8 People You’ll Meet in the TEFL World

by Jennifer Bangoura

When you decided to become a TEFL teacher, you likely imagined yourself in front of a classroom, guiding eager minds wanting to learn the English language. Maybe there’s a chalkboard, desks, and an apple on your desk for good measure. As a freshly certified TEFL teacher, you’re probably starting to imagine what your first experience abroad as a TEFL teacher is going to be like (if you’re not teaching already!). When you think about the people you will meet along the way, a classroom full of students probably pops up first in your mind. Maybe you envision a principal or your TEFL colleagues.

A teacher in a class

As a TEFL teacher, you are going to meet many more people than just the students in your classroom or your fellow teachers. From your neighbors, to the shopkeeper across the street, and your quirky roommate, there is a large cast of characters waiting to meet you! Keep reading to acquaint yourself with the eight people you definitely-maybe-will-probably meet during your TEFL experience abroad. Let us know if we missed anyone in the comments section below!

1. Your TEFL Instructor

When selecting a TEFL course to become a teacher (so you can lead your own TEFL courses!), you will meet your TEFL instructor. Whether you ‘meet’ them online or meet them in a traditional classroom setting, this person will change your life in ways you can’t yet imagine! From sharing stories about their adventures as a TEFL teacher to telling you the one quality all successful ESL teachers have in common, this person will impart a unique perspective as someone who has seen where you are going - and is excited enough about your future to become a teacher and encourage others to follow in their footsteps! They may be tough, constantly challenging you to really know your stuff, but ultimately those hard-learned lessons will pay off once you get in front of your own classroom.

This person knows how demanding your future position will be - and how rewarding can be, too! Ask them questions about how you can best prepare both inside - and outside - the classroom in order to make the most of your TEFL teaching experience. 

2. The Dreamer

Wherever you took your TEFL certification (or if you haven’t already, check out this post for resources on where to start) you probably met The Dreamer. He or she was found between classes meditating or musing on the therapeutic qualities of their tea/yoga practice/journaling techniques.

Whether you underwent your TEFL certification in the Czech Republic or Spain, we’re sure The Dreamer was there. If you’re the type who is more grounded in reality and hard facts, this type of person may be frustrating or seem naive. However, we recommend that you don’t be so quick to judge!

Take the time to get to understand what is important to them and how the dreamer in them impacts their teaching style. Maybe you’ll even pick up a few breathing techniques and new ways to look at the world around yourself!

A girl studying

3. The Student Who Can’t Get Enough of What You’re Teaching

This treasure of a person can be found sitting in the front of your classroom, hand raised, or diligently reviewing their notes from the class prior. They are the kind of people that make teachers love their job and keep you coming back year after year.

While their attention and love of learning the English language is flattering, make sure to express your appreciation for them just as much. It is easy to think that the student should be grateful for your efforts. After all, you are putting in a lot of time and dedication to make your lesson plans engaging and your content fresh. 

But, the admiration should go both ways. In fact, the more you (constructively!) praise stand-out students, the more others will likely follow in their footsteps and soon you will have a classroom full of others just like your first admirer. 

4. The Traveler

You’ve got to admit it - one of the best reasons to become a TEFL teacher is the opportunity to travel the world. Whether you are teaching abroad in Brazil or Hungary, the opportunity to visit other countries has likely never been greater than when you decide to pack up and teach english abroad!

If you have not already met The Traveler you are bound to run into him or her sometime soon. They are the ones with the perfectly packed knapsack and sturdy ankle boots laced around their feet. They will be walking around town with a look that either says - I can’t get enough of traveling the world or maybe something more akin to I can’t wait to collapse into a bed and rest my feet for awhile!

5. The World-Changer

The World-Changer is someone you are sure to meet as a TEFL teacher. You may encounter them as you pass from your home to your classroom; they will be easy to spot along the way. They will have a peace-sign patch ironed on to their backpack and a sticker condemning the mistreatment of animals on the front of their computer. 

