You ordered a WHAT?1
The language barrier can often pose a problem when ordering in restaurants. We share a few funny moments and give some tips on getting your point across.
Ordering in a restaurant in Thailand can sometimes be hit and miss. And while staff in tourist areas will have some knowledge of English, there are still often errors due to miscommunication. Before we get in to how you can avoid some of these common pitfalls when ordering, let’s look at a few examples of what we mean. Of course we’ve had many of our own experiences and have learnt by trial and error, but to get a broader spectrum, we posed the question of ‘what went wrong’ to several expats on the island. Here are a few replies, listed anonymously to protect the businesses concerned:
One mistake that kept popping up is asking for a glass of white wine, and being brought the WiFi password. Go on, say it out loud. See? It’s an easy mistake to make. Sometimes the reverse happens too and you’ll end up having a few drinks when all you wanted to do was answer your emails, as you feel too bad to send back that glass of wine. One local lady ordered a glass of Bailey’s Liqueur and got brought a bay leaf on a plate – wonder what the waiter thought she wanted that for?
Another drinks related episode – one of our visitors asked for a single espresso, and got given a Singha beer instead. And as one expat described, “I ordered a Cuba Libre in one bar, and got told ‘no have’, so I ordered a rum and coke instead – and got one.” Right, so here’s the first tip:
Unless the establishment has the quirky name of the drink on their menu, where you can literally point and order, stick to calling it what it actually is, as the case above points out. So, rather than ordering a ‘Screwdriver’, order a vodka and orange juice. You may just find the barman running down to the maintenance room… and in much the same way, it’s probably best not to ask for your scotch ‘on the rocks’, but rather with ice.
Sometimes, you have to wonder what the poor waiter must think of you, when you discover the miscommunication. Another expat recalls asking a bartender if he could make ‘Jaegerbombs’, and he promptly came back with the phone number of the local drug dealer. Oh dear. Yet another embarrassing story is that of regular visitors to the island. They asked at a local café where they could try a Thai barbecue… only to be told that the temple was ‘burning a monk’ the next day, so they should go down there. Not quite what they had in mind.
Menus themselves are often cause for confusion. Some are obvious spelling errors, easy enough to decipher, and you’ll commonly see ‘snakes’ instead of shakes, and ‘French fried’ instead of fries. And then there’s the tongue in cheek faux pas, ‘orgasmic’ vegetables instead of, you guessed it, organic.
Don’t be alarmed if you read ‘horse shit crap’ on the menu. It’s meant to read as ‘horse shoe crab’. Again, fried crap in curry sauce is more delicious than it sounds. And on a breakfast menu we once saw 'cockroaches' instead of coco pops listed under the cereals, the manage wondered why they weren't too popular with the children!
But other times, you just have to wonder what on earth is meant with menu items such as ‘Fried pork with pour the page’, or ‘Fried pork with the cotton that stops’. Evidently, Google translate has missed the mark with these.
Another tip would be to learn a few food names of your favourite dishes or ingredients. Just as important would be the names of items that you’re allergic to or can’t eat, such as peanuts or seafood. For the vegetarians, say ‘gin jae’ and you’ll be fine. Many restaurants now put pictures next to the menu items, which help a lot. And to avoid mispronunciation, it’s often better to point at the menu when ordering. Sometimes, the item is written in Thai underneath, making it easier for the waiter to get it right.
When placing your order, a couple of things will help to actually get what you ordered. So remembering the barman with the screwdriver and rocks, the same applies to food. Don’t use idioms such as ‘sunny side up’ or ‘easy over’ when talking about eggs, or ‘blue’ when you want your steak only seared. Remember too that the waiter is dealing with customers of many nationalities, so your ‘ketchup’ may be another’s ‘tomato sauce’, or ‘chips’ may be ‘French fries’.
When placing your order, speak slowly and clearly. Focus on clearly enunciating and slowing down, but without sounding like a stretched tape. Speak naturally, but without connecting your words, even if you’re pressured for time. Don’t rush through your communication, as doing so often takes more time, as misunderstanding can result and you’ll ultimately have to invest additional time in clearing up the confusion – or just accepting what got delivered to your table. Point to the item listed on the menu, to back up what you’re saying.
