TEFL 101: The Job Hunt

With the entire world at our fingertips on the internet, it is completely possible to search for jobs on the other side of the world without even getting out of bed.  Long gone are the days of lugging piles of CVs from place to place or of scouring the newspapers for jobs that had probably already been filled by the time you got in touch.  Now we are able to have immediate access to the most up to date job opportunities out there – perfect for looking for a TEFL position in any destination of your choosing.

Before exploring any of the options laid out below, make sure you have an up to date and relevant CV, a working Skype account and email address, both of which don’t have inappropriate names (sexymama101 might not be as funny to a prospective employer as it is to your friends) or profile pictures.  You may also be asked for scans of your degree certificate and transcript, your TEFL certificate and potentially a criminal record check.  It helps to have all of these things already attached to a draft email so you are good to go without having to run around looking for a working scanner at the last minute.

Websites

Quick, easy and up to date – job sites provide a hassle free way to look for a job.  Here area few websites that I have used myself when looking for a TEFL position;

ajarn.com specialises in jobs in Thailand and lets you search by area and salary

tefl.com has jobs from around the world including online work

Dave’s ESL Cafe has country specific job boards for China, Korea and beyond

Be warned – some schools are notorious for posting ads and then never getting back to the applicant, filling the position in person with a friend of a friend – don’t be put off but be aware that you may not be flooded with responses!  Persevere and over-apply – it’s always better to have a choice of job offers than becoming desperate and jumping into a position just because they said yes.

TOP TIP” be aware of and look out for scams asking for the applicant to spend hundreds of dollars in made up administration/application fees, or dodgy looking positions for phony companies.

Facebook

If you know which destination(s) you are looking at, do a few searches for expat facebook groups in the area.  These groups are not only useful for meeting other expats living in the area but will also be a good place to find local job adverts that you may not find on national websites.

A few good groups for Thailand include Teachers in Thailand, English Teaching Thailand, Thailand Foreign English Teachers Network Group, and more locally Phuket Teachers and Friends (there are similar groups for locations across Thailand.  More international groups include TEFL English Teachers Networking Group and ESL Teachers.  There are countless more groups out there, these just happen to be the ones that I have ended up joining myself.

TOP TIP: Just because you are using an informal platform for your job search, it doesn’t mean that you should treat it any differently to any other enquiry about a position.  Don’t just comment on the post – a well worded private message with a forwarding email to enable you to continue the enquiry outside of facebook is better.

REMEMBER!  Potential employers can and do check out your facebook profile before considering hiring you – so either get those privacy settings on lock down or think hard before posting that picture of you doing shots on the bar on Saturday night.

Agency work

If you find yourself moving to your destination of choice and looking for work, consider working for a teaching agency.  Yes, you should do your research first – ask around, try to speak to people who work for the agency to make sure that they are 100% legit (AKA can get you a visa and pay you a full salary).  Agency work can range from being a substitute teacher to providing maternity cover or doing one off english camps.  Many agencies are linked to a language school and so part-time evening and weekend work can become an option.  It is definitely worth considering even just to make sure you have a bit of income while you look for a more permanent position of your own.

Agency work issue of contention in the TEFL world; many, many people have had their fingers burned by agencies and so tar them all with the same brush.  You will hear tales of non payment, or broken contracts or visa troubles.  I myself was placed with an agency after completing my TEFL Heaven course and I continued to work with them for 18 months with no issues.  If anything, working for an agency meant that I got to void some of the pitfalls of working directly for a school – I was less involved in school politics and I knew that someone had my back if the proverbial hit the fan.  If I had to take a day off sick, all my classes would be covered by the agency.  All of my visa and work permit paperwork was processed by the agency with no problem.  I never had a problem with unpaid tax bills.  Yes, that agency must have been making some money off me but I earned exactly the same amount as my colleagues who were working directly for the school.  Maybe I was just lucky.

TOP TIP: If you are looking at working in the south of Thailand (Hat Yai, Songkhla and around) and don’t mind working for an agency, go say hi to Visions and see if they can help you out.

