Why complete a TEFL course? To Teach, Travel, Work and Live abroad!
To Teach, Travel, Work and Live abroad! says the ITTT website. Indeed, the main reasons for wanting to be a certified TEFL teacher are most probably these. If you are a student, to travel the world, discover different cultures, meet new people and learn the local language. If you are an office employee, frustrated by the routine and bored with your job, to escape to China or Japan to teach and learn about Buddhism. If you are an experienced teacher, to give a new dimension to your teaching. If you want to help others, to do volunteer work in Africa.
There are a multitude of personal and professional reasons that may motivate people from all walks of life to do a TEFL course. For me it was to be a real teacher. This is my story.
I am a native English speaker, but have lived in France for over half my life. I can't count the number of times I've been asked to give private English lessons to students who were having difficulties at school, to a group of adults who wanted to improve their conversational skills or who wanted to go back and revise 'all the basic grammar points (!)', to professionals who wanted to prepare for exams, etc. These people assumed that because I could speak, read and write English correctly, this meant that I could teach. Wrong! I often accepted, but never took any payment for the help I gave as I knew I was not qualified. I learnt basic grammar at school, but this was hardly enough to teach it to others. I could write essays on Chaucer and Shakespeare, but ask me to explain complex language structures, forget it.
At 16, I knew I wanted to teach English, but was told by the careers' person that in 1980 'the 'market' would be saturated'. I accepted this as a fact (!) and followed another path. After over 20 years of working, I found myself in a situation where I could choose to make a major career change. This was a great opportunity, but I was moving to East Africa and the possibilities were limited. I had to present a feasible plan for my re-conversion and when asked what I really wanted to do I replied, without hesitation, to teach. But how could I achieve this so late in my life' My school days were over. Nevertheless, I started looking on the web, not really convinced that there was anything there for me. I remembered vaguely a friend of mine talking about TEFL many years ago. What was it' Didn't you need a university degree' One must have previous teaching experience to qualify, surely. I 'landed' on the ITTT website and read (to my amazement):
'No knowledge of foreign languages or teaching experience required, the only requirement is a good command of the English language'. (1)
Maybe there was hope!
The on-site courses in the Phuket, Barcelona, Rome or Auckland called out to me. Sadly, I had to accept that this was not an option. On-line was the only way. If it was, however, it had to be the best. I read on:
'ITTT is the ONLY online course provider externally moderated and accredited by IATQUO (The International Association of TESOL Qualifying Organizations)' (2)
The vast majority of employers will require you to have a 100-hour certificate. ITTT is one of the few online course providers that meet this criteria (3).
This was it!
I liked the fact that ITTT did not say their course was better than others. Instead, they simply put forward good, valid reasons for doing their on-line course. I could work through the training materials and tasks offline (unlike many other courses) which is essential when you live in a country where internet connections are unreliable, to say the least. I could progress at my own pace (a definite plus when you have to juggle family responsibilities and a personal goal) and I would have an on-line tutor to give me guidance and advice. Once I had completed the course I would receive assistance at all stages of my job search: help with preparing my CV, interviewing techniques, preparation for interviews and even arranging interviews with potential employers: 'ITTT also offers course graduates ongoing employment advice and assistance throughout the duration of their teaching careers . '(4) A serious commitment. What more could I ask for' I must admit I was very nervous when I started. I hadn't studied for 25 years and although I was had worked in many fields (Law, Advertising, IT, Human Resources) this was a new challenge and very daunting. The support I received from my on-line tutor from day 1 was fantastic but what really motivated me was when he told me to 'remember to have fun'! Yes, the fact that you are studying doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you are doing. The first Unit on What makes a good teacher and what makes a good learner was fascinating. I was inspired!
As I worked and learnt, I kept thinking 'I can't wait to get into a classroom'. I did not have to wait long. Half way through the course, I was offered a job to teach English at a local school and I accepted. Was I mad' Probably. The only support I had were the Units! They became my Bible/Koran. I can honestly say that I put into practice nearly every piece of information and advice!! I taught all levels: beginners, intermediate, advanced and apparently, successfully (judging from the feedback I received from fellow teachers, students and their parents). As I continued to work through the Units and applied the methods and skills in the classroom, my confidence grew. The tips on classroom management and discipline not only looked good on paper, they actually worked! I was confident when teaching grammar as I had tested myself in the Units. In addition to the practical benefits, I began to realise that it was changing my attitude towards others: how I communicated and interacted, not only with my students, but with my family, friends and colleagues.
I have suggested to my daughter that she take this TEFL course. Why' To make her aware of her own needs concerning the English language, enable her to help her classmates, appreciate her teachers more and even to get a part-time job at a new hotel in Djibouti. I have also recommended it to the non-native English teachers at the local school. I'm sure they would benefit from the experience. As one of them admitted 'However much experience we may have, we must never forget that there is always something more to learn'.
I know that I am only at the start of my teaching career and have a long way to go, but completing this course made me believe in myself and gave me the courage to say, 'It's not too late. Yes, I can be a real teacher'.
Thank you ITTT, I could never have done it without you!
(1) ITT website home page. http://www.teflonline.net/
(2) (3) ITTT website. http://www.teflonline.net/onsite-course.htm
(4) ITTT website. http://www.teflonline.net/faq.htm#seven