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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a detailed info pack.
All in good spirits -- Understanding the Thai culture of spirit houses
You'll see them everywhere. Ornate and colourful doll-size houses on stilts strategically positioned outside every home, business, school and in public areas. Other than making great photo opportunities for tourists, what is behind these impressive little structures that resemble miniature temples?
Spirits reside everywhere in Thailand, and Thai people go out of their way to keep them happy. Animism, or spirit worship is probably the oldest form of religion in the world, and when Buddhism arrived in South East Asia, it developed alongside the ancient spirit worship. Today many of the beliefs are knitted with Buddhism and form part of everyday life for Thai people.
One of these practices is the use of 'San Phra Phum', or spirit houses. The purpose of the spirit house is to provide an appealing shelter for the spirits who inhabit the area where the house or business is built. Permission needs to be granted by the spirits before a new building breaks ground. The spirit house is constructed first, to entice the spirits to rather dwell in their own home and not in the house or shop. There are guardian spirits of the house, the garden and the land as well as ones that guard specifically over rice paddy, bodies of water, and military forts. You may notice that Thais always step OVER the threshold when entering a house – never on it. The reason – they don't want to disturb the guardian spirit of gates and stairwells that resides there.
The construction of a spirit house can be simple, resembling a basic Thai bungalow home, or as intricate as a palace. They can be constructed of wood, concrete or brick, and roadside shops with hundreds of colourful houses for sale are a common sight. Construction itself is a specialised field, and only an expert spirit house builder would be considered. Not only is the building thereof his responsibility, but he also needs to be familiar with all the necessary rituals involved so that the spirit invited will find it an acceptable earthly abode.
San Phra Phum are often decorated with little figurines of people and animals, incense holders and vases for flowers, and some even contain furniture. One will often see figures of an elderly man and woman - they are the caretakers of the spirit house, who will always be there to look after the house. Anything that people need in life, spirits need too. So, symbolically, statuettes of horses and elephants provide transportation, and tiny ceramic or wooden dancers entertain the spirits, while figurines of pets provide companionship.
The position of a spirit house is very important, and many a well-meaning expat has unknowingly placed one incorrectly, upsetting the neighbourhood in the process. Important to remember – should you ever need to erect a spirit house, is that it should never lie where the shadow of the building will fall on it.
One can regularly see Thais presenting offerings to the spirits. Fresh fruit, rice, chicken or duck, beer, water and cold drink, keep the spirits' hunger and thirst at bay. Candles and incense, fresh flowers in the vases and garlands keep the house looking good which are sometimes strung with fairy lights at night for 24-hour visual appeal. Resorts in particular often boast elaborate spirit houses and generous offerings.
Spirit houses can be seen at dangerous curves in the road or places of frequent accidents. This is done in order to keep the spirits happy, and ask for the protection of all that use the road. A good example of this is on Samui’s ring-road just past Chaweng Noi, on the way to Lamai where a large, impressive spirit house overlooks the bend. Locals driving past hoot three times to acknowledge the spirits.
Because spirit houses need to be well-maintained, there comes a time when they need to be replaced. Old spirit houses cannot merely be dumped. The spirits are coaxed into the new house, and the old one is laid to rest in communal ‘burial grounds’ for old spirit houses, usually a location well known to be rich in spirit activity. On Samui, a road known as the Ghost Road is the local spot to offload broken spirit houses. It is a rather eerie sight to drive along this road, which is a back road to the airport, and see hundreds of discarded spirit houses. They are regularly removed by the owner of the property, but somehow the pile grows higher again.
One will often find colourful strips of cloth tied around large trees in forests or gardens. It is believed that spirits reside in old trees. Offerings are placed at the foot of the tree or in lower branches, and the bright ribbons are a symbol for others not to cut down the tree. At Namuang one waterfall, a large tree's base boasts offerings that include a rather generously proportioned bra, as well as other clothing items and shoes. Banana groves are the favoured haunting grounds of female spirits, so one often sees san phra phum along the road nearby.
Longtail boats are decorated with the same bright cloth and ribbon. Keeping the spirits of the sea happy will ensure a safe journey, and bring in a bountiful catch. In the same way, cars, trucks and taxis display garlands of flowers to protect the occupants of the vehicle on the journey. Most cars and taxis are also adorned with 'yan' – religious symbols painted usually on the ceiling of the car, by a monk to protect it and its passengers. Yan painting can also be found on the doors of houses to keep unwanted or ghostly visitors outside.
To be on the safe side, you may want to bear the following in mind: If you make jokes while eating, a ghost will steal your rice. In case you were planning to ... you should know that you will see a ghost if you bend down and look between your legs. Watch those yoga poses then...
Spirit houses may be fascinating. They may be beautiful to photograph. However, please remember that to others they are a place of worship, so show respect when taking pictures. Don’t put your feet on any religious figure such as a Buddha or spirit house. Don’t touch or re-arrange items in the house to suit your photo, and don’t take photos when people are praying.
© Rosanne Turner
This is a much-asked question in the TEFL world. The simple answer is yes… but not everywhere. 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. We have an exciting new program: 'Study in Thailand, Teach in Cambodia', including GUARANTEED placement for those accepted onto the course. Read more about it here: https://www.samuitefl.com/teach-cambodia.html
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
Samui TEFL Blog