You may meet this person in Thailand as they participate in a short-term volunteer project focused on animal welfare. Or they might be a TEFL teacher alongside you advocating for better practices in the schools in your city. Wherever you meet them, they will be fervent in their desire to make the world a better place and carry a compelling message for how to do so. They will serve as a wonderful reminder when the going gets tough that what you’re doing is important. They will inspire you to keep working hard and making a difference in the world. 

A boy writing down on a paper

6. The Salesman

Step right up! Step right up! That’s right, We’re talking to you, my friend! We can make you the world’s wealthiest, most sought after, most incredible TEFL teacher! With just four installment payments and….

If you find yourself reading a description for a TEFL certification that sounds too good to be true - it probably is and you have just ‘met’ another kind of person in the TEFL world - the Salesman. Becoming a successful TEFL instructor won’t happen overnight and if someone tells you there is a quick and easy way to do it - let us tell you now, they are not telling you the truth.

You will be better off, and your future students better served, by taking your time to choose a vetted program, reading the reviews, and making sure the TEFL course you are choosing is accredited and globally recognized. When you meet a Salesman during your TEFL journey, and you do need to be ready to meet them, you will be equipped with the knowledge you need to know to say no. Believe us, that’s one person you can let pass you by. 

7. The Local Who Changes Your Understanding of Yourself

As a TEFL teacher you are going to spend large parts of your day in front of your students, which you may find invigorating or draining or both! As you pack your bag at the end of each day, remember that your students are not the only people learning; you are growing and changing as a person and a professional whether you know it or not!

When you go home, it will be tempting to collapse on your couch (or mat on the floor) to reboot for the next day. While you are more than entitled to this time to yourself, be careful to not totally shut out the other people living and working around you.

You really don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet The Local Who Changes Your Understanding of Yourself. From giving you a new perspective on your daily habits (do you greet everyone you pass in the morning or duck your head down to avoid eye contact) to challenging your beliefs as a teacher, this person will push you to see the world from a different set of eyes and you’re always better off for it.

Take the time to really listen to this person as you exchange your ideas about the world with one another. As a teacher you have so much to share with those around you - it is important to remember we are all students in some way. 

Skateboard and a backpack

8. The...You!

You didn’t think we’d end our round-up without this one, did you? As you look back on the all the people you have meet, and read through the descriptions of all the people you will meet, as a TEFL teacher, make sure to leave space on the list for yourself.

Going into TEFL teaching you will have the opportunity to change the lives of the students you empower with the tools to perfect their English language capabilities. You will meet incredible fellow teachers who are passionate about teaching the English language and experiencing the world in a first-hand, raw way.

As you start (or continue!) your TEFL journey, make sure to take the time to reflect on how your experience is changing you. Write in a journal. Start a blog. Send email updates to family and friends. Talk about your experience with your neighbors wherever you find yourself teaching.

You will get to know yourself in a way you never have before as you put yourself outside your comfort zone to change the world as only teachers can do.

From dreamers to travelers, to the locals who will make a mark on your heart to the one and only you - there is a long list of people you will encounter in the TEFL world. As you prepare for what is sure to be a life-changing experience, be sure to keep yourself open to not only new opportunities and experiences but also the people along the way who will enrich your journey.

While it’s easy to curl up for a good old fashioned Netflix marathon (or perhaps a hard-drive collection of movies and television shows if you don’t have the bandwidth for Netflix) after a long day of teaching, you won’t meet real people that way. You also don’t want to be that TEFL instructor who doesn’t take their job seriously

Small changes in your daily routine will make a big difference in how and where you meet the people who will change your life as a TEFL teacher. Take off your headphones on the way to class. Make eye contact (if it’s culturally appropriate) with the people in your neighborhood. Spend a few extra minutes talking with the shopkeepers near your home. You will be surprised at how many more people you will meet - and they will be delighted to get to know you!