Teaching English as a foreign language is a great job, since starting out on this career path, I haven’t had cause to look back and wish I had chosen something else. But the way the industry is sometimes advertised can be misleading, and potential teachers should be aware of some of the common misconceptions surrounding the job.
Myth One – Teaching My Own Language Is Easy
Because of the lack of teachers in some countries, it can be relatively easy to find employment even if you have no qualifications. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, depending on the type of classes you teach, a lot of novice teachers mistakenly believe that if they speak the language, they can teach it. Not true.
Having no knowledge of English grammar, not being able to grade language to learner level, or struggling to engage the class are common problems that have a detrimental effect on learning. Students will pick up on the inexperience and the bad explanations, and will ultimately lose respect for the teacher and the school.
Make sure that, before accepting a job, you are aware of your own limitations. Get some knowledge behind you, plan your classes thoroughly before entering the classroom, and accept advice and constructive criticism from your peers and superiors.
Myth Two – I’m Going To Earn Lots Of Money
In some parts of the world the lack of teachers, affluence of the locals, and great exchange rates mean that English teachers can make a pretty penny! Sadly, this is not the case in most places! Teaching English is usually a minimum wage job, and unless you have a few side gigs to supplement your income, it’s likely that you won’t be making enough to go travelling very five minutes.
Of course, you’ll have enough to pay your rent and go for a few vinos, but I’m afraid you haven’t chosen a profession that will make you rich.
Supplementing your teacher’s wage might mean getting a few private classes on board, or working in a few schools at the same time. If you’re proficient in the local language, you might even try some translation work!
Myth Three – My Timetable Will Be A Breeze
Depending on the classes you teach, and how much effort you put into it, teaching can be a pretty tiring job. A lot of well known institutions will limit the hours you actually teach to around 20. With the rest of your timetable being made up by planning hours and homework correction time.
But in a lot of smaller places, like private language academies, you’ll be working closer to 30 hours in class. It’s a rare thing to be paid for any extra work that you do, however necessary it may be. Planning and correction is expected to be done in your free time. While the amount of time you spend planning will naturally decrease as you get more experienced, starting out will be tough and often unrewarded.
When and if you decide to accept a job teaching, make sure you know what it is they’re actually paying you for, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Myth Four – I’ll Get Lots Of Support From My Supervisor
I personally, have always had the unwavering support of my colleagues and, when I have needed it most, my employers. However, too many times have I heard of teachers being hung out to dry by their boss.
Either they will expect you to deal with your own problems, or they don’t have protocols in place for helping out struggling coworkers, or they simply don’t have the time. Whatever the reason, it’s very often the case that you are on your own, especially in small institutions.
In your interview, be sure to ask what support and help is available from peers and superiors.
On A Lighter Note….
I don’t say these things to discourage new TEFL teachers, far from it! But I have seen a lot of people become very disappointed with their positions and return home because it wasn’t what they expected. I love teaching, and I have since I first stepped foot inside a classroom. I was lucky enough to find a good language academy and work for nice people. For anybody who is considering a career in TEFL, make sure you do your research and choose a place that will treat you well!
Any tips for potential TEFL teachers? Let me know in the comments!