We’d like to welcome guest blogger Evelyn Robinson; in this first blog for ICAL she writes about traveling the world as a TEFL teacher and the opportunities available out there!
Every TEFL teacher gets frustrated when their friends and family see their job abroad as a holiday, or a relaxing jaunt. After all, when you’re dealing with lesson plans, marking and the politics of schools abroad, it’s not like you’ve got much time to go sightseeing. However, many teachers try to combine their TEFL work with enjoying their destination country. Is it possible to TEFL and have a fun traveling experience at the same time?
Where to Go
Technically, your TEFL certificate may be your passport to working around the world, and you may be looking dreamily at beautiful beaches and cruise destinations. However, areas that tourists love aren’t usually populated by locals, and less schools means less teaching opportunities. You may find more success working for private agencies, teaching English to adults. These kind of courses are becoming popular in countries such as Spain, where many adults are learning language skills to help them escape the economic downturn, and make them more employable in sectors such as tourism. However, you’ll find less competition for jobs if you are willing to live off the beaten track. Since you’ll be working, you won’t get much time to enjoy the tourist amenities anyway, and lots of things will be closed outside of peak season. Choosing a town where the locals live means it’ll be running year round, there are more practical amenities, and you’ll get to experience the areas that most tourists don’t see.
If you’re planning to travel around a continent, for example backpacking around Europe, you may be able to find temporary jobs along the way. This means you can fund your travels, while enjoying some time off to see the sights. Book something like a Eurail pass and you’ll have the flexibility to move between countries whenever the work comes up. There are plenty of agencies who will offer to find you work, but they’ll often ask for a registration fee or take a percentage of your hard earned cash. Try finding your own opportunities online, scouting local job boards and even asking friends who are working in your dream destination. Some people prefer to plan ahead and secure a job before they travel, but if you’re going to a popular TEFL destination such as Prague it may be easier to roll up and then look for jobs. It really depends on how adventurous you are.
Although working part-time sounds fun, it’s not always possible. We’d all like to have a couple of days off a week, exploring the country and relaxing, but with lesson plans and paperwork, you may find a part-time teaching role can stretch to a 40 hour week. Depending on the country you teach in, you may be restricted in the hours you work, so check if it’s even feasible before setting off. Part-time TEFL teachers can often feel a tad exploited when they work abroad, being expected to cover lessons at short notice, and doing extra hours without pay. Make sure that your salary reflects the amount of work you’re putting in, and that your boss isn’t using you as a cheap supply teacher.
Becoming a private tutor is one way to have flexibility and spend some time enjoying the country while you teach. With many websites dedicated to matching tutors to pupils, it’s easy to put yourself out there and advertise your business. The drawbacks? You might find it hard to get clients. If you’re in an area popular with English speaking travelers, then many of them may have had the same idea, and there will be plenty of unqualified backpackers who are willing to give lessons on the cheap. This is where your TEFL certification is important, showing that you know what you’re doing and that you have the skills and experience to teach. Get some glowing references, consider starting your own blog or website to promote yourself, and price your lessons at a level that shows you’re a quality tutor, yet competitive. Be aware of the rules of self employment, check that your visa allows it and whether you’ll need to pay income tax to your host country. This is where being a private tutor can get awkward, but there’s certainly plenty of information online.
TEFL isn’t exactly a relaxing job, it’s hard work and long hours, but it can be combined with travel to make it an enriching and fun experience for you. You could end up getting the best of both worlds, a glimpse at how locals live, as well as seeing the exciting sights of your destination country.