We chatted to Estelle Potgieter on her teaching experience after the course, here’s what she had to share:
When did you complete your TEFL course?
February 2019, at the Samui training centre.
Where have you been teaching since completing your course at Samui TEFL?
Peoples Republic of China.
Tell us about the area where you live and work. Is there much to do? Are there other foreign teachers living and working in the area? What do you do for fun outside of school hours?
I live and work in Zaozhuang City, Shandong Province, I have a lovely apartment about 5km from the CBD. It’s surrounded by upcoming apartment blocks. My apartment is close to the stadium. We are 4 South Africans and one Irish girl. We have only spotted one other foreign teacher at a nearby centre.
Tell us about your school?
ABIE is the name of our learning centre. It’s location within Wanda Plaza (a mall) we have well equipped bright classrooms (the centre recently celebrated its 2nd birthday) We teach via smart board and pre-loaded courseware with pictures and unit songs. We have to do our own lesson plans, create our own extra flashcards, and downloaded our own songs as needed.
What is your average workday like?
On an average day, you have to be at school from 14:00pm until 20:10pm, weekends from 9:30am to 19:00. On Fridays we have a teachers meeting (no comment!) and demo lessons for potential new students wanting to join.
What subjects and ages do you teach?
English only, I teach the little ones, Kindergarten and younger.
Is the reality of being a TEFL teacher what you expected?
Is there something from the course that you specifically remember and call on in class – something that you are glad you learnt? Do you think the course prepared you well for teaching in the real world?
Probably our Italian lesson - these Chinese kids really don't understand, it reminds me of Chiara's lesson in Italian... I was totally lost and confused, which is probably how these kids feel most days!
Do you plan on staying a while, or is this just a ‘gap year’?
I signed a one-year contract, and I don't think I will renew with this particular centre or stay in China.
Any tips or anything you’d like to say to someone considering doing their TEFL course?
While on the course, take less notes and rather LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN and volunteer as much as you can in class. Even if the kids don’t understand I do get nervous especially during parents day. I want everything to be perfect and run smoothly.
Anything else you would like to add?
If considering China, do us much research on your city as possible, as it can feel lonely and isolated if you are not around other teachers or expats.
‘Best of luck Estelle, it’s great that you are gaining valuable experience in China. Even if this is not your ideal location, the time spent there will equip you well to move on to another location after your contract. ‘
We caught up with Zaynah Kahn 18 months after her TEFL course to see how life is treating her.
"I graduated from my TEFL in May 2018, and immediately received a job offer from the International School of Samui (ISS) as a support teacher. The position began in August, but I was able to take part in the school’s summer camp, which enabled me to gain some more experience before starting my full-time role. Samui TEFL, who already had the contact and arranged the interview for me, made all this possible.
I stayed at ISS for a year and gained invaluable experience involving EAL and SEN students, before being offered a homeroom teacher job at Lamai International School where I am currently the Year 4 teacher. I feel as though my year in a support role where I was observing PGCE-qualified teachers everyday has influenced my teaching now, and supplemented the skills I had gained from my TEFL.
Living in Koh Samui is a dream, everyday after I finish work I am able to go to the beach and meet up with friends to eat delicious food, and I always travel widely during my holiday periods. As there are numerous international schools on the island, there are many other foreign teachers to meet, and I am part of a large social circle.
Many of my friends work in the same school as me. We are a very close-knit school comprising of around 60 students, where every teacher knows the names of their students, and vice versa. Support is always available, and having recently started my Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, this is greatly appreciated.
I would describe achieving my TEFL as one of the best things I have done, as it opened my eyes to the world of education and highlighted a career that I genuinely love as an option. Like many who wish to embark on their TEFL, I came from a corporate job where stress had become the norm and I had zero job satisfaction. Looking back to that time, I cannot believe how much my life differs now. Samui TEFL gave me the confidence to stand up in a classroom and be passionate about what I am advocating.
Teaching will now forever be a part of my life, and I would highly recommend anyone to apply to study TEFL. Whether it is to facilitate travel or just to satisfy curiosity, take that chance because you will not regret it."
TEFL can help you with your future career
You may be doing your TEFL course and teaching abroad as a ‘gap year’ before starting a career which you studied for at university. Many people will ask you ‘why do you want to teach English abroad? Aside from a so-called year off, how will it benefit you?’
Well, this is what you can tell them:
You’ll gain confidence
So many parts of this experience will help you to gain confidence – from travelling alone abroad to a new place, to experiencing new cultures, to doing something new, to learning to speak in front of people.
Your communication skills will improve
Techniques learnt on the course and practiced in the classroom thereafter, will improve your general communication skills. You will be far more aware of whether or not you have been understood, and will adjust the way you speak and listen to people in general. You will also become more confident speaking to large groups of people, as well as on a one-to-one basis.
Your time management skills will improve
You’ll become the master of checklists! There’s nothing like leaving behind your materials and wasting all your hard work and effort to make you more organised! Carefully planning your lessons according to a time schedule will also be great practice for time management.
You’ll become more aware of other cultures
As you’ve moved to another country, and are teaching students who are not from your culture, you will become acutely aware of the differences between cultures, and the pitfalls of dealing with people from other cultures. These include misunderstandings, doing things in different ways, and knowing that what is acceptable in one culture, may not be so in another culture. In the corporate workplace one day, this will be a valuable asset to have, particularly jobs where you’ll be dealing with international clients.
You will make friends for life – after meeting people you would never have met back home. These could be your fellow classmates on the TEFL course, your fellow teachers while teaching, or neighbours and other locals, as well as your students. Having an international network of friends and past colleagues can also advance your career in ways you may never know – as you never know where the future may take you.
You’ll mature and grow as a person
All the challenges and hardships of living abroad will give you a tough skin and mature you in ways that staying at home in a familiar environment won’t do. Moving out of your parental home is testing enough for many young adults – but doing so in a different country really challenges!
Well there you have it. There are many more reasons to sail away from familiar shores, but these reasons are ones that you can proudly mention in interviews and cover letters. So what are you waiting for? Email us at email@example.com for a detailed info pack.
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
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:
Samui TEFL Blog