The old fashioned way

While I don’t recommend rocking up in person at every school in your chosen destination (unless you are prepared to do a lot of aimless wondering around looking for someone who can speak englishand has the time to help you), a little bit of research can go a long way.  Search the internet and find the local schools.  Get an email contact (preferably the HR department) and try your luck with an email including your CV.  Yes, many of those emails will bounce back.  Yes, many of those emails will go unanswered.  But, you may just have some luck.  I actually got my last job doing just this.  I sent out over 20 emails to schools in Phuket and of that 20 I had 3 replies, all of which were the standard we will keep your CV on file.  I didn’t have much hope.  However, 2 of those schools did keep my CV on file and did in fact get in touch when a job position came up.  Having already made the first contact I was already on the minds of the HR department and was told about the job before it had been put on job websites, putting me at an immediate advantage.

TOP TIP: It’s not a good idea to send one blanket email to all 20 schools – they can easily see that your email is completely generic, and this makes it look like you aren’t putting much effort into your job search.  Do a little bit of research and take the time to tailor each email that goes out.  Sure, you can have the same main body but adding in those little details that show you have taken the time to actually think about the school you are contacting will make you stand out from all the other emails they get asking for jobs.  It’s worth a shot!

It’s not what you know…

If you have already relocated and are frantically looking for a job, go and make friends with other teachers NOW.  Not only will they be able to tell you which schools are best to be avoided, the teachers already on the ground will be the first to find out about job positions as soon as they come up and will be able to put in a good word for you.  This is certainly the case in smaller communities where it really can be a matter of knowing the right person that will put your chances ahead of the rest.


Do you have another tried and tested method for finding a job?  Please share in the comments below…

TEFL 101: Frequently Asked Questions

TEFL101FAQ

Some people are able to pin point exactly the moment that they decided that they were going to pursue a TEFL adventure abroad, for others it is more of a slow build up than a sudden realisation – however you come around to it, soon enough thoughts of sunshine and new surroundings and cute children and idyllic classrooms begin to fill your mind.  You begin to peruse the internet reading TEFL blog after TEFL blog, looking at this course and that course, this destination and that destination…  with all of the options that are out there it can be a confusing world of TEFL courses and Internships and online courses and 60 hours and 120 hours and Asia and Europe and South America and… Here are some of the questions that I am asked here on the blog and on my facebook page, and I expect this page to grow – I will continue to update with more FAQs as they appear…


Is an online course worth as much?

Put simply (not simply) – yes, and no.  If you are just looking for a piece of paper to land any teaching job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are only looking at a short term TEFL stint) then the online courses are not only cheaper, but can be completed from the comfort of your own home, in your home country.  You could even complete an online TEFL before you have even thought about booking flights or looking for a job. However, if you are looking to actually gain some in-depth learning and experience from your TEFL course, then a classroom based course is much more worth it.  Whether completed in your home country or in your destination of choice, being able to interact with other people and try out different teaching methods and activities is priceless.  Another benefit of taking part in a classroom based TEFL course, especially in your destination country, is that you will develop a network of friends that will provide a great base for future friendships throughout your time working abroad.


Are the TEFL packages offering ‘guaranteed jobs’ too good to be true?

I chose to do my TEFL course with TEFL Heaven – taking part in their 120 hour course in Koh Samui.  This course came complete with accommodation , support from TEFL Heaven before, during and after the course, and a guaranteed job at the end of it. The team at TEFL Heaven have a vast network of schools and agencies across Thailand and it does offer some sort of reassurance that there will be a job offer at the end of your course.  These jobs are mostly your run of the mill, Thai government school in a random town kind of jobs, but this is realistically what you would be looking at as a first time TEFLer anyway.  When I did my TEFL, everyone was placed near at least one other TEFL trainee from their course so no one was left completely alone and in the sticks. For me, it was a case of having the stress of a job search in a foreign land taken out of my hands, and it added a sense of adventure not knowing where we were going to end up.  I was lucky enough to get placed in the south of Thailand (hello beaches!) and although I have moved around a bit, I have always stuck to the south, so for me it really worked out well.


Which country should I pick?

