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English teachers located around the world give their insight into TEFL

Ever wanted some advice on TEFL teaching? Wanted some help on where to go?

We spoke to a range of experienced TEFL teachers and asked them to provide an insight into their experiences, and also asked them for one piece of advice they wish they had known when they first started out.

And then we created this helpful post and put all of their answers together, in one place, for you!

Have a read of this helpful post if you’re interested in TEFL or thinking about teaching.

And great news – all of these TEFL teachers are bloggers so we have provided a link to each of their blogs so that you can have a browse of their past stories!

Monkey Abroad TEFL blog1. Monkey Abroad

Kevin Cook left the UK after graduating from university to pursue his dreams of living overseas. He started his TEFL teaching in Thailand in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since. His travels have taken him across Asia and you can hear all about these travels, and future travels, on his blog: http://monkeyabroad.com/.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

I teach at an international high school in Shanghai with students from all over the world. One of my 10th grade students from Spain was in the school play, and I went to go watch it. After the show, I went to congratulate him on his performance. His parents were also present, so I had a chance to meet them for the first time. They told me that their son really enjoyed my class and that I was his favorite teacher. It sure as hell felt good.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Go overseas with the goal of having a positive impact on every person you encounter, particularly your students. If you don’t have experience, that’s not an excuse to suck as a teacher. Put effort into your lesson plans and be passionate about your work. Also, study the native language in the country where you choose to teach, either before or after you arrive. You’ll build huge rapport with locals, and that’ll improve your life 1000%. Last thing: don’t just hang out with foreigners. Hang out with locals!

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

Anywhere where there’s a beach. Probably Phuket, Thailand.

Waegukin TEFL blog2. Waegukin

Waegukin teaches English in South Korea. You can read more of his work at his blog: waegukin.com.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

It’s difficult to pick a single moment. Here is one that stands out from my first year of teaching. I was working late at my almost empty country school and I took advantage of my solitude to climb up onto the school roof. It was Fall, the evening held the first touch of the coolness to come, and there was the smell of smoke from burning rice fields. I looked out over the mountains at a perfect East Asian sunset – that round, orange sun I’d seen in movies, clearly visible through the haze. I had a feeling of being perfectly happy with where I was at that moment and the decision I’d made to come to Korea.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Take the teaching seriously. A lot of people take up TEFL as a means to travel, and that’s fine; that was my initial motivation, too.  But for each student, you could either be the teacher who gives them a lifelong love of language and learning, and changes their life forever for the better; or you could be the teacher who makes them hate English and feel alienated and frustrated. And you have to take that seriously. It will also help you connect more deeply with the culture you’re living in. Seeing TEFL as just a job to finance your weekend partying usually results in a very shallow experience.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I’m happy with my life in Korea, and don’t feel any urge to move on.

ESL Made Easy blog3. ESL made easy

Carolyn Flores and was born and raised in Canada. She has been teaching ESL for over 20 years in both the classroom and 1-on-1. Before getting into this dynamic and ever changing field of ESL in Canada, Carolyn had the opportunity to teach in Honduras, Central America. Also teaching throughout Honduras in various English schools and hotels, and set up a tutoring centre called Living English. Ten years later, she returned to Canada and has been teaching English to newcomers in Canada at the Centre for Skills, Development and Training in Burlington, Ontario ever since. Find out more at: eslmadeeasy.ca.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

Teaching English in a foreign country was a great achievement and experience in my life. Not only did I learn about methods and strategies to teach non-English speakers of all ages, but I gained a deeper understanding of what some of the challenges might be when learning a language and settling into Canada.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

If I were to give one piece of advice to teachers working in ESL classrooms, I would suggest carving out more in-class time for student-centred conversation. Getting students to practice their speaking rather than just studying the words of English is key for developing confidence and fluency. Read more about this topic in the article Making Room for Conversation on TESL Ontario’s blog.

