Several years ago as I was laying out my master plan, I read several travel blog posts about the advantages of teaching English in a foreign country. Actually, if I go way back, after college graduation, I had a plan to go to Greece and find a job teaching English. At that time, I was rather naive about the process and possibilities. Needless to say, jobs for unqualified English teachers were hard to find and instead I worked as an au pair for a total of 4 days. Well, back to now…. I researched online blogs and TEFL training companies and decided that an on-site course would be just the ticket. Live for a month in a foreign country and be on the ground ready to start applying for a job.
I probably researched a bit too much and found myself overcome with analysis paralysis. So like any good traveler, I decided to first do my faster travel, hitting the countries that I most wanted to see first. After two and a half years of traveling, I was ready to pick one country to settle into for a full year. I chose Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai to do my TEFL training. The course was offered by a TEFL accredited broker who contracted with UniTEFL as the course provider. I cheerfully signed up and booked my one-way ticket to Chiang Mai. Yeah for me, I had a bucket of airline miles and was able to book a FIRST CLASS ticket. As this is a very long flight with four segments, I really enjoyed myself in both the first class section and the VIP airline lounges. Total cost = $5.60. Never underestimate the power of the frequent flyer mile.
The package I bought included accommodation, a phone SIM card, airport pickup, a massage and three tours. Was I there to study or see the sights? Well, the study part started the day after I arrived. It was a small class, only four students. The teacher was absolutely brilliant at getting across how to teach Thai kids. The month long class really went fast. We had six separately teaching practices at various local schools. The kids were cute, we were all nervous, our observers were very thorough with the evaluations and feedback. By the final teaching practice, it was starting to feel pretty normal and the butterflies had calmed down to a mild flutter. As the class was small, the interaction with the teacher was pretty personal and gave each of us lots of opportunities to ask questions. Three of us banded together and spent a lot of lunches and dinners together as well as hours quizzing each other on grammar.
Hardest day of the class was the grammar test. We passed! Then came the briefing on finding a job. It was a bit of a heart breaker. I’m afraid that all those daydreams of finding a job quickly were dashed. Note to future TEFL students: check the hiring schedule for the country you plan to teach in. For Thailand, school starts in May and October so their hiring peaks in the two months prior. For me, that meant, that I might be waiting for four months before I could start in a public school. There are openings year round at private schools and other countries in Asia have different school terms. I and my fellow students proceeded to apply online and through email to as many places as we could.
I found a job in China and was very excited about the terms. Teaching university students, 15 hours a week, provided housing and a new modern campus were all great features of the job. First though came the paperwork, getting my documents to the recruiter who applied first for the work permit and then for the invitation letter. The process was to take four to five weeks, which would give me plenty of time to look around Thailand and take a trip to Laos. I could hav an extra holiday and renew my visa. Unfortunately, once I returned, the paperwork was first tied up waiting for an official stamp, then shelved during the Spring Festival, as everyone seems to have about 10 days off. Once the holiday was over and the final paperwork was received, the final blow hit. The invitation letter was only good for applying at the Chinese embassy in the US. I’d waited for nearly two months and now they were telling me I needed to fly back to the US to get a visa and then fly to China and…oh yeah, school starts in 3 days.
So, starting over, I decided to rethink my strategy and my target employer. I put on my best interview clothes, grabbed my stack of very professional resumes and walked off to find a private language school. The first one I approached has decided to give me a try. I start on Friday!