This largely depends on why you are choosing to embark on your TEFL adventure. If you are in it for money, then look at countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or the Middle East, or out in the sticks where it is impossible to spend any of the money you earn.  Countries in Europe also pay well, but this is offset by high costs of living. If you are looking for culture shock, countries outside of the comforts of the Western world check all the boxes, with Asia being a popular destination with TEFL opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan… each offering their own unique cultural differences. If you are looking to change the world or do your bit for humanity, then lower paid or possible unpaid positions are available all over the world, from working in the favelas of Brazil to teaching street children in India. You will also need to consider the requirements for each country – some will require a degree or will only accept those with teaching experience under their belt.


Can I get work without a degree?

This completely depends on which country you are looking at and what kind of job you are going for; countries including China, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico and Peru do NOT require a degree.  However, the majority of countries do require a degree; and in fact this will not only be a requirement to gain employment but to secure a work permit and legal visa.  Here in Thailand, plenty of people work without degrees but they are either not working as a teacher (for example, you can work in a language school as an instructor without a degree) or they are working illegally.  With immigration clamping down on every type of visa here in Thailand it is becoming more and more risky to do so.


When is the best time to look for a teaching job in Thailand?

There are many different types of schools in Thailand and so there are multiple academic calendars being followed within the country.

If you are looking for a TEFL teaching position in a Thai government school or Thai private school, their school year runs from May to October and November to March.  Most recruitment takes place during March/April for a May start, but with a high annual turnover of staff and a general lack of organisation, most Thai run schools tend to be looking for someone throughout the year.

International schools in Thailand usually follow the academic calendar of the country that their curriculum is based on, with some minor adjustments.  Most British international schools will run from August/September until June/July and most recruitment will take place during Jan/February as these schools tend to have a more rigorous interview process with multiple stages to get through.


Are you in the midst of making plans for your TEFL adventure?  Feeling lost in an ocean of TEFL confusion?  Ask away in the comments below – I promise I don’t bite!

Our very own slice of jungle in Phuket

Another house hunting success!  Check out our new humble abode…

home

Not so humble some may say, with three bedrooms and a garden that exceeds 150m in length (it goes waaaay behind the house too), boasting banana, papaya and mango trees.  This picture is from before we moved in so it all looks a bit sparse – more pics to come once we are all settled in.

When we moved from Hat Yai to Phuket one thing that I have always missed is our house – surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, swinging on a hammock… I just didn’t think that it would be possible unless we were willing/able to pay a premium for a beachfront property – not on my pay packet!

But after almost a year living in our little town house, situated close to my school and Phuket Town, it was time to find somewhere with a bit more space, more privacy and more jungle goodness.  And we found it!  Once again this house was not listed on any online letting sites (although you can check out DDproperty for some good options online) or any of the facebook property groups – T just happened to drive past while house hunting and saw a little sign on the gate, rang the number up (being able to talk Thai is a must in these situations) and hey presto, the house was perfect for us and we snapped it up.

It’s a bit of a hike in rent, and it’s actually 3x what we paid back in Hat Yai, but a) things are generally more expensive here on the island of Phuket, and were generally much cheaper in the deep south of HY, b) my salary is more than it ever was back in HY and c) it is so worth it for the quality of living – I have jungle in my back garden!  My very own fruit trees!

We are very much back to the same lifestyle that we had before – chilling in the garden, falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and cicadas (it surely beats any Sounds of the Jungle relaxation CD!) and waking up with the sun (and the rather vocal cockerels that roam around the jungle…) – it is bliss!

So once again we have proven that with a bit of perseverance and some local knowledge you can find the perfect home for yourself – don’t be tied down to the condominiums that so many expats feel are the only option – your perfect house is out there too!

From TEFL… to TA… to…

Head of Pastoral Support Department!

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Another year in Thailand, another job…

I came to Thailand with the intentions that many have – get a TEFL, teach for a few months, travel around and go back home.  I managed to tick off most of the things on my list… apart from the going home bit which just hasn’t happened (sorry mum!).

I did the TEFL, I got a relatively good TEFL job at a Thai government school (I could have been on my own in the jungle, at least I ended up in a city) and I taught for a few months.  Which became a few more.  And then 18 months down the line I found myself at a crossroads that many an expat come across all too often – should I stay or should I go?

We all know the answer to that question (had I gone home I doubt I would be sat here right now overlooking my own banana trees in a tie dye dress in the middle of February…) – and so I relocated to Phuket, dazzled by the call of bright lights and seedy back streets (and the beaches, it’s all about the beaches now).  I took a job as a teaching assistant, not because it was my dream to be a TA but it was something I could do and it got my foot in the door of an international school (AKA higher salary, better job prospects and basically not in the Thai education system).