Be patient. Cross-cultural communication takes more time and you can’t expect
communication to occur with the same speed and ease as when you’re communicating with someone from your own culture. Relax, enjoy the view, and remember to say, ‘mai pen rai’, when things go wrong. For those not in the know, this is a common Thai phrase that basically translates to ‘no worries’, while at the same time, accepting the situation for what it is. Another important point – be careful not to sound patronising – not understanding another language does not mean the person is of lower intelligence. And speaking louder is no solution, yet common to witness.
So take note of the tips above, but if the wrong dish arrives, sometimes it’s better to just accept it. You never know, you may have just accidentally discovered your new favourite dish! The universe works in mysterious ways…
This is a much-asked question in the TEFL world. The simple answer is yes… but with limitations. Here’s the low-down.
Several TEFL locations require you to have a bachelor’s degree (as well as a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA) to teach English. Why is this?
Well, most of the time it is due to work permit requirements. For example, in Thailand, you cannot get a work permit as a teacher without a degree – this is not for all work permits, but specifically one as a TEACHER. You will, on the rare occasion, find teachers in Thailand without a degree, who actually DO have a work permit, but in these cases, they are most likely listed as ‘teaching assistant’ or ‘language consultant’ or perhaps they are teaching in a resort or other industry, where it isn’t required. These jobs are few and far between however, and MOST teaching jobs will require you to have a degree in order to teach and do so via the legal route, with a work permit.
Other countries that also require a degree in order to get a work permit are China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea. Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia often require a PGCE or Ed degree.
Yes, you will hear of people teaching without degrees in these locations, but chances are slim that they are doing so with a work permit, and are most likely there on a tourist or other visa. In some countries, such as Vietnam, you’ll find the majority of teachers are teaching without the correct paperwork… and getting away with it. Other countries are much stricter. Whether you want to take the chance of getting caught is up to you, and not something we advise. Getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country is never advised.
Sometimes a job listing will state that a degree is required, even if it’s not a requirement for the work permit application. Why is this? Often, students or their parents have a strong preference for teachers with degrees, as they believe they will be more professional after investing several years in further education, and hence the school can draw more students by citing that their teachers have degrees.
So what are your options for teaching if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree?
There are countries that can issue a work permit without a degree, such as Cambodia, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Russia, Peru and Spain. Most South and Central American countries do not require a degree, as do many countries in Europe, although these sometimes give preference to an EU passport holder, as it means no work permit is required. The only SE Asian country that does not officially require a degree is Cambodia.
Another option for non-degree holders is teaching online. This has become popular, and the pay can be very lucrative, with average salaries being 15-20USD/hour. Often a demo lesson is required, and you do need to have a good internet connection with a quiet location, a TEFL certificate and a bubbly personality to keep the attention of your online student. A few online companies do require their teachers to have a degree, but there are many which don’t. At Samui TEFL we provide our trainees with a comprehensive list of online teaching companies.
For those who are only after the experience of teaching while travelling, then volunteer teaching with no remuneration is also an option.
Many non-degreed teachers decide that they love teaching and want to make a full-time career of it, and therefore choose to obtain a bachelor’s degree in order to increase their work prospects. They often do so by studying online with a reputable university, while working at the same time.
So it’s not all bad news for those who want to explore the TEFL world and don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
If you’d like a detailed info pack, email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is TEFL?
Welcome to the Wonderful World of TEFL!
TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This little but well-used acronym describes the industry, the profession and all the courses you can take to qualify as a teacher. TEFL can be temporary or permanent. Some people do it as a career break, others a gap year as it's a great way of earning money whilst travelling and discovering new cultures and civilisations. Other people consider TEFL at a later stage in life and then use it to cushion their finances, at home or overseas. With TEFL being such an exciting and challenging industry, it as no surprise that some people end up doing it all their lives.
Why do a TEFL course?
At Samui TEFL we see how many of our students are inspired to change their lives. Everyone has their own story or reason for this. Some - in fact most - are tired of the 'rat race'. Day dreaming while staring out of their 10th floor office windows, they wonder how they can make a change; taking the plunge to explore the world.
Most people don't have the funds to finance such adventures themselves. Few of us are lucky enough to be trust fund babies, or inherit a fortune. Seeing new countries and exotic places forms part of many people's bucket list. Before we know it, the years speed by, and the ideas and inspirations we had when fresh out of school, now seem a distant, unachievable goal. We see many of our students follow the 'responsible' path, and study a profession that is safe in the eyes of their parents or career advisors. After four years at university or college, they realise that this is not what they want to do with their lives, or perhaps they just want a few years break before entering the real world, with responsibilities, mortgages etc.
