Have you ever wanted to get away for a while? I mean, really away . . . a foreign country, for example. Have you ever wanted to live there and get a chance to meet the local people? Teaching English as a foreign language is a way to live abroad, pay your bills, and meet local people in a comfortable English speaking environment. It will never make you rich, but it’s an experience that you’ll never forget.
But there are a few things you should know.
The first thing you should do is to take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. This course should be at least four weeks of full-time study that includes six or more hours of observed teaching practice with non-native English speaking students. There are three different kinds of TEFL certificates, a CELTA, a TESOL, and unaffiliated. CELTA and TESOL granting schools are affiliated with language academies in Cambridge and Trinity respectively. These institutions create the itinerary, set guidelines for the staff of tutors, and manage the overall standards of things like the library and teaching materials. In effect, they are quality control agents, and they have the final say as to who receives and who does not receive a teaching certificate. Independent or unaffiliated TEFL schools may be better, just as good, or worse; it all depends. (Please know, however, that many language schools will only hire those holding CELTA and TESOL certificates.)
The itinerary of any good TEFL school should include a lecture about preparing a CV/resume; when applying for a teaching job, the expectations are a little different, just as they are different depending upon which country you’re applying to. Also, any good school should provide you with a long list of potential employers. From there, the simplest way to do it is to send an e-mail with a letter of introduction and your CV/resume as part of the main text to any and all schools that peek your interest. Don’t be shy! Send 20, 50, 100 at a time. Remember, you can’t send too many! After that, don’t simply wait by your inbox. Surf the net looking for leads, get out and talk to people, meet working teachers, they will know the job market better than you. (Getting a recommendation from a working teacher is the best recommendation you can get!)
Don’t give up when your inbox isn’t flooded with responses. Language schools rarely keep applicants’ files. If a school is not hiring at that moment, they may simply delete your e-mail. If one of their teachers has just quit, they may be desperate to hire you as quickly as possible. Never underestimate luck and timing. So be persistent. After a month, feel free to call a school to inquire about work and ask if they have received your CV/resume. After three months, feel free to e-mail your CV/resume again. Managers at schools come and go rather quickly.
Please know that most language schools begin their contract years in September and that they usually run for 9-10 months. So don’t expect to get a job in May. Unless it’s at some summer camp for children. Job openings do occur year round, but as a general rule of thumb, new classes begin in September.
Once you do get an interview, the most important thing is to speak clearly. It may be likely that the person interviewing you will not be a native English speaker. If that person has to struggle to understand you, you won’t get the job. Also, be prepared to take a grammar lesson on the spot; if you pass that, you may be asked to return the following week and give a mock lesson.
Don’t expect to obtain full-time employment straight away. In some places, yes, but in others, this is not the case. Many employers will only offer you part-time work at first, basically, it’s an on the job “trial.” Almost always, these will be the least desirable teaching assignments. If you can survive these, you’ll be rewarded with better jobs and longer hours.
As stated above, you’ll never get rich teaching English as a foreign language, and in fact, it’s pretty easy to find yourself a few hundred dollars in the red after all is said and done after a year teaching abroad. But just remember that you’re not doing it for the money. The money you lose will be the best money you can ever lose.