Many people, particularly students in their final year, consider the idea of teaching English abroad after graduating, and why not? It provides the opportunity to travel and the chance to live in a new and exciting country, whilst earning a very respectable wage and gaining incredible experience for your CV. Having finished your TEFL course, you may be left wondering the best way to go about using the qualification. In order to answer some FAQ’s and gain some “insider’s” advice, I interviewed Richard Davie, Head of Teacher Training at TEFL Iberia in Barcelona, who was more than willing to offer LSMedia readers an insight into the world of teaching abroad.
LSMedia: Prior to signing up for a TEFL course, many students may be torn between attending a workshop, over a weekend, in person or doing the course online in their own time. Do you feel there is a difference in the level of preparation for the classroom a TEFL student receives online in comparison with that received in face-to-face courses?
Richard Davie: Face-to-face courses always trump online courses. Online courses are good for theory and grammar which are important but a very large part of teaching is classroom management (organising students, giving instructions, setting tasks, correcting, encouraging participation, interacting with students, etc) which are hard to cover adequately in an online course. A good analogy is like learning to drive without getting in a car!
LSMedia: I have heard many stories of people signing up with various ‘teach abroad’ companies who they, ultimately, felt mistreated and unsupported by. What advice would you offer newly qualified TEFL teachers in searching for a suitable company? Or would you advise to avoid them completely and apply directly to schools?
RD: It’s best to cut out the agency and go straight to the school. Schools are very easy to contact and are always looking for new teachers so there’s no need to go via an agency. Some people like having the feeling of support by companies who will place them in schools, but as a new teacher in a new country you’ll find there’s already quite a lot of support – you won’t be the only teacher and the expat community is incredibly supportive. There’s always a great feeling of camaraderie amongst new people in a foreign country.
LSMedia: Many TEFL job vacancy adverts state that applicants must have a minimum of 100 hours TEFL qualification. In order to be eligible for a TEFL job following completion of the course, what would you say was the minimum number of hour’s TEFL necessary? If above 100, what is the purpose of the courses consisting of less hours?
RD: All things being equal, the best course to complete is the 120-hour intensive month training, as you will cover all the theory, get plenty of teaching practice, observe lots of other teachers in action and, if the course is good, they’ll have a reliable careers service to help you find a job afterwards. Different courses exist for different budgets. The weekend courses are good for a very general overview of what to expect on a month course and what it’s like as a teacher. The 120-hour course requires a month of full-time commitment so people want to be sure they are going to like it. Other courses, such as a week-long 30-hour course also exist for smaller budgets. They are also designed for people who may already have a little experience and they want to brush up on their skills and get some new ideas for the classroom.
LSMedia: What general proportion of TEFL job vacancies also include accommodation? And if a prospective teacher was to opt for this, would they be normally be situated with other teachers?
RD: If you go via an agency you’re most likely to have an accommodation option and yes, you’d be with other teachers. As far as I know in Barcelona there are no schools that offer accommodation, but they will certainly tell you where to find affordable accommodation (it’s quite easy).
LSMedia: A friend of mine is currently studying in China and is teaching in a school nearby, alongside his studies. He does not have a TEFL qualification and is earning around £15 an hour. Of course, this must vary between organisations, however, how much is a qualified TEFL teacher likely to earn in a) Europe, b) South America c) Asia?
RD: In China it’s extremely easy to find a teaching job if you look western and have a basic command of English. They’ll literally approach you in the street and offer you a job in their school. This is bad in the long run though as there are many hopelessly under-qualified teachers managing large groups of children without much learning taking place. £15 an hour sounds right for China, in south-east Asia it’s about half of that, Europe is anything from 12-20€ depending on experience and who you’re teaching (less for kids, more for adults/ business) South America varies a lot, but in a large city like Buenos Aires you can expect about 15€ an hour.
Thanks a lot Richard for all your honest and informative answers!
Whether you are looking for advice on using your TEFL, or considering signing up for a course, there is no need to feel overwhelmed about the prospect of moving to another country. With such a large support network, an impressive salary as well as extra benefits, you are sure to have an incredible time. Do the right research, apply to some schools and just go. In two years’ time you could be living and working in China, South Korea, Argentina, Turkey or Thailand- wherever your fancy takes you.