Student or Learner
Please read the following article from the Telegraph (UK) about being a TEFL teacher, let me know what you think..
Last edited by Tdol; 20-Jun-2011 at 16:58. Reason: Link corrected
The writer has many problems:
Eton, Oxford, then down and out – and soon plenty from the middle class will be joining me - Times Online
We used to have it all... - Times Online
Down and Out in Poland and London - Telegraph
To be honest, I think he's a bit of a prat, but he has some points. There's often a gap between what people expect and what they get, but I would take what he says with a few pinches of salt- he's in a job he feels he's superior to and lashes out to comfort himself. That said, salaries are low in many parts of Europe. There are plenty of horror stories with schools, but that doesn't mean they're all like that. However, living abroad as a transient worker against a permanent business, teachers are at a legal disadvantage and plenty of places will do their best to screw their staff. But plenty don't.
Last edited by Tdol; 20-Jun-2011 at 17:05.
As a person who hasn't even start their TEFL career yet, I have to say it is daunting the amount of horror stories and negative comments you can find on the internet.
I sometimes wonder what I have got myself into after booking on a CELTA course. What keeps me going is the personal stories of people who I know through friends, all of those have good things to say. Being ripped off, scammed or abused by 'cowboy' instituations, is a worry, especially as I will be a first timer. I just wish I knew someone 'on location' who I could trust.
From what I've read about general TEFL experiences, the major gripe is off unrealistic expectations. People head off to exotic locations thinking they will simply talk for a few hours a week, get a wage that lets them live like a king and generally treat the experience as a holiday.
The people who think it'll be all sun, sex and a permanent holiday are the ones who generally have the worst experiences IMO. EnglishTeacherX used to have a website that explored the darker side of teaching, and I think he had the best piece of advice for a teacher starting, which is always to have your fare out of there. That way, you can always leave a bad job and in effect free yourself from exploitation.
A few years ago, a huge chain of schools, Nova, went bust here in Japan and many teachers were complaining that they hadn't been paid and couldn't get home. Yet this bankruptcy had been on the cards for months- they were taking bets on forums for expats in Japan about when it would happen, but many teachers were completely unprepared for the obvious. If you are always in a position to move on, and there are always ESL jobs to be had, then you are in a position of relative strength.
In cases where things go wrong, you hear teachers threatening to sue- it's mostly an idle threat as transient workers who don't know the local law and have just lost their income are rarely in a position to mount litigation. People who end up in TEFL-serfdom generally have allowed themselves into a position where they can be exploited- the ones who get to the end of a contract with no cash and find that the promised flight home doesn't materialise, etc.
Also, check schools out carefully- search for blacklists, ask around in forums, etc.
Last edited by Tdol; 21-Jun-2011 at 06:02. Reason: Typo
I think the article is ridiculous. As if teaching English is the only career where university leavers are asked to do a lot of work for little reward. Try and get an entry level job in a media, and tell me it's any different. The author's problem is that he seems to think an irrelevant degree and a 4-week course should guarantee him a comfortable existence in one of Europe's most expensive cities. Hell, a full 4-year teaching degree won't get you that in London, so why would an initial 4-week certificate get you that in Rome? However, I certainly enjoy a comfortable existence in the biggest city in Vietnam. I eat out every day, I live in the city centre in a 16th storey flat, and I save a significant portion of my salary. But maybe I just did my research better, and didn't expect people to look at a piece of paper from Oxford and hand me money on a plate?
As for career progression, again, he obviously has no clue what he's talking about. But this one is all about attitude. Sure, there aren't the same structured training opportunities available as in other industries. But you have to treat those initial jobs as training for further qualifications. Again though, perhaps I actually did my research, unlike the author, and picked a school with proper career progression. And crucially, the one thing about teaching abroad is that for so many people it is a short-term experience, so the amount of genuine competition for the higher level jobs is actually much lower than a lot of other industries, be it management roles, teacher training or teaching for places like the British Council.
So it might be an accurate account of how someone with no experience and few qualifications is treated in Western Europe, but I'd be surprised if serious EFL teachers (i.e. ones that haven't spent their entire career going through the motions, and did nothing after the initial minimum qualification) are treated the same way.
As for getting trapped, well even if you don't have the money saved, surely it's not beyond you to apply for a credit card.
I did some skimming and that was funny about the TEFL in Thailand. You can buy one of those on Khoasan Rd. and a degree too. I remember hearing a dude talking about getting one. But for that matter you can just Photoshop one. Although that won't work in a lot of places. I knew a guy that was booted out of Taiwan with one of those.
That's a pretty negative article and I have also encountered a mindset like that. The mindset that says teaching ESL is not a "real life", but it is life, just a different life and one most people only get into for a year or so.
As far as the money goes, that was never my experience teaching in Asia. The average person can make a good salary or hourly over there.
The article generalizes quite a bit and I'd say won't inspire anyone.
Colonialism begat massive immigration (we Canadians like it but Europeans don't seem to manage well)....
Slavery begat racial exclusion and violence....
Globalisation begat cheap labour and deflation....
And now we find it "difficult" to compete on a more level playing field?
I agree he's a bit of a prat, in short.