Just as often we see older students, who realise that 40+ is not too old to change your life. Some are newly divorced or widowed, some are just bored with day to day life, and want to fulfil the promises that they made to themselves as young adults, years ago. Some of our students are recently retrenched, due to the current economic climate. Sometimes life's knocks are blessings in disguise, allowing you to make a life change, that you may not have otherwise considered, or had the courage to attempt.
Whatever you reason for wanting a change in life, there is hope; you don't need to rob a bank!
If you are a native English speaker and have a good command of the English language, a 4-week TEFL course from Samui TEFL will equip you with the knowledge and ability to obtain a TEFL job in Asia (note that most jobs will also require you to have a degree). The demand for teachers in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, China, Cambodia, and even Taiwan is high, and all our degree holding students who pass the course, manage to find jobs very soon after completing the course, many even getting job offers before they even graduate.
Teaching is a very rewarding profession, and teachers are highly respected in the East. Asian children are also very different to those in the West - far more well-behaved, and a pleasure to teach. If the thought of teaching children brings on a sweat and anxiety attack, perhaps you would prefer to teach adult learners. There are language schools throughout Asia catering to adults, and many of our students go on to teach staff at hotels and resorts.
Teaching hours are not long, leaving plenty of time to explore your new surroundings. Local transportation is also very cheap, meaning that weekend trips are affordable, as are longer expeditions during school holidays. As a teacher, you experience the 'real' Asia, making you a traveller, not merely a tourist.
Why Samui TEFL?
Samui TEFL is based on Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand. It is the ideal location to do your TEFL course, before venturing to other locations in Thailand, Asia or beyond to begin your TEFL career.
Although the course is intense, you will still have plenty of time to explore the island on weekends and in the evening. Why take your TEFL course in the city, when you have the option to do so on a tropical island? Doing a TEFL course in your home country would not be as beneficial. If you plan on teaching in Asia, get practice teaching real Asian students, with their distinctive language pronunciation problems. We do most of our practicals at local temple schools, meaning that these children really benefit from our lessons. Being immersed into a real school environment, also prepares you for entering the school system, should you decide to teach at a school. For those preferring to teach adults, we have arranged adult lessons. Our course is intense, and covers all aspects of TEFL teaching. More information can be found on our website or in the info pack emailed. Our students are important to us - we don’t view them as numbers. We stay in contact with students and track their career and travels where possible.
What are my chances of finding a TEFL job after completing the course?
Your chances are excellent! We have many contacts with agencies and schools in Thailand as well other countries, and they frequently contact us requesting teachers. We assist you with registering with the big placement agencies and websites, and help you to tailor your CV to the Asian market. Many students find jobs before they even complete the course, and others within a couple of weeks after leaving. You do need to be pro-active though, and get your CV completed as soon as we have advised you on it. If we don’t have your CV, we cannot get it out there. If you have a university degree (any, not necessarily a teaching degree) then you chances are even higher of finding work quickly, and you will have the pick of the best jobs. We do GUARANTEE jobs to students who meet the following criteria: If you’re from one of the following countries which are considered to be native English-speaking countries – UK and Ireland, USA, Canada, NZ, Aus and SA, if you have a degree, and if you obtain a distinction on the course, we can guaranted you a job placement in Thailand. Please note that legally to get a work permit as a teacher in Thailand a Bachelor’s degree is required. There are some options available for non degree holders, such as teaching in Cambodia, or teaching online. Teaching in a resort or business does not require a degree – however these jobs are scarce.
Average teacher’s salaries in Thailand are about 30,000 to 38,000 THB/month for teachers with a degree, often more for those with additional qualifications. A teacher can live comfortably on such a wage, with accommodation costing about 15 - 20% of this salary. Often accommodation is included in the job package. Packages in China usually include accommodation in the form of a private apartment, meals included, and a salary enough to live on and save a bit.
It’s good to remember that if you visit schools in person, present yourself properly, and can demonstrate enthusiasm for teaching, you WILL be offered teaching work, with degree, especially in late April and October, when the new school terms begin. We also have an extensive database of reputable agents that ask for our students, happy with the quality of teachers that Samui TEFL produces.
How do I know if I am suited to do a TEFL course?
As long as you have a reasonable command of the English language, with regards to vocabulary, grammar and the spoken language, and you are not painfully shy, then you are a suitable candidate. You also need to have an open mind, and be keen on new cultures and experiences!
