Disappointed with UK teacher bureaucracy? Look for jobs abroad!


As an ex school teacher, I remember being originally drawn to the long holidays and the fairly comfortable teacher salary in the UK.   “If you can.. teach!” the government was saying. And I could, so I did. All went well for a few weeks, until I realised the amount of stress there was involved in UK teaching. It seemed like you couldn’t win. Teach in a “nice” school and the parents are on your back if their child isn’t succeeding.  Teach in a “tough” school, and your life becomes miserable as it seemed like you were barely allowed to look at a misbehaving child, let alone have a one to one conversation alone with him or her. Of course, the kids knew this , and my goodness didn’t they play it to their advantage. As a colleague of mine once put it , a typical teacher threat might as well have been “Josh, if you continue to behave like that, you will have to see the duty teacher, who will tell you what a wonderful and intelligent boy you are”. Poor Josh must have been quaking in his boots.

So, why not think about teaching English abroad? Well it is true that TEFL starting salaries are not exactly going to make you rich. TEFL hourly rates for new teachers in France are around 15 to 30 euros an hour. So don’t do TEFL only for the money! But do teach English abroad for the freedom and variety and a completely new life. A ticket to living pretty much anywhere in the world. In a surprisingly short amount of time working for a language school, you can usually choose where to work (I’m not going to get the bus to teach in that factory ever again!)  choose which levels you prefer teaching (hoots of laughter with beginners? intellectual conversations with advanced?) and really become an expert in a given area (eg teaching pronunciation, teaching exam classes, teaching business English..). You can top up your earnings and teach privately at home, at the student’s house, or even in a local cafe. Also it is far from unheard of for the company (that you have been sent by the language school to teach at), to ask you if you would like to work for them full time in the such and such department! Suddenly the impossible has come true. A new life in the south of France. Or wherever in the non-English speaking world you wish it to be.

You can make money with a TEFL certificate if you want to. TEFL teachers in their 20s are now earning up to 40,000 pounds a year in China.  Quite enough to buy a nice little property back at home, if you please. And the Chinese can’t get enough teachers as I write this in January 2019.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) can be a great ticket to the life in the sunshine that you always wanted. In the mountains, by the sea.. you choose your destination. The main appeal of qualifying to teach English abroad is the ability to teach anywhere in the world.

Now of course you can’t choose absolutely anywhere to teach English. Monaco is likely to say “non” before you get anywhere near the border. The salary is Venice might be so low that you couldn’t afford to live there. Barcelona is currently so overcrowded with teachers that starting pay rates are right down to 10e an hour or less, and renting a flat is no longer cheap there. If you want a job teaching English as a foreign language in the UK or Ireland you will be up against teachers who have 20 years’ experience, who finally want to come home after teaching around the world.  Or you might be asked for the next qualification up from the Certificate in TEFL, aka the Cambridge DELTA or the Trinity Diploma in TESOL. That said, teaching in UK summer schools is usually available

How to find a TEFL job, and getting TEFL qualified

So where does one go to get a job? Well first you need to be TEFL qualified, so you need to do a classroom based, 4 week TEFL course with 6 hours teaching practice, such as the one on the website you are now looking at. Little to none of the course you choose should be online unless you only intend to teach online and never in class. And certainly not over a weekend in a hotel!

TEFL courses online might be fine for learning about teaching theory, learning English grammar and so on. An add-on “how to teach online” course could be invaluable if you plan to teach using skype and similar platforms to teach your lessons (no boss breathing down your neck and no premises costs either!). But first you need a classroom based TEFL course to really become a teacher, even if you do end up doing it online. To become a teacher of English as a second language you need to stand up and teach, get expert feedback and advice from an observing trainer, and then try again a few days later. You do this 6 times in total, and after the 6th lesson (with any luck) you will have polished  your teaching technique enough to be awarded a Certificate in TEFL (or Certificate in TESOL, essentially the the same thing with a different name).

To then find a TEFL job is pretty straightforward. A simple google for, say tefl jobs in South America will bring up dozens of TEFL websites (such as ESL base)  and you can just apply for the jobs. Nearly all job offers will be legit, although do look out for anything that is too good to be true, dodgy websites or lack of a street address for the school in question. Of course you can also google reviews for the school that you are applying to.

TEFL job interviews will usually be held at the school itself by the boss, by skype, or for long term positions via a teacher recruiting agency (perhaps in London).

Typical teacher interview questions

Typical teacher interview questions are “How would you teach the present perfect?” “How would you teach the first conditional?” “What are you best at in teaching?” “How would you deal with a situation where ………?” “What are your priorities when teaching?” “Which coursebooks did you like and why?” “Would you be happy teaching teenagers / company directors /8 year olds?” and they may well of course ask you to teach a mini demo lesson (say 20 minutes) for them.  So you can see the importance of getting proper TEFL certification!

…But I hated my teachers at school..

You are not alone! Some of the best known EFL gurus never thought they would end up teaching. Read and relate to how Hugh Dellar got into teaching here


A classroom based TEFL course is what you need to get started


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