Can you answer my questions about TEFL?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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Can you answer my questions about TEFL?

Unread postby simon » 29 Oct 2008, 02:21

Hi Lucy,
First let me say thanks for a fantastic resource filled site, I was able to answer many of my queries simply by snooping around. However, I do have a few more specific questions and I would be most grateful if you were able to shed any light.

1. I'm very interested in traveling to China as an TEFL teacher. My eye was first caught by an ad on Google advertising a three-day TEFL course. This was at first appealing as the cost was fairly low. However, having surfed around the net a little, I get the impression that these condensed courses are not taken very seriously by all areas of the industry. Am I write in reaching this conclusion?

2. Having looked a little deeper it seems that TEFL (in terms of a certified qualification) is more of an umbrella term than a set level of qualification. It seems to me that an externally certified course such as CELTA would probably give me access to the widest range of teaching jobs. Is this correct?

3. I wont be ready to start a CELTA course for maybe six months, but in the meantime I'd like to prepare myself as much as possible. One of the books that has been recommended to me is English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy, are there any other books that you could recommend that would help me get the most out of the course?

4. As I have said, I'm very interested in teaching in China, would you advise traveling to China and seeking work in person or is it best to arrange a placement before leaving.

5. If I find work before leaving the UK is it normal practice for the school to arrange visas, accommodation etc. or is that down to me? Do schools ever contribute to airfare?

6. What is my best source for job opportunities in China? Is it best to approach schools directly, or are there agencies that will do this on my behalf?

7. I've read a few horror stories about accommodation, non-payment of salary etc. and I've seen a number of videos on YouTube (Mainly involving fairly young students) where the teachers role seems to be mainly centered around entertainment/containment. What is the best way to avoid this situation? Is there a direct route into teaching older students, possibly in universities?

I realise that there are quite a few questions here, but any help would be very gratefully accepted.

Simon (London UK)

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Re: A few (well quite a lot really) less than simple questions

Unread postby Lucy » 02 Nov 2008, 20:57

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your question and compliment.

It is true that shorter courses are not always taken seriously. This is no judgement on the people providing the courses or their quality; the issue really is that they don't always lead to a qualification. Getting a qualification is what really counts. Having said that many schools accept teachers who have done a short course or who have no training at all. Some schools prefer to train teachers in their methods. Of course, you'll have more options open to you if you have a qualification that is recognised. CELTA, as you say, is one of the most widely recognised qualifications, along with the Trinity Certificate.

As for books to read, I suggest Jeremy Harmer (ask a good TEFL bookshop which is the most recent of his books) and Scrivener: Learning Teaching. Raymond Murphy is also very good but it is written with students in mind. You can start with one of his books and then move onto something written for teachers. Grammar books by Michael Swan are good.

As for your question about China, I know nothing about that country. I've never been there. I suggest you put a question in one of our open forums; we have a lot of regular users who know China and who work or have worked there.

As for assistance on arriving in the country, that varies according to the school and the country. Again ask what our "China" members think of this. Bear in mind that the amount of help you get can be a very good indication of what your future employer is like.

As for avoiding teaching children, I suggest you make it clear on your CV and cover letter that you are interested in teaching adults and take care to ask about this in interviews - don't just assume anything from the job ad. Jobs can change!


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