Dispelling the myths - International TEFL and warnings
Preparation and personal qualities - Making the transition
TEFL job seeking - Avoiding the pitfalls
Are you seeking adventure, fun and excitement, with a high salary to match? Then forget TEFL as a career. There are no sun drenched beaches, adventure, or a salary reflecting a pot of gold at the bottom of the proverbial TEFL rainbow. There is nothing exotic or glamorous about working nine-to-five. If you have no degree and no experience, you will invariably find yourself at the bottom end of language 'schools', often containing a sea full of two legged sharks and invariably, from where the tales of scams and immigration problems arise. The emotional sound bite requirements of cultural awareness and sensitivity are often misleading. Self-sufficiency, adaptability and a large measure of fatalism are the essentials in settings where no welfare system exists and your Embassy will abandon you if you fall foul of domestic law.
The days of, 'have white face can travel', are over. One year backpackers and the tales of bumming their way around the world, with their alcoholic and drug addicted partying stablemates is almost obsolete. Moreover, in a continuing world recession, it is now rare to find a genuine backpacker anywhere in Asia, as immigration departments clamp down on what is politely termed, 'undesirables.'
The summarised information and advice contained in this down-to-earth article should not put you off, rather it’s to help you differentiate between a two week annual holiday and the reality of living and working in Asia and the Far East. The article primarily concentrates on you and what you need to be aware of, as opposed to the lure of recruitment drives. Are you physically, mentally and resilient enough to go it alone? Are you running away from your past, or running towards your future? If you have mental, or drug and alcohol addiction problems, rest assured that they are problems that will cross International borders with you. In Thailand expect decades in prison simply for personal drug possession, in China expect deportation up to the death sentence for dealing in drugs and your homosexual activism, cultural narcissism and moral relativism will, (fortunately for the rest of your host society), ensure your speedy deportation from just about any country outside the west.
Accordingly, the article aims to provide facts, which enable the prospective applicant to decide whether they are suitable for a TEFL career and in turn, what that entails and how to go about it safely.Although the article concentrates specifically on Asia, conversely, others might find the general premise also applies to other countries. This article is one of several by the author, and consequently, referred to within the following pages, yet differing from the usual recruiting hype and containing a realistic appraisal. Welcome aboard to, TEFL job seeking? Helping you to unlock the door.
Dispelling the myths - International TEFL and warnings
The majority of countries now require evidence of non-criminal behaviour, a medical check and often have age limits for foreign teachers. Immigration departments also now check certification for authenticity. Immigration officials can be your best friends, or conversely, if you try to beat the system, your worst nightmare. By voluntarily entering a country, you agree to abide by its laws, norms and moral behaviours.
Thailand "Teaching English in Thailand Without a Degree. There are some risks of working without a work permit in Thailand, but that shouldn’t put you off."
This comment from a clueless blogger gives illegal advice and breaks the immigration rules. Expect to pay a hefty sum if caught working illegally (and eventually you will) without permission from the Ministry of Labour. Additionally, the era of continually tourist 'border hopping' to obtain 30 day entry stamps has long since ended.
China Despite a shortage of teachers, China deported an estimated 1,237 to 1,600 foreigners in the first half of 2014, mainly for deception, or 'inappropriate behaviour’. There is no ambiguity by the authorities and China requires a Ministry of Foreign Affairs work permit for foreign employment and a PSB (police) residency permit to stay. The numerous tales of woe invariably arise from those that tried to bypass the system by deception, fraud or sheer ignorance. Remember, you are a guest; conduct yourself accordingly, abide by the regulations and values of the country you chose to enter, and don’t become a deportation statistic.
Updated, with a warning that if you’re a fake, don’t even try it.
"Back in March of 2017, Deputy Administrator Song of China's SAFEA bureau (State Administration Foreign Experts Affairs) in their Beijing HQ office, openly admitted that "China has a big problem with fake foreign teachers estimated to now be one-third of all the foreign teachers working in China."
Generally, teaching comes in two categories, state or private and it’s a matter of personal choice. State schools will require a degree, TEFL certificate and experience and universities a Master’s degree, whereas language 'schools' or centres resemble profit-driven organisations, which is what they are. The tenure in private 'schools' depends on customer amounts and the high turnover rates reflect that. If you are not a native English speaker, this is your option.
