Are you, like many people, thinking about doing a course to train to be a TEFL teacher?
Are you confused by the huge number of courses on offer?
Do you want to make sure you’re doing the right course for you?
If so, read on. It might make all the difference for you and your future and save you from making an expensive mistake.
TEFL-ing, teaching English as foreign language, is a truly wonderful thing; you can go to different countries, live and work there and truly get to know places from the inside out rather than as a tourist or a traveller. TEFL is extremely rewarding both personally and professionally. TEFL also helps you to develop all sorts of transferable skills to add to your skills sets.
So, you’ve decided to take a TEFL course and a quick internet search throws up a huge amount of choices ranging massively in price, length and content. There are also on-line, classroom-based or combination courses. What’s more all of them promise to be the prefect preparation; methodology, grammar, specialist extra courses, etc… In short, all of them seem to offer everything you need to become a great TEFL teacher. Which way should you turn and which TEFL course should you choose?
You certainly need to look behind the sales speak and into the nitty-gritty to get the start you want and avoid making a potentially expensive mistake. There are five things that you should consider as you’re weighing up the options; price, official accreditation and professional recognition as well as the extent of teaching practice and the level of careers assistance.
Price – How much does it cost?
A TEFL course that costs 100 euros cannot, despite the claims on the website, offer the same as a TEFL course which costs 1500 euros. The cheaper courses tend to be short, on-line courses or a weekend often described as a TEFL-taster course, or “an ideal solution… in preparation for a TEFL course or course interview” as an honest and very reasonably price course explains. They occasionally masquerade as everything you need to know about TEFL but might well fail to deliver. Does that mean that an expensive course is necessarily better than a cheap one? Not necessarily, but taken together with other criteria it can be a guide.
Accreditation – Who says this is a good course?
There seem to be a number of accrediting bodies these days. How can you tell one from another? A good place to start is OFQUAL (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulator) which, together with the QCA (the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority), is responsible for overseeing these courses. If the course you’re looking at doesn’t clearly state its accreditation, then do ask. It might not be clear on the website but if you’re not satisfied with the answer then approach with caution. The industry standards are the Trinity Certificate in TESOL and the CELTA, with either of these courses under your belt you can be confident of both accreditation and recognition.
Recognition – Is the course well-known and well respected by the profession?
The profession is somewhat fragmented internationally and so there are significant differences between countries. Having said this, the British Council recognition is a good bench mark for courses around the world. I’m working in Andalusia, Spain and members of the National Association of Language Schools (fecei.org) and the Andalusian Regional Association (aceia.es) much prefer teachers who have come from either a Trinity Certificate in TESOL or a CELTA course.
Teaching practice – Do you have to teach foreign language students on the course?
Perhaps incredibly, there are many TEFL courses where the participants don’t get anywhere near teaching real students. Can you imagine learning to drive without ever getting into a car? The same goes for teaching, a teaching course without a significant teaching element should be viewed with great suspicion. Some courses, especially on-line courses, are 100% theory and others include classes where you teach other course participants. In a good course there will always be this teaching element at its core. As a guideline, you should look for at least 6 hours of teaching which is observed and monitored by well-qualified, professional and, in the best case scenario, inspirational tutors. It should also involve many more hours of active peer observation as well as several opportunities to watch experienced teachers in action. In order to get hands on experience the standard length of the course is a minimum of four weeks of intensive work. A weekend course is unlikely to prepare you well for the job no matter how much on-line work you have done previously. Teaching practice is the heart of any good TEFL course.
Careers assistance – How much help should you expect to get in finding the kind of work you want during and after the course?
Nearly everybody approaches their TEFL course focused on the job prospects at the end. Some of the cheaper courses will provide you with work after your course. But, is it where you want to go and the sort of job you want? There may well be reasons why other teachers would prefer not to do these jobs. For many new teachers it might seem like the perfect introduction to the profession but it’s worth checking it out carefully. If you are thinking about TEFL for a year of adventure, go for it, it may well be the perfect opportunity for you. Teachers who go down this route often need to do another, wider-recognised, TEFL course when they want to go somewhere else. You should expect careers guidance and assistance in writing your new CV. This should be an important part of the course which reflects the investment you’re making in terms of time, effort and money. A good course will offer on-going support after your course has finished, some even offer life-long careers support.
Your TEFL course is your first step into a profession that offers you almost everything under the sun, literally! Make sure your first experience is the one you want.