For first time TEFL teachers, I would also say that there isn’t a need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to planning and finding classroom resources and material. I have stumbled across hundreds of online English language teaching platforms, resources and discussion groups. It’s overwhelming to see the number of blogs and websites out there full of tips, ideas, and resources for teachers and ESL students worldwide.  Wanting to have and share all these resources in a one-stop hub, I created www.elsmadeeasy.ca.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I’m not sure I’ll be travelling and teaching in another country anytime soon. With all the available online platforms for 1-on-1 teaching, there will be plenty of opportunities for TEFL teachers out there! Learning about new cultures and working with non-English speakers will always be a passion of mine, however right now, I am enjoying working with newcomers to Canada and helping them settle and learn English along the way.

Desperately Seeking Adventure TEFL blog4. Desperately Seeking Adventure

Joseph Harrison is 24 years old and teaching English at a Kindergarten in Wuhan, China. He has been blogging about his travel experiences since February 2012 and will continue to do so throughout his current and future TEFL experiences. Joseph adores travelling to new places and getting to know different cultures and customs, although he doesn’t want to take another bus in China!! Follow Joseph’s blog at www.desperately-seeking-adventure.co.uk and follow his journey through his tweets at JTAH_1990.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

Well, I have currently been in China for three months so I would have to say my first memorable TEFL experience was my first Kindergarten class in Wuhan, China. The children were energetic and exuded a crazy energy that made me realise I should have chosen Kindergarten first time around because I came to China with another company that was an English Training Centre.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Trust your instinct but also be willing to take some risks. I was so hung up about what company seemed the most kosher as some things in China can seem to be dubious and disingenuous. If your first job doesn’t work out then don’t stress because there’s at least ten jobs available for that one that didn’t work out, I know from first hand experience.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

So far I’m having a blast in China and it’s also quite early days in the grand scheme of things, I would have to say Wuhan, China is home right about now but I wouldn’t say no to teaching in a different Chinese city in 2016. Looking further ahead I’ve heard there are plenty of opportunities in Thailand and South-Korea. I’m just taking each day as it comes in China for now.

ELT Blog 5. ELT blog

Anthony has been working in English Language Teaching for five years now. He did his initial training in Poland in 2011, after which he taught English to adults, Young Learners and businessmen in Poland, Germany, and the UK. He is currently in Argentina, where he is the Assistant Director of Studies at International House Buenos Aires. He is Delta qualified and has an MA in English Language and Linguistics. He is a big fan of social media and tweets under @ashowski and posts weekly blogs at http://eltblog.net.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

Coming from the North East of England, I have a very specific accent, with vowel sounds which make most people´s ears perk up. My learners always notice this when I start teaching them. I have had many comments about my accent. One of my most memorable moments in teaching was in my first year. I was giving a class to a group of learners who were preparing for the CAE exam. I wrote a new item of vocabulary on the whiteboard and as I turned round to drill it, the whole class pronounced the word in choral unison in my accent! I couldn´t believe it! It made us all laugh, but it also made me realise how much the learners notice and take away from what the teacher says.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Put your Smartphone in your hand, press voice record and record yourself for a few minutes. Listen back to it after the lesson – it will be an eye-opener. I promise. If you´re straight off your Initial Teacher Training course, try to record yourself giving explanations and instructions. But be warned: you might be in for a surprise!

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

Saudi Arabia or China. I would like to not only teach in a country which has a completely different culture to the one I am used to, but which also has a completely different language and script. So far, I have taught in countries where European languages are spoken, such as German and Polish, and are based on European cultures, such as Argentina. I think not only experiencing a very different culture but also learning a completely different language myself might be an invaluable experience for me as a teacher. I have spoken to many teachers who have gone off to China or Korea for their first teaching job and I am quite jealous of the experience they have gotten.

