We’ve come across a lot of concerns regarding the validly of doing a TEFL. Most of the time, the reasoning comes up a bit short as not all the key factors are considered. Here’s what we’ve been hearing…with some corresponding observations.
A TEFL is not completely necessary. In some counters, like, in Cambodia, it's not a requirement.
It’s true that you can find an English teaching job without a TEFL. The demand for English teachers is high so some schools and/or countries will take English speakers who haven’t been formally trained in teaching a language.
Typically those schools are not the best institutions in their respective country. The best schools want the best teachers. A TEFL certification says at a minimum that that candidate has passed a program of professional training.
Bottom line: if you want any teaching job, you probably could skip doing a TEFL or just do a cheap online-only one. But if you want the best job that your background and qualifications can bring, a TEFL will help in differentiate yourself as a career teaching professional.
What’s the single most important reason do to a TEFL?
Many would answer that a TEFL is the ticket to getting better teaching jobs—as important as that is.
But probably more importantly—at least in the long term—is that TEFL teacher training will give you the foundational skill set—the tools and the know-how—how to be successful in the classroom.
The better you can perform your job, the more you will enjoy it, the more your students will learn and the better asset you'll be to any school where you teach.
Untrained teachers don’t know what to do in the classroom. They typically burn out within a year. You may have the potential talent to teach, but without proper training you may not be all that good at it.
I’m a native born English speaker. Why do I have to be trained to teach something I already know?
Well I’ve eaten food all my life, so I can just waltz into the kitchen and become a good chef, right?
Mastering a subject is knowledge. Know how to present and teach it involves a skill set. How will you develop these requisite skills if you’ve not been formally trained?
I’ve heard that there are some schools that will train you on the job.
Perhaps. But is that training the standard 120 hours of classroom with 6 hours of observed teaching practice?
Is their training accredited, which would involve moderation by an independent third party?
Who will be training you? A professional trainer who knows how to coach or just one of their older teachers who’s been around the block? Is the training structured and follow a prescribed curriculum? Will that person have the time to give you all the help you need? Or will this be more ad hoc when-I-have-time presentations and drills?
Importantly, you should also consider if another school will accept this school informal training. When you decide to move on, can you present this training to the new school as proof of being a professional teacher?
Once I’m in the classroom, I’ll be fine. I can train myself.
Competence leads to confidence. But you need the competence first. That’s why proper training and developing the foundational skill set to teach beforehand is crucial.
Knowing what to do leads to a successful classroom experience. That’s something your students will notice…so will your school…and the ultimate decisions makers—the parents.
I’m an experienced teacher. I don’t need to do a TEFL now.
You could be right. Having said that, we’ve trained teachers with as much as 15+ years of experience and who’ve taught in diverse cultures like China, Korea and Turkey. They came back to get TEFL certified because they weren’t getting invited to interview at the prestigious schools they felt now they were qualified to teach at. They were good teachers who had lots of great experience, but they all said the learned a lot from their TEFL experience.
It’s not uncommon for institutions to prescreen out all applicants without a TEFL. Often that’s done before it gets to the hiring authority. They never see all that great experience because their resume never reaches them.
Bottom line: Shortcuts may bite back. Skipping TEFL training when you’re just starting out as a teacher may mean you’ll lack a differentiating qualification you’ll need in the future.
TEFLs are expensive? Why should I do one?
The better schools typically want a TEFL certification. It demonstrates competence in the classroom and they’re willing to pay more to those teachers who have one. This can range from $100 to $200 a month in additional salary.
So usually in a year or so, the extra compensation will reimburse you for a full TEFL program that can cost around $1,500.
You should approach a TEFL certification in term of an investment in a potential future career.
Should I do an online or an In-Class TEFL?
New teachers are born in the classroom. Yes, doing an online-only TEFL can be a lot cheaper. It’s definitely wins on convenience. However, it could end up being a short cut that bites back. In the hundreds of candidates we’ve trained, almost everyone has developed their teaching skill set in the practicum or observed practice teaching.
Getting profession feedback on your performance in front of non-English speaking students is where the knowledge of course book becomes the teaching skill set you’ll need in your new career.
That’s why many schools shun online-only offerings.
What’s a Combined Course?
These are hybrid courses where you do the course book online at your own schedule. Then when that’s completed and all units pass—as well as successfully completing a lesson plan—you will join the practicum practice teaching sessions of non-English speaking students in a real classroom.
This typically is done over five or ten workdays. Combined programs go a long way to addressing the short comings of online-only TEFL courses. For those working full time, this may be the only way to complete a TEFL while still holding a full time job.
So why should I do a TEFL?
Teaching English is a competitive market. Schools want the best teachers so your TEFL will definitely be noticed. Your resume won’t be the only application they’re looking at.
Markets are also efficient. There’s good reasons why institutes will pay more for professionally certified teachers. Schools themselves are in competition against other schools for the best students (who will pay more). Quality of teaching is a key way schools can differentiate themselves.
It’s not the textbooks that make Harvard or Cambridge world famous. It’s the quality of their professors.