So, you’ve gone and done it – you’ve gained your TEFL/TESOL certification (congratulations!) and now you’re raring to go and get into that classroom to put your new skills to the test. But whilst that’s an admirable attitude, this isn’t a job that you should be rushing into headlong. This is the type of role that evolves quietly with the more strings you add to your bow. One of the most important of these strings is having experience of teaching. You can’t embark on almost any career without some form of experience, but teaching is one where you definitely need it. Teaching isn’t just about imparting the relevant information, it’s about learning how to handle a class size of 20+, how to handle disruptive students, it’s about relaying the teaching curriculum to them in a way that they can understand. None of this will come easily without experience and you don’t want to have to be learning on the job if this is your first, fulltime teaching position, i.e. the one that you have dreamed of and worked so hard to qualify for. It’s going to be far better if you gain the valuable experience before you enter the classroom alone, so here are a few ways that you can do exactly that (before you press the TEFL job search button). Just remember that your TEFL certification needs to be at least 120 hours to allow you to teach and to access the best teaching roles you’ll also need to have a degree. There are some places where you won’t need one, but those won’t be the best.
- Teaching online might be a good idea to get that all-important teaching experience. There are lots of online English teaching jobs you can get which don’t need experience. Not only is it an excellent way to get your foot in the door, but you can do it from any location, you can set your own hours and you have lots of flexibility about you approach it.
- Consider doing a TEFL/TESOL teaching practicum. There are certain types of these qualifications that give valuable teaching experience. You can get courses which offer a few hours of hands-on teaching in a real EFL classroom. You can usually choose between a few different locations, schools, colleges, etc.
- Volunteering is another great way to get that essential experience. There are probably a few options within your community to do this and not only are you helping yourself, you are also benefiting others along the way. And what nicer feeling is there to know that you haven’t just helped yourself, you have helped those who might be in greater need than you realise. The sorts of situations that you could keep a look out for include:
- Immigrant or refugee organisations.
- Anywhere that holds EFL classes.
- English language schools.
- Possibly mainstream schools, though this might be a little harder to come by.
- Look into becoming a private tutor. This one is especially advantageous because of all the benefits it brings. Working 1-1 with a pupil allows you to build a rapport there with just one student, rather than a whole class-full, and it’s a great way to gain experience and practise your skills. It could also add a real teaching job to your CV which is a very big plus and will impress potential employers. If you feel uncomfortable about charging so soon after gaining your cert. then you could start off by doing some tester sessions for free. Just make sure that you have a way of charging going forwards, you don’t want to be teaching for free for very long.
- You could investigate TA (teaching assistant) posts. That would be a way of getting into the classroom and getting that first hand experience without actually being in charge yourself or being the one that everyone is relying on. As an extra bonus it will show potential employers that you can manage groups of students, that you can follow a lesson plan, that you can adapt to different situations and most importantly that you’re serious about becoming a TEFL teacher.
- If you want to step further, then have a look at travelling somewhere that holds an English language immersive experience. In the States that would probably be a summer camp, but not so in the UK. That doesn’t mean that opportunities don’t exist, you’ll just have to look a bit harder. It could be worth contacting local schools and colleges to see if they have any suggestions.
- This is a bit of a different tangent, but exploring whether you could do any training/teaching in your current work role is a good idea, and it shows initiative to do so. You could teach others who are not sure about how a system works, or train a new employee or even create a workplace group for a designated purpose. Although it’s not technically teaching, it will still look good on your CV and provide a talking point for any future interviews.
Good though your TEFL qualification might be, certificates don’t trump experience, which is why most (if not all) decent TEFL jobs require this all-important experience.