers.  Something about IT seems to encourage people to get OUT.  Perhaps it is the cubicle work environment or even the tedium that can come with systems design and work.

If you work in IT and are thinking of a career change – TEFL may be a pretty good choice for you.  Why do IT people do so well?  It is largely because of the step-by-step process by which they are used to analyzing their work.   It is very method intensive.  This works, so you add a step.  If something doesn’t work you back up step-by-step until you can make it work – then you begin to add steps again.

Step-by-Step Method is great for TEFL

That kind of careful analysis and that method of approaching problems is exactly what your EFL students need.  That kind of method translates super well to designing lessons for your students.   And with so much practice, IT people just seem to “get it” much faster than other TEFL trainees.  They are very used to and familiar with PLANNING what they do.  And if it doesn’t work – going back and taking it apart piece by piece to find out why it didn’t work.

This kind of approach, which is second nature to IT people, is often difficult for TEFL trainees (EFL teachers in training) to get a good handle on.


I remember taking a FORTRAN class back in 1970 or so – and it taught me some good skills that I still use today.

So . . . IT people – all I am saying is that if you wonder if you might do well in TEFL.  My answer will almost always be YES, you probably will do very well.

For the rest of us non-techies, we can do pretty well too, but sometimes we struggle with the process.  Not a big deal – it’s not rocket science – pretty much everyone gets it during their training, it’s just that it comes very naturally to the IT folks.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you work in IT and you wonder if TEFL will be easy or difficult for you, I am telling you here that it will likely be a very good transition for you.  Go for it!

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

Entry Level Skills for Teaching English

Someone recently asked me – referring to a TEFL Training program – the following:

Do I really need to get this advanced training?

Well, I wouldn’t call TEFL Training, either online or in a classroom “advanced” training.  Really it should be considered entry-level training.

What other new career that would allow you to see the world requires so little training?  Four weeks at the most?

While many people do start teaching without any formal training at all, please give some consideration to your new life abroad and to doing things “right” from the outset.

Teaching English should not be about doing the bare minimum to get the job and paycheck.  This is a whole new life and lifestyle that you are heading to and give some serious thought to starting your new life out properly.  Make your new life an opportunity to create positive change in yourself and the world at large.

I am not suggesting that you should be a naive person who is trying to “save the world”.  But rather that you take note of your contribution to the lives of your students and show up for them well prepared to give them what they have paid for.

Some people think that just because they can speak English they can teach it.  And – no – they can’t.  There are a lot of really horrible teachers out there and you will see that when you ask some of your students where they learned something that they did incorrectly.  Just as often as not, it was native speaker who didn’t adequately explain or teach a concept.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Do it right, get some training before you stand in front of a classroom.  Your students are really hoping that you can help them.

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