The Travelling Tapir TEFL blog6. The Travelling Tapir

Alice is a British-born, travel enthusiast who started teaching English for the first time this year in Vietnam. Writing about her travel and teaching experiences on her blog, The Travelling Tapir, Alice is a strong advocate of leaving your boring desk job and embarking on a exciting and profitable life abroad – follow her blog for more stories at https://thetravellingtapir.wordpress.com.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

I have been private tutoring a small class of children for the past three months, of which time I have become very attached to them. I decided to do something special for them as they try really hard and are fascinated by England. I managed to find all of the students an English pen pal, an exercise that would practise their conversation skills and also engage them with the English culture through someone their age. When I announced that I had found them an English friend to write to some of the children cried with happiness. It was a really fulfilling and rewarding moment seeing the kids so enthusiastic about having this connection with the UK.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Learn as many games as you can! Once you’ve taught the students the target language, a game or two will really help consolidate the new vocabulary in a fun and relaxed environment. Games work for both adults and young learners, as they reduce the fear of making mistakes and encourage student participation. Once you’ve settled into your new country try and make friends with some fellow English teachers and find out which games they play to build up a large collection that you can draw upon in class.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I think this question summarises why I love teaching English, suddenly the world has become my oyster! I think I would most like to teach in Central America as the cuisine and climate really interests and suits me. Similarly the Czech Republic is calling my name, but that might be a few more years off yet!

One Step 4ward TEFL blog7. One Step 4ward

Johnny left Ireland in 2006 and decided to travel, study, work and volunteer around the globe, and has since made his way across over 100 countries. Changing his lifestyle, he is living his dreams, and wants to inspire others to do the same through his blog, http://onestep4ward.com/.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

At the end of my first teaching contract in Thailand I had to leave to organise some paperwork, and the class knew I was going traveling around the world. I came back after lunch and rather than take their break time, the class spent the whole hour fixing up the room with pictures and things to wish me luck on my trip. So nice.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Don’t use an agency. Do the TEFL then go and get a job yourself, where you want to live. Don’t just be placed somewhere random.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

Thailand for lifestyle, Korea for saving money.

Miss Hunter's TEFL blog8. I live, I love, I teach

Miss Hunter believes that each child will be happiest if they are led to discover and equip themselves to do what their creator designed them to do. She feels that the role of education is to help them on this journey. As a teacher Miss Hunter takes pride in nurturing and guiding her students to develop a love for learning that enhances their ability to become contributing citizens in their community. With a lot of experience working with elementary, middle, and high school age students, ranging from: currently teaching 5 year olds at an International School in Shenzhen, China; teaching Kindergarten religious education in my church; teaching grades Kindergarten – 4th grade with ELL/Special Education inclusion within the public school sector; teaching 1st grade, 1st/2nd, and 9th/10th grades in the private school sector; tutoring students of all ages; and also teaching swimming lessons and coaching swim team to children of all ages. Miss Hunter’s blog is regularly updated, read more at https://iliveiloveiteach.wordpress.com/.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

My most memorable moment is the people here in China! I love the culture. I had a gentleman stop me so he could practice his English. In the end he explained that he wants to go to the states to learn more.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Don’t take the hangups from your home country with you. Embrace the new culture and the people. As a person of colour it may seen hard to do, but remember the stares are because they haven’t seen someone that looks like you. Learn the language of that country and smile at the people. A smile and “hello” in that language can take you a very long way.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I’d love to go to the UAE. I’m not sure as to why, just want to experience something new. I enjoy meeting new people.