Of course, not all private language centres deserve tarring with the same brush and there are good recruiters, but government schools have a reputation to uphold and a curriculum to follow, whereas the language centres depend more on bums on seats. The choice is yours; higher salary, lower holidays and the risk of private school scams v a lower salary, but the personal and job security of government schools.
Preparation and Personal Qualities - Making the Transition
Congratulations, as you begin the first tentative steps on your onward journey.
The first step is to prepare an acceptable resume, which will differ markedly from your western one in several ways. This is your first introduction to a prospective employer and it matters. You will never receive another first chance to impress. Elsewhere, the author gives a detailed account of how to compose a suitable TEFL resume.The resume objective is to be clear and concise. Concentrate on brevity and remove the western exaggerations, boasts and constant success.
Don’t put your finished resume on general employment websites, where it will become the proverbial needle in a haystack. 'Monster', the recruitment database receives nearly half a million resumes a week! (BeHiring).
An alternative method of promoting yourself might be to publish on professional social sites such as LinkedIn. No matter what you are in life, if you can’t write five hundred words on your chosen profession and skills, you can’t expect others to take you seriously.
Meanwhile, how’s your grammar? Can you identify nouns, adjectives and verbs, do you know what a tense is and would you have difficulty explaining an article? Grammar and language structure remain complicated topics to explain, nevertheless, at least brush up on the basics; you will need it.
You might also prepare a syllabus of your own.Ordinarily schools teach from books, nevertheless, it’s also an advantage to have a set of lesson plans handy, if only to provide sample lessons for schools, who often request you show your capabilities before turning you loose on an unsuspecting audience.
Could you stand in front of a crowd of sixty teens, manage and control them and complete a forty five minute practice lesson, right now? Moreover, how competent are your social and communication skills? Practice public speaking, it’s a major role in your job. Does all this sound unlike the promises of recruiters suggesting a fantasy life of sun, sand and adventure? Of course not, it’s reality. Does it all sound similar to work? Yes, it’s supposed to. Not being prepared is the reason many teachers only last a year or two, before burning themselves out with stress and pressure. No one expects you to know all this, but it is something you will eventually need to learn. Prepare and research before you dip your toes and provide yourself with a fighting chance of success.
TEFL Job Seeking - Avoiding the Pitfalls
Now that you have discovered there’s more to international TEFL than deciding what strength of suntan lotion you’ll need to bring with you, let’s consider the actual world of TEFL.
Popular sites for recruitment remain seriousteachers.com to find positions internationally, or ajarn.com, specifically for Thailand and all contain Q&A forums. A further reputable site is tefl.net.
Don’t hesitate to send out your resume, prepared specifically to exclude 'phone numbers, or personal details. Your age and a contact email are sufficient and never send payment or financial details to a recruiter, whatever their excuse.
Thailand or Cambodia remain ideal locations for beginners, although the salary is low and the average working hours of 24 per week can be gruelling in 40°C (104 F) temperatures and 90% humidity. These countries are also the ideal places to take your TEFL certificate, taught by local foreign teachers, plus the cost is a fraction of that in the west. Beware the online scam of companies promising you work on condition you complete one of their supposedly 'accredited' TEFL certificates. The certificate counts, not the claims of the providing company and the insinuation that only their certificate will provide work is misleading at best, if not downright dishonest. Believe me, no one has ever heard of your college outside your own country and a Diploma in HNC engineering is worthless. Let's be honest about this; if you had to pay to learn Russian, would you prefer a Russian native speaker, or learn from a Russian speaking Nigerian living in Canada?
Finding legal work in China is more difficult, as the visa regulations and certification requirements are strict. The author provides a glimpse of life as a TEFL Teacher in Inner Mongolia.
From riding a camel in the Gobi desert, to the sweltering heat of the rice paddies of SE Asia, or viewing the stunning ice sculptures of Mongolia, or living the first world sophistication of Hong Kong . . . It’s all there if you want it. Whether for the experience or a life change, if you are up to it, give it a try, but only for the right reasons.].