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."
Teaching English in Russia
Camilla tells us about her volunteer teaching followed by her job teaching English in Moscow.
My name is Camilla Randell
I finished the Samui TEFL course last December, and I’m so pleased that I did. One year later I am teaching in Moscow and I still say I wouldn’t have wanted to enter a classroom without the experience I got at Samui TEFL.
At first I was meant to travel to China to teach but there were visa problems for me as I didn’t have a degree.
Through friends I had met a lady with an English language school in Nepal and decided to go there. ‘English for all’ gave me my first teaching experience and I will be forever grateful to Susan Dieth and her team, the students were wonderful. Susan works with charities giving chances to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to learn. I also worked with refugees from Somalia and Afghanistan as the school worked with the UN. An experience I will never forget.
You won’t earn a lot of money in Nepal but you will get rich in so many other ways.
I then went to a non-teaching job in Switzerland and back to my home in Tenerife.
Here I had met a lady from Russia who opened a language school in Tenerife she gave me a job working at her summer camp with Spanish and Russian children. She asked if I had ever considered working in Russia, and to be honest I’d never thought about it, but then again why not?
So here I am now in Moscow working for Windsor Language Academy, and what an experience it is!
Firstly, Moscow is an incredible city I have found it to be friendly and safe, and a fascinating place to be. From the minute I started the process to move here, the school has been supportive in every aspect. As soon as I arrived they got me a Russian SIM card for my phone. You also get an unlimited travel card for the bus and metro, which I have to say is fantastic.
You do pay for your own flights and first 3-month visa and you pay rent for your apartment. You are generally found an apartment by the school, and if you like it you stay or find your own. They help you with all of this too, and I am in an apartment sharing with another teacher. Apartments here are basic but comfortable and the heating is amazing, Russians don’t like to be cold.
The salary means you can afford your rent and enjoy a good standard of life here and still save money. If you decide to stay on, they get you a bank account.
The school uses the lexical approach (Michael Lewis and Hugh Dellar) so very much in keeping with the way we were taught at Samui TEFL. There is a high standard of training and support here. The teachers are from England, Ireland, America, Canada and Australia and all friendly and supportive.
I teach a variety of students, as this is an English language school. I teach a range of children from 6/7 to 10/11 they work with Super Safari for the young children, and Super Minds and Think for the older children. I also teach pre-intermediate adults, and for this we use Outcomes. We teach both groups and one-to-one. They also have in-company classes.
This company has four schools in Moscow, and I work at one near to where I live, and once a week all teachers go to the main school for training. They also have a social gathering once a month.
For me this is an amazing place to be. I can as always, only speak of my own experience and so far mine is a very good one.
I am making friends and learning so much from fantastic teachers. I like the students and I love the city. Russia is a wonderful place to be and I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my Samui TEFL course and all I learned there. I’m am still in touch with all my classmates. We are dotted around the globe now, so thank you Samui TEFL for everything.
Camilla enjoying her time in Moscow
Teaching in Cambodia
We received wonderful feedback from Jennifer about her job teaching in Cambodia, after her course at Samui TEFL
I was offered a better position in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at an international preschool. I’ve been working for a few months now and I really like it.
My students are 2 to 3 years old and all Khmer. We follow a monthly lesson plan that wraps 4-5 weeks into a theme. We do crafts, sensory activities & are learning the alphabet and numbers 1-20.
Sometimes we can go to the playground if the weather is not too hot. The students love it when we go to the swimming pool.
Each week I write reports on their progress. We follow five developmental domains that categorise the students' progress over the semester. Our focus is on establishing a routine that they can follow into kindergarten. I recently completed report cards and we have parent teacher meetings in a couple of weeks.
The weeks are challenging, but I’m learning a lot. I work with a great team of teachers, teaching assistants and program managers.
I want to thank you again for Samui TEFL. You offered excellent content to use in my classes. In addition to on the job training, I am also using additional sources to update my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and become more current with early childhood education training techniques.