Enjoy Teaching English TEFL blog9. Enjoy Teaching English

Lusine is Armenian, currently living in Lebanon and teaching English and Spanish. Her favourite teaching quote is “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand, I think and I learn”. Lusine’s blog was created to share teaching materials, activities and worksheets so go over to her blog to see how her resources can help you. Lusine’s blog can be found at http://lusine13.blogspot.co.uk/.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

I got my first teaching job when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child and had been living abroad for 2 years. I didn’t speak the language, nor understand it very well. I am grateful to the people who believed in me and let me in. There is an accepted premise among TEFL teachers that it’s possible to teach students without having to translate or use the mother tongue of the students, which I am grateful for.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

To over plan every detail. If necessary, write down everything in order on a piece of paper. You can be too overwhelmed and you may forget lots of important things especially on the first day. I wish I had attended real lessons before starting teaching myself. If you have an opportunity, try to attend a class of a veteran experienced teacher. An hour of a class is worth days and weeks spent on reading classroom management articles.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

The country I am currently teaching has a good level of education but unfortunately only private schools provide that and they are not free. The majority of the population work hard in order to be able to send their kids to private schools as public schools are overcrowded and sometimes not safe to attend. The “government” doesn’t provide each child with the right of free education as in most developed countries. Starting from uniform to school supplies and books, everything costs a fortune I would say.

Another difficulty I have faced is the 60 days of maternity leave. The “government” have decided 60 days are enough to get back to work once you have a baby. This is the nonsense that held me back from having my second child for almost 6 years. So any country that provides a free education for every child, a free medical care and a decent maternity leave would be on my list to continue my teaching career in.

Don't stop living TEFL blog10. Don’t stop living

Jonny left Northern Ireland in 2003 and has since managed to visit all 7 continents – travelling, working and living in over 100 countries in the process. Jonny’s view is ‘Every day should be different. Life is an adventure.’ With this in mind, Jonny has created a blog hosting his stories and tips on travelling to inspire others to get out and see the world too. With the blog starting in 2007, it has a great archive of information, so it is definitely worth a visit. His blog can be read at http://dontstopliving.net/.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

Teaching in St. Francis of Assissi Primary School school in Hong Kong as this is one of the best schools in Hong Kong and the pupils are of a high standard. Classes ran much smoother in this school and the pupils impressed me with their knowledge of English.

Aside from that I went on a few cool tours with some of my Kindergarten classes including a visit to Madame Tussauds, the Peak and the Lion’s Nature Reserve, all in Hong Kong. I have also held a World Cup football event at a school and attended numerous graduations, teacher’s conferences and training courses in the last 4-5 years so there have been lots of memorable moments.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Be passionate about the job and you will go a long way. Enjoy and savour every moment. If the pupils you are teaching see your passion, you will enjoy your job more. The pupils will also be easier to teach, they will go further, improve more and you will make a lasting impression. Passion for the job is the most important aspect in this game.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I would love to teach in Saudi Arabia next, but mostly for the reason that a tourist visa is hard to come by and by teaching there, you can live there and get to enjoy the sights of this less travelled country. Plus the wages there are pretty good and it would be an experience of a lifetime. I recently crossed the Bahrain to Saudi Arabia bridge and was looking across to Saudi Arabia thinking how cool it would be to visit this country.

Great Big Scary World TEFL blog11. Great big scary world

Jamie taught in Uganda, South-Korea, and Poland. He is currently taking a new route in life, searching for adventures through hitchhiking, cycling, home made rafts, and whatever else he can dream up. He writes about these adventures on his blog, www.greatbigscaryworld.com and has published his first book, The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World.

What has been the most memorable moment of your time teaching abroad?

Teaching in Uganda under a mango tree and having the skies open was incredible. All the children, hundreds, of them, ran for cover and we all squealed and yelped with joy as the drops pounded down on us. That was one of my first ever teaching experiences and the excitement of something so very different from my conventional life had me hooked immediately.

What is the number 1 piece of advice you would give to a first time tefl teacher?

Remember what it is like to be at school. Teachers are strange aliens you can’t relate to, so as a teacher, it is up to you to break down those barriers. By treating kids with respect, you get respect back. The best situation for any classroom is a situation in which the students and teachers are enjoying themselves.

What country would you most like to teach in next and why?

I am done with teaching. It was a big part of my life and something I am grateful for because it has shaped me to be the person that I am today, but I hope now to work more on writing and videos related to adventure.

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