Great advice from Jules who completed our Nov 2020 onsite course in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Where do I begin?
Run for the hills. As fast as you can.
But seriously? Wait, listen up. Think carefully about this course. It is very intense. Pick the right time to do it. Ensure that you have cleared the decks entirely within your own life in order to give the course all the time, commitment, energy and work that it requires. If you don’t do this the experience could be very stressful. You may even fail or walk off the course.
The fact that you are in Cambodia, Bali etc makes little difference because you could really be anywhere, there is no time for culture trips or relaxing (*see below) on the beach etc so please don’t let that be the deciding reason for where you do your TEFL. Ensure that it is accredited, and has good reviews. Think about where you may want to eventually teach as it’s a good idea to study in that country because the school will have connections to teaching institutes in order to help you find a job after you’ve qualified. (*Unfortunately Jules was not able to join us on the course included cultural day at West Baray. We enjoyed the day next to and on the water, eating frogs legs, crickets, fire grilled chicken and the sweetest fresh fruits - below some of the photos we took on this day.
And, with good time management, you can still explore a bit on the weekends and visit local hangouts a few evenings between lesson planning... )
Don’t put off homework thinking you will have time later, you won’t. Just do it. Now.
Try to not be overwhelmed by the teaching observations. They are there to help you. Receiving constructive criticism that is balanced and fair is priceless to your development. Don’t be afraid of the children, they are just children after all. Remember how scary adults were as a child? Be firm, show early on that there is a line in the sand which shouldn’t be crossed and never lose your cool or your sense of humour!
If you don’t understand something don’t be afraid to ask, chances are most of the rest of the class won’t understand it either. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Remember when you learnt to drive and you bunny hopped down the road , and now you jump into your car or on your scooter without a second thought? We all have to start somewhere, you will get there.
Write as much down as you can if you're the kind of the learner that remembers by writing things down. It helped me hugely. Lessons plans over and over in order to remember them, notes in lectures, tips. Believe me when I say there won’t be enough room in your head to remember even a quarter of this course if you don’t make notes.
Get plenty of rest, don’t stay up too late, don’t party or drink alcohol during the course. I swore myself off alcohol for the entire month and it helped a lot. Maybe if you get the chance also try to only eat healthy foods where you are staying. Look after your body and your health. Get to know your teammates, they can help you tremendously and you them and they have a lot in common with you.
There will be parts of the course that you will find challenging. Ride the wave. Don’t dig your heels in the sand. It’s a good idea to promise yourself a reward at the end of the course. I have booked a hot air balloon over Angkor Wat and a holiday in the south islands over Christmas as my reward. I made my reward a screenshot on my phone and every time it became difficult I looked at the image. I also set a countdown on my phone. The countdown told me when I had arrived at the quarter and half way point. It went extremely quickly.
Taking a TEFL course you’ve found for £50 on a discount website like Groupon might seem an attractive and cost-effective option at first glance, but if it’s not properly accredited then employers may not recognise it. At the end of the day, you tend to get what you pay for! Please don’t be fooled by these deals. To be fully qualified by TEFL you need to do 120 hours and a minimum of six hours of observed teaching practice with a real classroom. Anything below this is just a Mickey Mouse qualification that will get you nowhere in terms of paid employment.
If you lack motivation and don’t work well alone do not consider doing the course online and adding six hours of teaching practice at the end. Be honest with yourself about your learning style. Think back to when you did your driving exam, did you pass easily with a bit of input from your parents, or did you do an intensive three week course? The tips are there to reveal to you what kind of learner you are. It would have been entirely unreasonable TPR (Total Physical Response) me to attempt to do the course online and add my teaching practice on at the end. I work from home and would have been hugely distracted by my existing work, running a household. I know I learn best by doing intensive courses. Some work well doing it online but do not kid yourself. Plus there is a huge benefit to working with your colleagues and all living in the same building.
Don’t forget to smile, even when you may feel overwhelmed, exhausted, confused. It can trick your brain into feeling happy even when you truly don’t, and will make your students and your peers feel happy too. Teaching English can be fun, most teachers that students respond to well have a sunny disposition.
Once you’ve found the right school, clear the decks, jump in at the deep end and immerse yourself into the process. Enjoy yourself and most importantly believe in yourself. You can do it!