Many students worry about the grammar aspect of the course. We understand that it may have been a while since you studied grammar at school. This is why we send you ‘pre-course reading material’ in the way of grammar revision, if you require it. We do go over this in class too, but grammar is not taught from scratch, merely revised. Please request the grammar document if you’d like to revise before the course starts.
We do expect our teachers to be passionate and enthusiastic, eager to learn and participate and committed to doing the course. We pride ourselves on our professional conduct, and we expect the same from our teachers. If you are not 100% committed, then the students will suffer. If you put in a reasonable amount of effort, complete your assignments and teacher practices with care and enthusiasm, then you will pass the course!
For a detailed info pack, email email@example.com
Life as a teacher in Chachoengsao
Dear Samui TEFL Considerer,
Today I had one of those moments of realising exactly how far I had come. I was sitting cross legged on the floor of the Kindergarten enrichment room watching my students as they were told a story by the Thai teacher. It, of course, was all in Thai but her movements and liveliness needed little translation and the children’s glittering eyes followed every turn of the page. I peeked out the window to see if the moody weather had once again changed only to find the vivid red roof of the temple next-door splashed against the bright blue sky. These are the magical moments of teaching in Thailand.
Let me say that if you currently have even a glimmer of thought about the Samui TEFL course, do it! It taught me everything I needed to know about teaching English to non-English speakers but more than that it taught me so much about myself both in and out of the classroom. It was one of the most frightening and beautiful experiences of my life just as teaching is. Equal parts frustrating and wonderful.
I am currently employed through Teachers for Thailand and decided to work for a temple school here in Chachoengsao. It’s about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok which means that you get the opportunity to explore the city on the weekend but don’t have to deal with the higher cost of living. In all honesty, it was a shock to go from the vibrant and lush location of Samui to such a small town where you catch people looking at you, the foreigner, no matter where you go. What came to enrapture me about this place is my fellow teachers both foreign and Thai. The school I work for has an extensive English program meaning that there are twenty-five other English teachers at my school alone. There are also two other schools in the area who employ English teachers making for a large and mostly welcoming community. In just these few short months I know I have created long lasting friendships. These are the people with whom you spend your free time. There have been weekends exploring the region with Bat Temples and giant pink Ganesha statues but also weekends that saw a lot of Netflix and Pizza Company.
As for the school, I am currently teaching Kindergarten, which is its own beast. The first week or so consisted of a lot of blank faces. I felt taken aback in the staff room when my fellow teachers in higher grades were telling me about conversations they had with their students when mine couldn’t even tell me their names. I had to adjust my tactics and used a lot of miming and modelling to get my students to understand what I was trying to get them to do. The first week just like that of the TEFL course was the hardest because you don’t know the rhythm just yet.
To break it down a little further in terms of the school environment, it’s very laid back. We sign in and out via a sheet that the administration holds us accountable for as well as the ability to leave school grounds for lunch. My workday usually involves getting there at about 7:15am, teaching from 8:30 – 11:00am, lunch from 11:00am -2:00pm and then back in the classroom for the last block of teaching from 2:30-3:30pm. They don’t require lesson plans, however, I do make myself small ones as a general guideline for what I am trying to accomplish in a lesson. Even in kindergarten you get given a set of school books as your piloted curriculum. Again, because I am teaching kindergarten, 5 years old to be exact, I teach all the subjects with main focuses on math and English of course. We have free access to printers and computers. The classrooms come with air conditioning. However, try to be ready ahead of time because things break or the electricity goes out and then you are left empty handed and sweaty.
I came to Thailand with almost no expectations but a lot of research. I knew for the most part what I was getting myself into, but I’m still surprised by how much I have enjoyed all aspects of my time here, even the ones that felt difficult at first. It’s been a defining experience in my life even after only being here a few months. However, one of the things I discovered during my time in the classroom at Samui TEFL is my wish to go back to school. I wanted this experience to travel and maybe save a little bit of money while trying out what it means to be a teacher in some form or another. What I found was that my desire to be a teacher goes hand in hand with my desire to be a student. I had no thoughts about whether this would be long term or a “gap year” but with my impending need to apply for Masters programs for next fall it appears I will be returning home sooner than I thought.
My advice even as a gap year – it’s worth it. Take the leap because it has changed my life in so many ways even just after 3 months. It’s one of those feelings, you know when you’re shaking with anticipation just before a roller coaster and with each step you can feel your heart beat a little faster then after you’ve made that first run you want to go again? Well buckling your seat belt on the plane will feel the same as buckling your seat into a roller coaster, you will want to do it all over again.
