Easy Ways to Improve Your TEFL Career

By Alex Case
15 ideas, in no particular order, that are fairly or very easy to do and will improve your TEFL career

If an MA is too much time or money and you have no idea what alternative next steps you could take to boost your career prospects, your teaching skills and your motivation, here are 15 ideas that are fairly or very easy to do, in no particular order.

1. Publish your lesson plans
Simply by typing up your lesson plans rather than writing them out by hand -something that takes no longer once you get used to it- you have produced something that is publishable. Most of the websites that are not connected to academic organisations will accept almost any lesson plan, as long as it is written in a way that other people can understand. Also remember that many of the teachers reading will be complete beginners, so even old ideas written up in an easily accessible way can be useful. As well as putting you in contact with important people and looking good on your CV, it also helps you think more carefully about your lesson planning and prepares you for observed lessons for the DELTA etc.

2. Publish game ideas
It can take a little more effort to write up a game idea than to write up a lesson plan, but this is also a good way of learning how to explain things in an easy way for your classes or to other teachers. As well as many teaching websites, some of the English teaching magazines publish short game ideas such as warmers.

3. Publish photocopiable worksheets
I was very surprised when a well-known English teaching magazine that only has one page of photocopiable stuff a month accepted a worksheet I submitted instantly and published it in record time. Photocopiable worksheets are not only popular with teachers because that can be used instantly, you can sometimes write them and publish them almost that quickly too!

4. Publish short articles
This next stage in getting published is writing whole articles on teaching. Easy ways to write your first article include extensions of some of the things above (articles on one category of games or photocopiable worksheet ideas for a particular language point), lists like this one here, and problem and solution articles.

5. Write reviews
Although it might seem that analysing a book on the page is further away from the lesson plans that you are used to writing than the things mentioned above, in fact many people find writing reviews is easier than writing articles- you simply need to explain if the book worked for you, why, and which other people it might be suitable for. As well as TEFL.net reviews, other websites and magazines will usually accept even keen beginning teachers as reviewers. As well as being an easy way into getting published and so boosting your CV, publishers have been known to write to reviewers asking them to do work on similar books.

6. Give a workshop
If writing is not your thing, you can pass on your ideas, make yourself known and improve your CV by giving workshops. The easiest way to get into this is to volunteer to give a workshop in your school, do a polished up version of the same workshop for another part of your company or a local teaching group, and then do exactly the same one at a regional or national conference. By this point, your workshop notes will probably be so detailed that an article on the subject would write itself.

7. Take a short certified course
Taking a short course in a specialised subject like teaching one to one, teaching Business English or teaching small children can look really good on your CV without taking the time and expense of an MA. These courses can also be a good way to remind yourself of the basics and get yourself back into studying should you be thinking about doing a higher qualification like a Diploma later.

8. Put your CV online
Even if it doesn’t seem worth the effort of job hunting because you don’t have any particular plans to move on, putting your CV online so that employers can find you takes very little effort- and knowing what is out there can help your position in your own company when it comes to signing your next contract.

9. Join job mailing lists
Another no effort way of making sure you don’t miss your chance to move on up is to sign on for daily or weekly emails with local or international TEFL jobs.

10. Give your CV to publishers
Another thing that is well worth doing with your CV is handing it round to publishers at a teaching conference. As well as being given writing work, there is the chance of doing pre-publication reviewing, giving workshops for them, or at least getting free books.

11. Apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for
In most industries, companies ask for more than they are usually expecting from a candidate in their job ads. This effect can be seen even more in TEFL, where schools want to show students their standards are really high even when they can’t usually find teachers of that level.

12. Take a sabbatical
Many people get trapped by the fact that the job they are in pays well enough that they can hardly quit it without having anything to go to, but doesn’t give them the experience they need to find a better job. As the TEFL world is very seasonal, it can be fairly easy to arrange a month or so unpaid leave and to find temporary work as a fill in teacher trainer or summer school Director of Studies for just that period, and so give a real boost to your CV.

13. No effort contributions to your school
There are plenty of things you are already doing to plan your classes etc which you could do at work instead, and so make a contribution to your school that will look good on your CV or get you a promotion. Examples include- filing all your cut up pairwork activities so everyone can use them, putting all the supplementary stuff you use for one course into a file marked with the name of the textbook or the level and leave it in the teachers’ room, swap classes with another teacher for one lesson and give suggestions on what can be done with that classes (like a peer observation, but with no extra hours).

14. Make your own life easier
There are also plenty of things you can do at work that will make your own life easier and also improve your reputation for keenness and organisation, and therefore your job reference and/ or chances of promotion. Examples include suggesting improvements for admin systems, setting up ways of sharing lesson ideas, and labelling the stapler etc. in the teachers’ room so it doesn’t go missing just when you need it.

15. Be ready to go
Many of the opportunities that could come up in TEFL can depend on being quick (filling in for a teacher on maternity leave) or moving far (a teacher training vacancy for the busy summer period), so being ready to move means that you won’t miss your big chance.

Written by Alex Case for Teflnet March 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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