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!

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Is an Online TEFL Course Good Enough?

An Online TEFL Course IS good enough!

I read a lot on the internet that online TEFL training is not perfect and not as good as the stereotypical CELTA or Trinity certifications.

Well . . . by definition an online course is uh . . . well . . . online.  But even the famed CELTA these days is online too.  They do an observed teaching practice face-to-face, but so do most online courses.   It is offered as an option almost everywhere.

So what is the fuss about?

To some degree most people are promoting the specific course they took.  If you took a CELTA, you would be likely to say that only a CELTA is “good enough”.  It is nice that you had the US$1800-2800+ the course can cost and had a month off without pay to take it, but not everyone has that option.

Why Online Courses are Just Fine

Because most countries don’t even require any TEFL training at all.  And most that do, are just fine with online training.  Of the four largest EFL job markets: China, Korea, Thailand and Japan; Japan does not require a certificate. China does and will accept online certificates. Korea will accept online certificates [in 2013 some government programs may require teaching practice as part of the TEFL training and most online courses offer that as well]. Thailand will accept online also if it includes teaching practices. Most online courses offer some sort of teaching practice, just ask if you are not sure.

So then . . . what’s the problem?

Some of the issue is with Americans (I am one, so shuss!).  In the States most any kind of “distance” learning is looked down upon.  Partly because we just aren’t so familiar with it.

The United Kingdom (UK – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for those who aren’t sure) pioneered distance training during the days of their empire.  They had officers, armies and companies all over the world and needed to provide quality training to them.  Families of their employees/representatives needed education too.  So – distance education was born.

What’s GOOD about Distance or Online Education?

What’s good is that you can get the basics about how to teach English without spending a fortune, without taking four to six weeks off work with no pay, and you can still get a good decent idea about how to give your students the knowledge that they paid good money for.

That’s right.  Your Students Pay Money to be in  your Classroom.

Don’t you want to be able to deliver what they have paid for?  No one wants to pay their money to sit in your class if you have no idea about how to effectively teach them English.  No one!  So – if you can’t afford the Full Monty from CELTA, SIT or others . . . get a good online training course so  you have some idea about how to start and how to deliver what your students want.

TEFL is not Rocket Science

Do you need Cambridge, Oxford or Harvard or . . . other training?  No, not really. But you do need the basics of how to go about doing what you are getting paid for.  You don’t want to feel like you are cheating your students.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Online TEFL Training is fine for about 90% of the world’s EFL jobs.  Will it meet the requirements everywhere?  No.  But then again I have a masters degree in education, PGCE in TEFL and about 20 years experience overseas and even I don’t qualify for 100% of the jobs out here.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Do the right thing – get some training so you can deliver what you students have paid for.

TED’s Tips™ #3: Last, but certainly not least, online and distance education is the future of all education. As a result of the skyrocketing costs of most traditional education settings (brick and mortar classrooms), many experts predict a steady movement to online distance education.

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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.

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