With Love and Wanderlust,
The Exuberant Traveler (Molly Butler, Samui TEFL graduate)
Shanice tells us what it's like teaching after the Samui TEFL course
"Since graduating from the course, life has been moving super fast; finding a place to stay, getting my own transportation, settling into the school, etc. It honestly has been a whirlwind of adventurous adulthood.
I teach in Phang-Nga in a small town called Khok Kloi (north of Phuket). There's really not much to do since it's a small town. Tourism there is small so, there aren't any shopping centers, big supermarkets, or much entertainment. I call it 'real' Thailand. You rarely see foreigners. If you do, they're teachers or one of few tourists visiting the bay or markets. It's nice, if you're looking for a quiet, laid back, small town vibe. If you're not, it may be challenging and a real culture shock. I don't mind it, but it's really hard to find a place there... like really. I mean, there are places but without fridge, kitchen, wifi, and sometimes no aircon (which they'll install for a fee). So, I had to find a place 30 minutes out, equipped with everything (which I do not mind). I would rather be comfortable than close.
The school is really nice. It just opened this term (May 2018). I like the Thai teachers in my classes (a lot people don't have good experiences with theirs). I teach K2 and K3 (3-5/6 year olds). I'm a homeroom math and English teacher. The students are pretty cool. They make me pull my hair out sometimes, especially the 5/6 year olds, but they're awesome. The course really prepared me mentally thanks to teacher pracs (TPs). Even the strategies that Kathryn and Chiara taught are essential to my everyday work life. I've already implemented so many games and 'tricks' to manage the class that has helped a lot. There are still some things you'll have to alter to the likes of your class.
We have accessible facilities at my school, which I didn't expect: printing access, laminating access, bits and pieces for arts and crafts, computer access, an on campus coffee shop, a pool (student use - still cool), a dance studio, the works. The school provides the materials/lessons they want us to teach and we teach it. I come up with the delivery. It's still tons of work, though. I catch myself bringing work home, at times. During the day, there's a lot of book checking and meetings so it's hard to plan or finish resources before the work day is over. My schedule is 7:45-4:30. It goes by quickly, when you have things planned and "10 organized", if not, good luck. Lol, I can honestly say it's not what I expected! It's really quite a bit of work. When you get the hang of it and get into the groove, it's actually really cool. I'm still adjusting.
The weekends mean everything to me. I hang out with my friends from the course who are in Phuket working at schools and online. It's nice to have someone here to relate to and just chill with after the week. There's quite a bit to do in Phuket, so we randomly find fun things to do and we'll travel to other islands. It's good fun.
As of right now, I'm not sure if I'll stay passed my 11 months. I'll decide later. There are other places I want to grace. I say if you love children and have incredible patience, go for it. And if you're not teaching children, patience, in general. Do it! You'll form endless attachments."
Samui TEFL Grad
Being a teacher is rewarding, but the pay can be less than optimal. The summer is a great time for teachers to earn a little extra money. With the right gig, you can even carry that work into the school year. Let’s find out how you can choose the right side hustle this summer.
Many teachers easily find summer-only jobs. According to U.S. News, some of the most ideal options include teaching summer school, becoming a camp counselor, or working at other seasonal attractions. What if you want a side job to last you all year? Here are some good ideas:
Jobs That Use Your Teaching Skills
The most obvious choice is a job that uses some skill you already have from your teaching career.
Jobs That Are Completely Different
This is a good option if you want a break from teaching at your side hustle.
Creating A Workspace
A job on the side does require you to be organized with your taxes, track your expenses, and detailed about your income. It’s a good idea to create a home office to handle the administration and/or work your side gig requires.
Be sure that your space allows you to have the time and space to get work done. You may want to set “office hours” to let your family know you need this time to get your for your gig.
It’s important to properly equip your office, too:
**Guest blog post by Joyce Wilson.**
Tatyana tells us how being a TEFL teacher has changed her life
After completing the course, Tatyana went on to teach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and has now headed back to Thailand to teach. This is what she had to say about her time on the course and how being a TEFL teacher has changed her, as well as her lifestyle.
Where to go after your TEFL course
So, you are holding a TEFL certificate, a magical key to many doors, a visa to most of the countries. Where to go? Too much choice spoils. Any new job posted in Facebook seems a better option than the one you’ve got. That island looks beautiful, this school offers attractive bonuses, that offer sounds tempting… Oh, if only I had waited a little longer! And then you change your job just to find out that any job is inevitably imperfect – either the cost of living is too high, or the classes are too numerous, or there’s too much work to do, or the city is too big/too small/too polluted/too boring/too noisy...
