I know it sounds a bit weird, but I do actually love being a TEFL teacher. I used to hate my old sales job when I lived in London so for me teaching is a dream job, especially because I’ve been able to live in 5 different countries.
It’s not all fun and games though. Like any job, there are disadvantages. Here are my top four pros and cons of being a TEFL teacher.
Helping students is a marvelous feeling. Even after 8 years teaching I still get a buzz when I see my students’ faces light up when they understand what I’ve just explained. In the academy I work for we prepare students for exams. The highlight of the year for me is handing over their report card saying that they have passed, or failed if they deserve it. Even just correcting students’ pronunciation so they speak better gives me enough satisfaction to teach. You can't beat seeing the students progress as a buzz factor either.
As long as you plan something entertaining, teaching is fun. I try to add a game aspect to all my classes. I don’t use the word ‘game’ because the students can become dependent on it: ‘Can we play a game’ after the first five minutes gets on my goat. I just say activity. It doesn’t have to be a full out activity with points and teams, just simple guessing will suffice for keeping them entertained. I normally have a laugh with my students and try to get some banter going to liven up the day too.
I’ve learnt loads since being a TEFL teacher. Not only do I now have an in depth knowledge of the English language (okay, I still have a long way to go until I get to David Crystal status), but I’ve learnt how to teach, how to elicit answers from students, how to make them do the work, and how to wing an unexpected class with 40 Chinese students. Most of what I’ve learnt has been on the job, but also my academy has a decent training scheme, something to bear in mind when choosing an employer. When you teach a range of levels and ages each day is different. Being a TEFL teacher provides you with enough variation to keep you busy. It does depend a lot on you. If you’re prepared to research or think up new activities for your students then your TEFL life will be varied. I try not to stick to the same activities because I get bored, and so do my students.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, or Brighton: work is work and Monday morning is Monday morning. Everyone would rather not work, but it makes a difference when your work is something you enjoy.
I’ve had my fair share of nasty students over the years: Panu, an eight-year old Thai boy who used to drive me, and the class, up the wall with his high pitched screaming and protests, Rocío, a nutty Spanish woman, who made me and the class suffer with her constant questioning of everything, and Marcus, a butch Brazilian lad, who used pick on the younger students, and the gimpy English teacher, all the time. Turning round the nasty ones is a tough job, but that’s part of teaching. With the amount of students you teach over the years you’re bound to clash with a few on the way.
Depending on where you are in the world the hours and holidays could be a problem. At the moment I work until 10pm, which means I miss all the football during the week as well as the pleasant spring and summer evenings. I know some teachers who teach random hours all through the day, leaving little time to properly relax. It’s tough getting extra time off as a teacher too. When I worked in Thailand it was impossible to get a day off. Where I am now I have to pay someone to do my class, unless I’m ill. We get long holidays, but they are normally unpaid. Welcome to the dark side of TEFL teaching.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a glorified clown who knows some grammar. Keeping kids, teenagers, and even adults entertained and motivated can be a hard job. You can’t have a bad day and hide behind your computer or avoid phone calls; you’re always at the front of the class. If you have an off day, the students have an off lesson; it gets noticed. Most days I don’t mind being on show, but take today for example, I twisted my foot over the weekend, but I know that this afternoon I’ll be expected to jump about for six hours.
They are my pros and cons. I’m sure you have a few more. Leave a comment below with a couple of your advantages and disadvantages to being a TEFL teacher.
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