Teach English Overseas: travelling the world with a TESOL umbrella

Having lived and taught English in Asia for the past twenty years, I've been in classrooms with 1-2-1 lessons, taught business English to high flying execs, phonics to 3-year-olds and pretty much everything in between. My experiences have taken me from classrooms to conferences, blackboards to Interactive Whiteboards, pencils to padlets and books to websites – its been quite a journey. And all of this because I decided to do a one-month Cert TESOL, without realizing how much this was going to change my life. If you're interested in taking the next step, read on!

A career in TESOL / TEFL – where to start?

Are you considering a career in TESOL? Wondering where to start? There are a multitude of opportunities for people with an adventurous spirit, but before you start this amazing journey, we need to consider and understand what TESOL / TEFL actually is.

What is TESOL / TEFL?

This sounds like an easy question but it's far more complicated than first appears. Primarily, TESOL means teaching English to speakers of other languages, yet under this umbrella comes many different facets. Most of us train to teach General English, yet a lot of learners have got other motivations for learning. Here are some of the subjects I've been expected to teach over the past 20 years – and there are more out there!

Young Learners   English for Exams   Business English  
Playgroup IELTS English for Reports
Kindergarten TOEFL Presentations
Primary DSE Business Communications
Secondary Trinity English Exams  Writing for Business
Phonics Cambridge Exams  

How do I get started?

In the days before the internet when I first started teaching, there were two options, travel and pick up work as you go, or get qualified so you can get a teaching job with a work visa. Getting qualified meant taking a Cert TESOL or the CELTA, and both qualifications are for teaching adults. As time progressed, there has been a multitude of on-line TEFL certificates, that offer training that you can do in your own time. Sounds great, right? Before you go spending your hard-earned money on a course, think about what it's offering you. Just imagine you want to learn piano. You love piano and you can already read music. You see a course online, and as it suits your time and budget you enroll for it. You learn all the theory, how to read music and you can discuss the intricacies of some of the most famous pianists, yet you have never sat down at a piano to practice playing. You go to a piano, sit down, open it up and…. Nothing happens. You can’t play. You are mortified that you spent all the money on the theory when what you needed was practice and help with your development. The same goes for teaching, if you are going to invest money into your future please do not waste it on theory alone! 

If you're interested in taking the first step you have a few options:

  1. Find an organization to get qualified. The most recognised qualifications are the Trinity Cert TESOL and Cambridge CELTA.
  2. Find an organization where they have teacher training programmes, English First runs a programme for newly qualified teachers, or those who wish to qualify – and they also pay you to teach at the same time! For more information search English First website. In some countries, the British Council have development programmes for newly qualified teachers. For more information search the British Council website.

Moving Forward

While some people are happy to stay in the classroom, others have a desire to progress in other ways. Here are a few ways long term teachers progress. Here are a few career paths for you to choose.

  1. Train other teachers in schools and mentor new teachers.
  2. Line manage teachers and conduct observations. (This usually requires a Level 7 Ofqual certification or specialized training)
  3. In private schools, teachers can train to be senior teachers or academic managers. To do this, you usually need to have a Level 7 qualification Ofqual – for example the DipTESOL or a master’s degree.
  4. Many experienced teachers like to stay in the classroom, but there are still ways to develop!  Become a specialist and do some research, its amazing how many organizations that will sponsor you to go to conferences.
  5. You can learn more about alternative careers in TESOL here.

Are you ready to step into a TESOL career? Take a look at our language awareness questionaire which potential teachers need to complete before being admitted onto the CertTESOL course.

About the Author

Amanda Greenhalgh

Over the last 20 years Amanda has worked in a variety of TESOL positions and settings in Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Prior to working at EfA she worked for the British Council in a variety of middle management positions, both in Singapore and Hong Kong. She has taught a wide range of age groups from Kindergarten to Adults. She is an approved tutor for the Cert TESOL, and has obtained two ESL Diplomas, the DipTESOL and the International House Diploma in Academic Management.

Trinity Certificate in TESOL

Access top teaching positions in Hong Kong and overseas with the Trinity Certificate in TESOL.

Accepted by the Hong Kong Education Bureau for Primary NET teaching positions.