But any job inevitably has some delights to offer, let it be beaches, a nice school, good management, friendly staff, high wages… After all, we do essentially the same job, enjoy the same small pleasures (mine, for example, are morning yoga on the roof and making lesson plans in a cozy café), travel around (so what that it’s mostly visa runs and border bouncing), learn new languages and make new friends absolutely everywhere.
I think it is natural to always have this feeling that there’s a better place and greener grass somewhere else. But since I love what I do and I live in comfort, it doesn’t matter where I got the last “arrived” stamp in my passport, does it?
How my TEFL job changed me
If tomorrow they tell me something like, “The human race is evacuated to Mars, your spaceship leaves tomorrow”, I’ll just put my poker face on and ask, “What’s the luggage allowance?” Seriously, I should mention “stress-resistance and adaptability” as my strengths at the next job interview, my only strengths, probably. A TEFL job leaves you no time to panic. I have covered classes (on a very, very short notice) for someone who suddenly left the job, fell sick or is late from a border run more frequently than I hit the gym (and just for the record, I used to be a fitness model). I spend more time preparing lesson plans (and resources) than actually teaching. I don’t waste time regretting my mistakes, but I rather look for a way to correct them.
This job has changed my way of life. Formal shirts compile 75% of my wardrobe. All my possessions fit into two suitcases of total weight no more than 30 kg (6 of them are books. Weird, considering that I have a Kindle, PaperWhite and Audible app). I can pack and unpack all my stuff in 15 minutes. I catch myself duplicating my words with gestures while talking to people. I learnt how to keep my voice low when all I want is to raise it. I can easily find my way without Google Maps after spending 3 days in a new place (to be frank, I lose my way only if I rely on the maps). One can learn geography of Southeast Asia by my passport. And, honestly, I’ve never felt better in my life.
Would I recommend Samui TEFL?
“What TEFL course would you recommend – online or in-class?” someone posts in Facebook every day. Seriously? You think you can learn how to teach well (WELL is the keyword here) purely theoretically? Let’s be conscious, please, teaching is a responsible job. I understand that not everyone has money for an in-class course. I understand that those who have money, don’t always want to invest it into something they aren’t going to do for the rest of their lives. I understand that someone just wants to volunteer, or to move to the another country following his/her partner.
But aren’t we who we are mostly thanks to what and how we’ve been taught? Don’t we enjoy what we do when we do it well? Aren’t we feeling satisfied at the end of the day when we know we’ve done a job to the best of our abilities?
The Samui TEFL course was one of the best experiences of my life, and it entailed a lot of other great experiences. It was absolutely worth every penny, second, and effort spent (and I’m not talking of the beaches). It gave me a profession that is in high demand, but even if I quit teaching tomorrow, the knowledge, skills and memories I acquired will remain with me. Thanks to the course I became more organized, more adaptive and flexible, I learnt how to make my explanation memorable, how to encourage my students, how to elicit the right answer from them, how to keep them interested and busy all the time and how to discipline them. I’ve learnt to anticipate possible problems and to do things fast. Thanks to the course I can do my job well, and that says it all.
You’ve completed your TEFL course and now have a few interviews lined up, either in person or via Skype. There’ll be others competing for the same job, so how do you ensure you are the one to be hired?
We spoke to Charlie Honisz from Teachers4Thailand, a reputable agency and one we love to work with as the teachers are always taken care of. This is what he has to say:
“Before the interview, we’ll look over your CV/resumé and ensure you have all the qualifications required: native English speaker, or non native speaker with a high TOEIC score, a bachelor’s degree (needed to get the work permit), and a TEFL certificate from a reputable TEFL/TESOL school, one which offers observed teacher pracs, and really prepares the trainees for the real world of teaching.
Your CV is your first chance to make an impression, and here, clear and simple is best. We want to see a photo of you. We want to see your qualifications and any work experience you have and we want to find out a little bit more about you. We will also scan it for any errors, so do check it before sending it out. Samui TEFL has a great template to use, and it’s easy for us to navigate.
Looks are important. By that we mean: do you look professional and presentable and are you dressed appropriately? Are you neat and tidy? Teaching is a highly respected profession, and you need to dress accordingly.
