Hi there. If you’re not interested in getting your TEFL certificate to teach English abroad, then you’re welcome to skip this post. Maybe you’d like to read about travel or stupid things I’ve said in French instead?
If you are considering getting your TEFL certificate, I want to let you know that you can get $50 off your course with the International TEFL Academy, my TEFL alma mater. You can check it out here. Make sure to mention my name and the alumni referral program in order to get your $50 discount. I get $50 too for referring you. I hope that’s cool!
I took the full-time level 5 certification in Chicago three years ago. You might have heard of CELTA – this course is similar to that in terms of material covered. ITA offers the course in cities in the U.S. and around the world (Istanbul, Florence, Honolulu, Rio de Janiero, and Phnom Penh are just a few), and you can take it online as well.
I had been out of school for a couple years and I was geekily excited about learning and studying. I was that nerd with lots of questions and answers (even though in college I only spoke up in class when goaded). My teachers, Gosia and Jan, were experts, as well as really good teachers, which not all experts are. I remember Jan teaching us a lesson entirely in Czech to show us what it’s like to have class in a foreign language, and Gosia explaining differences between British and American English. (North Americans, did you know that in the U.K. it’s correct to say “at the weekend”? Brits, did you know we don’t say “in hospital”?*) She had an anecdote about coming to the U.S. from the U.K. and being bewildered by a compliment on her pants (which, if you don’t know, means underwear in British English).
We studied a huge range of topics, including different pedagogical approaches, teaching kids versus adults, cultural differences, and good old English grammar. We also had student teaching practicum at the school, so we planned out lessons and then actually taught them to small groups of ESL students. I think there were about twelve of us in the class and we all got along well, which made class more fun. A lot of my classmates went on to do cool stuff like teach in South Korea and Budapest. (#facebookstalking)
I worked in the writing center for three years in college and grammar talk didn’t phase me, but it’s amazing what you learn when you think about language from the perspective of a non-native speaker. I had never noticed that the past tense verb conjugations don’t change in English and it totally blew my mind. (I ate, you ate, she ate, we ate. See?!) I had also never really noticed how many phrasal verbs (verb + preposition) we use in English, and how tough they can be to learn. Like, there’s a big difference between “throw,” “throw out,” and “throw up,” right? But it’s so innate to native speakers that we don’t think twice.
Teaching is not easy and I think it really takes years of study and practice to be fully prepared. However most ESL teachers, especially those of us who aren’t going to be teachers forever, often just get thrown in the deep end when we start teaching! I was glad that I had at least taken a thorough TEFL course first.
Having a TEFL certificate has helped me get hired over here in France, although it’s not a requirement for the TAPIF program. I don’t think I would have my current job without it. If you have a significant amount of experience and a Master’s degree, you might get by without a TEFL certificate in France, but in some other countries it’s a requirement to teach English.
Right, getting a job! The majority of alumni seem to end up in Asia, because that’s where a lot of the demand is, but there are ITA alums teaching all over the world. Everyone working in the office has taught English abroad, everywhere from Chile to South Korea. My advisor at ITA was Christie, who is awesome! You meet with your advisor to talk about where you want to teach, how to find a job, etc. and they help you with your CV and cover letter. You also leave with a letter of recommendation, which is always nice.
One thing I appreciate about ITA is that they clearly strive to provide their students and alumni with the most accurate information possible. There is a wealth of alumni interviews on their site sorted by country which address things like getting a job, how much they earned, what it’s like living in that particular country, etc. (Mine is outdated and a little embarrassing! I’ve updated it so I hope the old one will be replaced soon.)
There is also an enormous alumni network. There are active ITA alumni Facebook groups for each country, which I think is a fantastic resource. Have a question about teaching English in Spain? You can get in touch with people who are currently teaching there.
I chose to get my TEFL certificate at the International TEFL Academy because it was a top-level accredited program (meaning it meets international standards of British Council and the like), and out of all the programs I researched in Chicago, it had the best value for the lowest price. I remember being disappointed that they didn’t have a magic solution for teaching in France, but honestly, there isn’t one. Ultimately I was happy with my choice of TEFL program, and I’m glad that I can still benefit from the alumni network over three years later.
If you have any questions about my experience with the International TEFL Academy, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.
ITA did not compensate me in any way for this post. They don’t even know I’m writing it.
*Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, and other lovely anglophones, we didn’t study the particularities of how English is spoken chez vous, but I’m interested to learn about it if you’d like to share! Canada and Ireland, it seems like you guys get lumped in with the U.S. and the U.K. respectively. Does that get annoying?