For the past year I have been a TA and it has been good but I never kept it a secret that it wasn’t my dream job or my long term career goal.  There are sides to being a TA that are great – no lesson planning, no parent-teacher conferences, far fewer responsibilities – but if it isn’t your career intention to be a TA for life (and there are some amazing people out there for whom it is, and I by no means think that there is anything wrong with that) then it can be so frustrating to be in a classroom (but it’s not your classroom) with a class of children (but they aren’t your class) helping to teach a lesson (but it’s not your lesson)… do you see what I mean?

And so another crossroads presented itself to me – do I sign another 2 year contract for a job that I enjoy but find frustrating?  Do I enroll on the distance learning PGCEi and qualify as a teacher (but only be able to use this qualification outside of my home country)?

Honestly, I didn’t really want either of those options.

Luckily for me, a third option appeared, and it couldn’t have been more perfect for me.

I am blessed to work at a school that recognises the strengths of its employees, is supportive in career development and isn’t afraid to be creative and take a leap of faith every now and then.  All too often when working in Thailand I have been met with “Cannot!” when something has threatened to be out of the ordinary.  As a TEFL teacher in a Thai school you are employed to that one job (and be a foreign face for the school to show off at token events, of course) and there is no route for progression, there is all to often no opportunity for promotion or pay rise or an increase in responsibilities – frankly they don’t expect you to hang around too long, with the average length of stay for a TEFLer being only 9 months (I’m sure I read that somewhere, but perhaps I am making it up…).  It has been really refreshing to be encouraged to try out something new and exciting and something that I never expected I would be able to do in Thailand.

And so, aware that I wanted to stay but wouldn’t be entirely happy remaining in the same position as TA, my school have asked me to develop and lead a brand new school department of Pastoral Support.  Hopefully this will make use of all of my skills from my work as a youth worker back in the UK while still enabling me to work within the school environment.  I have always swung back and forth from wanting to be a teacher to not – hopefully this may be the happy medium that I have been looking for.

For those of you wondering what on earth pastoral support is, I have a blog post planned and I will put a little linky in here when it’s done.  But put simply, it is working with children to overcome any barriers that may be stopping them from reaching their full potential be it personal, social, emotional or academic.  A bit like a school counsellor, only I’m not a therapist quite yet…

I am going to be working with the children individually, in small groups and as a whole school.  I’m currently juggling this between completing my current post as a TA (which I’m seeing out to the end of the school year) so I’m am pretty busy most days – I didn’t realise how un-busy I had been until I started this new role too… it has been non stop every day since I came back from Christmas break – the only reason I am able to write this now is because it is half term – and I have never been more in need of this break, although I spent last night trawling pinterest for ideas for work…

Expect to see lots more pastoral support/school counseling posts here soon.  I am yet to decide if I should make a separate blog or just let this one morph into whatever it will become – a bit like me I guess!

Inside my classroom: Halloween video comprehension

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Time for another halloween themed video lesson with this short film:

Play the clip to students, then hand out a comprehension sheet and play it again (I find I have to let them watch first without having 30 pieces of paper flapping in people’s hands).

The language is really simple and has handy subtitles so you could easily adapt your questions to suit any ability.

Here are some example questions to get you started:

What date is halloween?
What vegetable are they carving into a lantern?
What are they carving the pumpkin into?
What do they put inside the pumpkin?
What does fancy dress mean?
What is the boy dressing up as?
What is the girl dressing up as?
What time do they get changed into their outfits?
What other outfits can you see at the party?
What fruit did they play games with?
What is apple bobbing?
Who comes to the door?
What do the trick or treaters say?
What do they give the trick or treaters?

Depending on the level of the class you could choose to use multiple choice questions, open questions or a mixture of both.  With lower ability classes I often go through the video and pause it at specific points to give the students a chance to read the subtitles fully.  If you make sure that your questions run in chronological order you can pause the video as each answer crops up to make it even less challenging.

A further activity that you can do for advanced students with any video comprehension lesson is to have them write their own questions for a partner – students love to play teacher every now and then!