During the interview we’ll be looking out for a positive attitude, this is very important. We want someone who is willing to listen to job offers, and open to all options – someone not totally closed off to not having things 100% their way. I do understand that people will have reasons for wanting certain places, and wanting to teach certain ages, but if you’re not even willing to hear someone out, it sends the wrong impression about being a team player. Schools can be chaotic, and prone to changes. So you need to be the type of person who is willing to adapt.
Also, be open to teaching different subjects. I’m not saying teaching maths, or science to high-level students (unless you’re qualified to do so), but homeroom teachers are a very large percentage of teachers in Thailand, meaning you’ll be teaching other subjects aside from English.
A lot of time is invested in hiring a new teacher, both by the agency and the school, so someone prepared to see out a full year contract will take preference.
As for tips:
And some additional advice from us at Samui TEFL:
You’ve made the decision to do your TEFL course, after much research into which course you’d like to attend. You’ve invested a lot of time and money, so it only makes sense to get the most you can out of your time on the course. A lot of information is packed into the 4-week course, so here are some suggestions to make the most of it, as well as the gorgeous location that is Samui.
Don’t be shy to ask questions.
The course is intense – from day one we get stuck in. If you haven’t studied for a while, you may find it overwhelming. However, you’ll be pleased to hear that all of the learning is done hands-on through games and interactive activities. You will never just be lectured to, but will always be involved in every lesson. The theory of the course is presented by the trainer using games, activities and strategies that you will then be able to use in your own teaching, allowing you to build your portfolio of activities and teaching tools from day one. This most certainly helps to prevent information overload, as many learning styles are taken into account, not just auditory. Our trainers are happy to answer questions if you are unsure of anything – however, in order for the lesson to flow, a question and answer session may be introduced at the end of the lesson. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
Ensure you get enough sleep.
You may start your course with jetlag. You’re in a new environment, and your mind won’t shut down at night trying to absorb all the new information. But you need a good night’s rest so you’re ready for the next day. Proper time management will ensure you don’t have to stay up past midnight planning lessons. While doing research and resourcing online, time can often get away from you with so much information available on the internet, and before you know it you’ve spent 3 hours looking for the perfect flashcard image online. An evening walk on the beach and no coffee at night will help to clear your mind.
Make the most of the constructive feedback given after each observed teacher prac.
Getting constructive feedback is the best opportunity for you to develop as a teacher. Sometimes it’s not easy to hear, but the feedback given during your pracs on the course is done so with the best intentions, allowing you to get the most out of the course. Avoid acting defensively, arguing with the observer and blaming the students. Instead, keep an open mind, ask for more details and note down the suggestions. Your trainers do know what they are talking about, and they want to help you to develop as a teacher to the best of your ability.
Do a self-analysis
After each lesson think back to what you did, and how you could have done it differently. Think about how you handled questions, unruly kids, etc and think about how you could improve. Keep a lesson journal, and take your own feedback to heart too. It’s important to act on the feedback given after a lesson. If you don’t incorporate the suggestions given by your observer in your next lesson, then the feedback was pointless. Make the most of the valuable feedback session given during your course. Do your self-analysis as soon as possible – while the lesson is still fresh in your mind.
Learn not only from your errors, but those of your peers too.
Ask your classmates if you can observe their lessons, and be willing to let them observe yours too. Be constructively critical of their lessons, and discuss with them afterwards what advice they were given by their observers, and what they would do differently next time.
Make friends with your classmates.
You’re all in the same boat so to speak. You’re all away from home, some of you for the first time. Support each other and be family to each other during the 4-week course. You’ll all need emotional support and you’ll all have strong days and days when you’ll need to lean on someone. The friends you make on the course are friends for life, and they can also be a valuable asset after the course, sharing resources with each other.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
We celebrate mistakes, as that is how we learn. We all make mistakes, especially when there’s a lot of information to absorb, or new information with which we are not familiar. The trick however, is to learn from these mistakes. Your trainers do not expect you to apply all the techniques taught perfectly in your first teacher pracs. What they do expect is for you to work on the mistakes made, and improve lesson-by-lesson based on the feedback given as well as self-analysis. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we only grow when we are pushed past our comfort zone. Some trainees start out strong, for others it takes some time to ‘click’ on an idea or technique, but once they do, they don’t forget it, and it’s the end result that matters. Don’t be embarrassed in front of your peers – they are just as nervous as you are. We encourage a growth mindset, and we have created an environment to support each other and students' growth.
Be aware of local culture.
