Teaching English Abroad- Getting qualified
In the few months I’ve been working on the Careers Service Welcome Desk I’ve come across many students asking about teaching English abroad. It’s lead me to reflect on my experience – 3 years teaching English in Cambodia, which I would describe as one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences of my life.
‘So, what are you going to do now?’
When I graduated in Sociology I was faced with the dreaded question ‘So what are you going to do now?’ I had entertained the idea of doing a PGCE, but didn’t feel ready to commit to a career in teaching. After travelling in Southeast Asia and meeting a lot of English teachers I decided that teaching English seemed the most realistic job option for me if I wanted to work abroad. Whilst travelling I met people from a broad range of educational backgrounds; some had PGCEs, others had done online TEFL courses, and some had no qualifications at all. None of them seemed to have difficulty finding teaching work, however, a recurring theme in my conversations was that the more qualified teachers worked in better schools, had greater job security, and higher pay.
I returned to England with one goal – to get back to the sun, smiles, and cheap beer of South-East Asia as soon as possible! I planned to do a 100-hour online teaching course for around £250, alongside working full-time as a waitress. As I was living with my parents at the time (thanks Mum and Dad!) I worked out I could be on a plane to Bangkok to start my new life within 6 months! However, when I relayed my plan (with much zest) to my dad, he advised that I invest the time and money and gain a qualification that would be recognized by accredited teaching organisations both abroad and the UK. Gaining a recognised qualification could be beneficial in developing a teaching career in the future. My Dad was an ESL lecturer at University of Bristol so I realised that his comments were informed, and subsequently took his advice by investing in a more in-depth training course which resulted in a recognised qualification – the Trinity Cert TESOL.
Back to school
The Trinity Cert TESOL is a 5-week intensive teacher training course comprising modules in Teaching Skills, Language Awareness, Learning an Unknown Language and Reflecting on the Experience, and a Material Assessment. I observed English lessons taught by both experienced TESOL teachers and my peers, and had weekly teaching observations in which I planned and taught English lessons to International students wanting supplementary lunchtime sessions alongside English courses. These sessions were assessed, and I was given feedback and ways to improve after each session. For me this was the most valuable part of the course as it gave me an idea of how much work needed to be put into planning a lesson, and the importance of building rapport with the students. I would have not have gained this insight from doing the 100-hour online course!
The Trinity Cert TESOL
Doing the 5-week Trinity Cert TESOL course was incredibly challenging. I got up at 5.30am to finish lesson plans, studied after school to meet assessment deadlines, and dreamt about grammar and phonology at night! But the hard work paid off, and after 5 weeks I was a qualified TESOL teacher and, as a result, when I went to Cambodia a couple of months later I was able apply for jobs in the well-established international schools that paid better than the local public ones. I got a job at the Australian Centre for Education who trained me to deliver lessons preparing students for IELTS. This is The International English Language Testing System which measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. Having this experience enhanced my CV and helped me secure future jobs. Working at The Australian Centre for Education was a very valuable experience. I built a portfolio of teaching resources, got feedback and advice from experienced colleagues, and taught students of different ages and abilities.
Was it worth it?
Having a TESOL qualification enabled me to get a better teaching job,but doing the qualification gave me the skills I needed to each, and in both senses, it was definitely worth it. Also, although I have decided not to pursue a career in teaching at this stage in my life the transferable skills I developed in doing the qualification.
Working as a teacher, and living abroad have all greatly enhanced my employability and my self-development so it was worth it in that sense too. I would therefore recommend that anyone considering teaching English abroad to do the Trinity cert TESOL or its CELTA equivalent. Information the CELTA course can be found on the University of Bristol CELFS website.