There are a few reasons to join a TEFL/TESOL course: need; curiosity; social-interaction; travel and desired lifestyle; government regulations, or perhaps a lack of other options.
You may already be familiar with the following explanation, but it bears repeating. TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and it’s a certification that is required by learning institutions to teach abroad. TESOL is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Need is easy enough to explain. You need a job, or you need a TESOL qualification to get or keep a job. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that qualifications weren’t necessary for most positions and teaching was a way to spend a year or two traveling. As the need for English became more pronounced and the price for courses and individual lessons increased, so did the expectation and demand that teachers have quantifiable training. Certain positions needed more qualification. Teachers who had been teaching for a few years realized that they needed a grounding in methodology. Flying by the seat of your pants will only take you so far.
Another reason may be what’s over the hill. We imagine life in another place, or just a chance to move to a new city or a different country. We imagine a different climate, a unique culture and a few extra stamps in our passports. What is it like to walk down a street in Cuba, or sip a drink in Miami’s South Beach? A Parisian café, A stroll through a morning market, an afternoon in a Milanese gallery, or photography in Beijing’s hutongs. Perhaps it’s a quick visit to South East Asia’s volcanic islands, or do sparkling sandy beaches call?
Social interaction is a bit more difficult to define, only because the need is unique for each person. Some need music and close proximity, while some need solitude with others at a manageable distance. Some want to be a stranger in a strange land, a James Bond or Lara Croft(gender notwithstanding) Others want to mix and blend. They want local colour, and they want to be at caught up in the energy and intensity of the moments they experience. Wonderful to meet the many students, children, teenagers, and adult learners and learn what a school day is like. What are the routines of an office, or the mysteries or minutia of managing a home? To be able to share and compare. To earn an appreciation for a new life, or a better understanding of life back home. Talk to teachers, shop-owners, police officers, butchers, bakers and fellow risk-takers.
The desire to go beyond the gate begins as soon as we can move. If we didn’t have that basic need to explore, we likely would have never been born. We get our passport, then we search online travel sites, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. We Google volcano, beach, resort, palm tree, desert, mountain, or tropical paradise. We long for the dance, the ceremony, the song or the solitude. Our reason for travel may be cultural, spiritual, intellectually or educational. We may hope to wear swim suits or anoraks, or at least a smile, in place of our normal attire or attitude.
Government regulations are the ironic glue that holds us all together. Whether you hope to teach or eventually sell pineapple pancakes and mocha-guava coffee smoothies you will need to understand the local red-tape. Visas, banking and eventually building a comfortable life are best done legally. One of the requirements to teach, in countries that pay a living wage, is a TEFL/TESOL certificate. The course norms are a recognized degree that runs for four or five weeks over 120 hours. The course should include methodology and observed teaching practice. It should also be externally moderated. From your side you want a safe environment, a comfortable place to stay and a cultural experience. In order to get a working visa, potential teachers in Indonesia have to be 25 years of age, have a BA, and have a TESL certificate.
A lack of other options sounds vaguely confrontational, or at least insulting. It’s not meant to be either. Life is tougher than ever. Jobs are scarce and the prospect of never ending drudge work is not appealing. Teaching overseas offers adventure, travel, social interaction, cultural exchange, and the chance to learn a language. Certification may not increase your employment options at home, but it may be a prelude to graduate study or open your eyes to new career, entrepreneurial opportunities. Some teachers choose to stay for a couple of contracts, some move on to other countries, and some of us set roots and make a life here. We wish you luck with whichever path you choose.
Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.