Part of travelling and living abroad is to embrace the local culture and accept that it may be different to your home culture. Doing a TEFL course means you are ‘weaned’ into the new culture, as your classmates will also be experiencing the changes alongside you. Don’t assume that because something is done differently to ‘back home’ that it’s inferior – it’s just different. Respect local customs, traditions, religions and ways of thinking. Our TEFL course also covers local culture right at the beginning of the course, so you’ll know what to expect when you are mixing with locals, and our island tour also incorporates aspects of the local culture.
Previous teaching experience isn't always an advantage.
Many qualified teachers choose to broaden their horizons and teach abroad. While their experience may give them an advantage with aspects such as classroom management, they may find other aspects much harder than a ‘newbie’ teacher, as teaching to students in their native language is very different to teaching non-native speakers, and certain bad habits will have to be ‘unlearnt’. Here, someone with no experience whatsoever will have an advantage, as they are starting fresh with the techniques learnt on the TEFL course.
Thinking you can ‘wing it’.
Even someone who has been teaching for years should have a well-prepared lesson plan, which can be adapted up or down, should the students not be at the anticipated level. Teachers who are arrogantly over-confident and think they can ‘wing it’ seldom pull it off. A well-structured and tested lesson plan will relieve the stress of executing a lesson.
Enjoy the change of scenery!
Koh Samui is a beautiful island, and is most likely very different to home. While the course is intense and you need to put in a lot of work and hours, proper time management will leave you with time to enjoy what the island has to offer too. Don’t be afraid to get lost! Soak in the sun, absorb the sights, but stay hydrated.
Most of all, keep an open mind, enjoy the challenges and the people you meet on this new adventure and journey of discovery.
Joe Moore completed his TEFL course in November 2011. Since then, he's taught in several locations in Thailand and China, and more recently, he's now teaching in Saudi Arabia. Here's an update from Joe on what it's like teaching in the Middle East.
It has now been six years and four countries later since I completed my Samui TEFL certification. Now, I find myself teaching college students ESL at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
So far the kingdom is nothing like I thought it was going to be. My students are attending a preparatory year to boost their knowledge of English and prepare them for medical school.
The Saudi people are kind, curious, and friendly. Saudi Arabia is the guardian of Mecca and Medina. It is also the heart of the Islamic religion and Arab culture. All around the city of Riyadh construction can be seen as the kingdom is modernising with skyscrapers, glitzy malls, and a new sky train system which will alleviate the traffic in Riyadh.
There are plenty of teaching positions here. Hiring takes place all year around, but the months of August and September hold the best promise for securing a position. In the ESL circuit the Middle East remains the top region in which to stack large amounts of money in a short amount of time. The universities, colleges, and poly-tech schools all hire large amounts of ESL teachers every year. Most employers are seeking someone with a few years of ESL teaching experience. Packages include salaries which begin around $3000 USD a month tax free, accommodation, 30 days paid vacation and round-trip airfare. With very little in the way of distractions and a low cost of living, a budget-minded ESL teacher can easily save $25,000+ USD in a single year of teaching.
Culturally, there are a few things that must be adhered to when teaching. These include avoiding certain subjects including politics, the King, civil rights, religion, and women not being able to drive (yet). All the schools are segregated. Outside of the classroom women are required to wear the abaya (a black gown from head to toe), from the moment you enter the kingdom. For non-Muslim women the (hijab) head scarf is unnecessary. Men are allowed to wear shorts, but must go below the knee. Prayers are held seven times a day. The prayers begin at approximately 4:30am and end at midnight. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The call for the prayer can be heard in unison from anywhere in the city over loudspeakers. The times for prayers change slightly everyday. All shops close during these times, so it's important when going out to plan for them. There are a few other important rules to mention. Alcohol is forbidden. And fraternisation with the opposite sex is a serious crime.
Being an international city, Riyadh has a variety of foods from all over the world. Middle Eastern selections of grilled meats, bread, and rice, as well as all the Western fast food chains are available. Most living takes place at night due to the heat of the day. Malls dot the landscape and provide opportunity for exercise, shopping, dining, and socialising with families.
To sum up, Saudi Arabia is a great destination for an ESL teacher. There is much to explore in this region of the world that most people will never get to experience. Your TEFL certification truly is a ticket for freedom and a life of adventure. I know, I’m living it!!!
Samui TEFL Graduate November 2011
To read Joe's account of what it's like teaching in Thailand and China, read here
Samui TEFL Blog