I’ve included a picture from Halloween. The teachers were flowers, I was a Gladiolus 🌸 This is our unicorn craft from a few weeks ago.
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
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 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
There are so many things to think about when you’re being observed, that it’s easy to forget the obvious. Here are some ways to make sure you ace your observed lessons.
Before the lesson
This applies to observed pracs during your course: Pay attention in class! Know the correct procedures and techniques, so you know what is expected of you.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Practice the steps and procedures (drilling, back-chaining etc) and practice your full lesson beforehand, on your own or with your partner. Get your classmates to act as students and let them point out any mistakes afterwards – all in good faith of course, and you do the same for them.
Ask for a copy of the observation form your observer will use and understand what they’re looking for. Make sure you’re clear on the standards before you deliver the lesson. For your teacher pracs at Samui TEFL, you’ll be told what is expected of you, but this will apply should you be doing a demo lesson for a job interview. When you are called in for a demo. Be sure to get all the facts beforehand, including the number and level of the students, how long the lesson will be, the topic, the facilities on site, etc.
Have a backup for everything!
Always have a spare board-marker – they have a nasty way of suddenly dying when you least need them to. Time wasted scrambling for another pen will affect your lesson time management, and the curveball will make you nervous, as well as have a knock-on effect. If you plan to show images on a projector, print the images too. If you’re giving students handouts, always have a few spares. Have a safety net for every aspect of the class.
Be prepared to upscale or ‘dumb-down’ the lesson in case the level of the students is not what you were expecting, so make sure activities can be adjusted accordingly.
Have a checklist.
Having an amazing board game or a fun worksheet is pointless if you leave it behind – we’ve seen this happen too many times – you can only be marked on what you actually do in class, not what you left at home. Attached to your lesson plan, have a checklist of what to bring, including a bottle of water and a sweat towel – there’s nothing worse than dripping sweat over the kids (yes, we’ve seen this happen too!)
Make sure you have all your materials required for the lesson.
If you look the part, you’ll feel the part and then you’ll act the part. If you’re not confident, fake it! Soon it will be real confidence. Find out beforehand what the dress code is at the school where you’ll be conducting the lessons. If this is for your teacher pracs during the course, you will be told this before hand, but if it’s for a demo lesson find out! Some schools for instance, insist that female teachers wear skirts, not trousers, and many schools want all tattoos covered up.
Don’t rush and don’t leave things to the last minute!
Do all your printing the day before – power outages happen and that could mean you can’t print your worksheets, lesson plan etc. make sure your computer is charged and is working. Don’t assume there will be WiFi if you need to show a YouTube clip – either download the video or make sure you can send a hotspot from your phone to the computer for internet access. On the day devote all your attention to delivering a great class, not worrying about last minute logistics.
During the lesson
It’s natural to be nervous when being observed. Many people speak too quickly when nervous – take a deep breath and SLOW DOWN, or your students will not understand you. Smile at your students. They will smile back and this will help you to relax.
Take note of your students
Plans should be followed… however, they should also be adapted if need be, according to your students’ levels. This is why it’s important to plan for your lesson to be adjusted both up and down, particularly for a class you have never taught before, and are not familiar with the level.
Involve all your students
When nervous, it’s natural to just focus on the students in the front, or those who are actively participating. Try your best to encourage all to participate.
Step back and read what you have written on the board. Often our brains are thinking ahead and we make silly spelling or other mistakes on the board. Take a step back and read what you have written.
After the lesson
Listen to the feedback, and take it to heart.
Getting constructive feedback is the best opportunity to 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.
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.
Think about what you could have done to teach a better class, not about how someone else is at fault for what went wrong in your lesson. Many people get defensive when given feedback. Blame it on naughty kids? Rather take responsibility for poor classroom management, and research classroom management techniques. Note enough time? Look at your time management skills, and how much wasted time there was in the class.
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. After a demo lesson for a job interview, ask for feedback too. Your potential employer will value the fact that you are keen to improve and every good teacher knows that the best teachers never stop learning.
Samui TEFL Blog