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Teaching Abroad Changed My Life: 8 Tips To Help You Do It Too
Written By: Helen Schenck | Updated: August 11, 2021
Written By: Helen Schenck
Updated: August 11, 2021
Teaching English in Spain had it all for me: tapas, late night flamenco dancing, wine, country-hopping on the weekends, oh, and leading a class of 20 students who didn't speak my language. Wait. Rewind. Nope. Not me. I couldn’t run a classroom myself. I have never taught before. Cancel the trip! I can’t teach English. I am going to stay right here in Chicago with the blizzards and bros.
As crazy as it might sound, this was my thinking before deciding to teach English abroad. I knew that teaching abroad had innumerable perks. I knew it would be the adventure of a lifetime, but I also knew that I had never taught before (because I am not going to count that one time in high school when my history teacher never showed up for class, so I had to run the class for 45 minutes on heads up seven up alone).
I wanted all of the adventure of living abroad, but I was scared of teaching: I wasn’t great at speaking in front of groups and, better yet, I was shy and quiet. How would a timid 20-year-old be able teach abroad when she could barely speak up in her own college classes? I decided to just go for it. This leap of faith transformed me into the confident, outspoken person I am today.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you have never taught before, but you still are thinking about teaching English abroad:
1. As a first-time English teaching, you aren’t alone:
Close to 90% of International TEFL Academy students possess zero teaching experience prior to getting TEFL-certified, so you are in good company. Our TEFL certification courses are designed to completely prepare you for your new job as an English teacher overseas. Between the in-depth curriculum and the hands-on practice teaching experience, you'll walk away feeling confident in your skills as an educator.
2. You are what schools are looking for:
You are a fluent English speaker. You are an expert of the English language with a lifetime of experience. Schools are looking for you, your culture, and your accent. Language schools abroad aren't expecting every single foreign teacher to have past teaching experience. Instead, these schools are looking for fluent English speakers with a passion to share their skill.
3. You don’t like public speaking:
Teaching is not public speaking. You are working with students who are excited and motivated to learn English. You aren’t teaching law to an auditorium of Harvard students intertwined in a love triangle (yes, the plot to Legally Blonde).
You are teaching a language you are already fluent in to students who are eager to learn. You are helping put your students one step ahead in international business and relations (and allowing them to watch How I Met You Mother without subtitles).
Can I tell you a secret? Something I did after getting back from teaching abroad — I did stand up (comedy). Yes, this is coming from the girl who used to get nervous about speaking up my Psych 101 class (don’t go there Freud). If I hadn’t put myself out there and taught abroad, I could never have done stand up, let alone have the material for my set (true tips from the stage: tapas jokes kill!)
4. You get to choose your experience:
You can teach young students or adults. You can decide what country to teach in and what students you will be teaching. Maybe you feel more comfortable with a one-on-one teaching experience or a small-group setting. Either way, you are in the driver's seat and you are the one choosing where this adventure leads.
5. You'll learn more about the country you live in:
I learned all about Spain and its culture through my students. I taught students of all ages and I ended up learning a lot from them. They taught me Spanish slang, cool spots to check out in Madrid, about Spanish daily life, customs, politics, and much more. I am still in touch with many of my students even years later.
6. Oh the skills you will gain!
Take a second and imagine what your LinkedIn profile will look like post teaching abroad. From classroom management and public speaking to invaluable leadership skills, you'll forever benefit from the skills you gained as a teacher. You can use these in your daily life, add them to your resume, or just whip them out at family Christmas parties to impress your Aunt Ruth.
7. You'll feel more than prepared after your TEFL training class:
In ITA's TEFL course, you are going to learn how to be a teacher. You will learn the ins and outs of how to run a classroom as a full-time teacher. You will learn how to work with all different ages of learners, different levels of learners, and different types of learners (visual, audio, kinesthetic, etc). You will learn how to give your students proper feedback and also how to write effective lesson plans. This course will transform you into a professional, confident English teacher.
You will get hands-on teaching experience no matter if you choose to get your certification online or onsite. This means you will get to use what you have learned in the course and apply these skills in a classroom before going abroad. The course will also give you a little grammar refresher. No, this isn't high school English all over again, but we don’t expect you to remember all of those grammar rules you learned way back when.
8. You can talk with students just like you:
Once you enroll in your TEFL course, you will have the opportunity to join ITA's Alumni Network. You'll be able to speak with current ITA students and graduates who are teaching all over the world. This is a great resource for meeting fellow travelers and teachers. You can make some friends who are on the ground in the country you are moving to!
I can't begin to imagine where I'd be at this very moment if I hadn’t taken a chance and jumped outside my comfort zone and taught abroad for a year. The lessons I learned from all of my travel experiences have changed my life in more ways than I can comprehend. From making new friends from all over the world, to stumbling along learning Spanish (f.y.i. embarasada does not mean embarrassed in Spanish), I loved every second of my time overseas. But without a shadow of a doubt, my biggest take aways and most memorable moments were with my students in the classroom.
So take that plunge, get TEFL certified, and go change people’s lives, starting with your own!
A western girl at heart, International TEFL Academy Admissions Advisor Helen grew up in Texas and New Mexico and gained her love of travel on her first trip abroad to India. After college, Helen had the amazing opportunity of living and teaching in Madrid for a year. Upon returning to the U.S. she joined International TEFL Academy where she has spent more than 5 years assisting hundreds of people from all backgrounds to achieve their goals of getting TEFL certified & teaching English abroad.
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