Why Take a TEFL Course BEFORE You Apply for a Teaching Job Abroad

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So you’ve decided to teach abroad, congratulations! Teaching and traveling abroad is one of the best decisions you will ever make, and most definitely never regret. A common regret among first time teachers, however, is not adequately preparing for the daily responsibilities of teaching. 

girl studying for TEFL certificate
Becoming a student yourself will increase your empathy in your future classroom.

Taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course is one of the best ways you can prepare for the challenges (and there will be challenges!) of teaching abroad. There are many reasons to take a TEFL course before you apply for a teaching jobs abroad, and the benefits aren’t just limited to inside the classroom!

4 reasons to get TEFL certified first, teach second

1. A TEFL certification is considered the minimum requirement to apply for teaching jobs overseas.

When you are job hunting for ESL jobs online, you will notice that most of the job descriptions state that a TEFL qualification is required to apply, and often a 100-hour course is the minimum level of qualification taken into consideration. Without a TEFL certificate, or any teaching experience, it is highly unlikely you will be considered for any of these ESL jobs. However, with a TEFL certification from a reputable provider on your resume, employers will take notice of your application in comparison to your unqualified counterparts. You will also be eligible to apply for teaching jobs with higher salaries and better benefits packages, useful if you’re hoping to make the most of being based abroad and intend to travel!

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2. TEFL training will give you the knowledge you’ll need to succeed in a job interview.

Applying for a teaching job and getting your resume noticed is only the first stage. Just like any other job, if an employer is interested in your application for a teaching job you’ll be invited for an interview. At interviews for ESL teaching jobs, you’ll be asked basic questions about your teaching style, probed on your classroom management and organization skills, and experience level. With no teaching qualifications or experience, you will struggle to answer these questions or prove that you are suitable for a teaching job. However, if you don’t have any prior teaching experience, you will fare much better if you at least have the basic theoretical knowledge behind teaching, which you will have learned enough through TEFL to impress most interviewers for entry level roles.

3. TEFL courses help you gain a better understanding of your students before you meet them.

Teacher coloring with students

TEFL training will help you gain a better understanding of your students and the way they learn.

If you’re a native English speaker, learning to speak, read, and write English probably came naturally to you. It might seem that it’s easy to learn English, as it’s one of the most universally spoken languages in the world; but, English is a very difficult and complex language to master in comparison to many native world languages. Just as English speakers tend to struggle with the characters and symbols used in many Middle Eastern and Asian languages, the opposite is also true. 

A good TEFL course will introduce you to regional challenges experienced when teaching English, and how to overcome them. For example, certain sounds may be difficult for some speakers of other languages.

Knowing the common challenges your students will face means you can accommodate these difficulties within your lesson plans.

4. A TEFL certification will enable you to walk into any classroom abroad confidently on your first day.

It may seem easy to walk into a classroom and teach some English words and phrases to a group of children or adults, but it’s a lot harder than you could ever imagine! On my first day as an ESL teaching assistant (without a TEFL certificate at this point!) I couldn’t retain the attention of a single one of my classes for more than five minutes. It was awkward and stressful for myself and my students. 

I was with a class of hyperactive eight year olds who had already spent a full day at school and they understood very little English. This is a very common situation when you first start teaching, so learning how to plan effective lessons, manage a classroom, and engage a class who speak a different language than you is essential. A TEFL course will equip you with invaluable techniques to help you achieve all of the above starting from day one.

Teacher smiling at a student

The secret to being a confident teacher is proper training and preparation​.

5. ...And tackle any of the challenges the overseas classroom throws at you.

You’ll be off to a good start if you know some basic teaching methods and you are a confident speaker. But remember, each student in your class will have their own strengths and weaknesses you will need to accommodate in your lessons for your efforts to pay off. A TEFL course will also cover effective ways to engage and encourage all levels of learners in your classroom, young and old, confident and shy, fast and steadier learners, to achieve their full potential. If you choose to take a TEFL course that allows you to complete modules of specialization, this will give you invaluable training to help understand the needs of your students in more depth and throughout their time in your class.

[The ULTIMATE Guide to TEFL Certification for Americans]

That's why!

With its own unique set of challenges, teaching abroad can be demanding even for the most qualified and experienced teachers. A TEFL certificate will help you meet the minimum requirements to teach abroad, succeed in job interviews, understand your future students, and walk into your new classroom on day one with confidence.

This article was contributed by The University of Toronto TEFL Online, a self-directed online TEFL certification course designed by professors at the University of Toronto and offered by Teach Away. Teachers can can opt for a 100-hour, 120-hour, or 150-hour TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate to prepare for effective teaching abroad.

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