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Beating unemployment

July 20, 2009

Hello again,

Back from holiday, I find the news is all rather gloomy. Unemployment figures in the UK have reached a new peak and the swine flu has everybody feeling a bit edgy. I can’t make any suggestions about flu but I think TEFL might help some groups worried about unemployment.

With the effects of recession...

... hitting job prospects, this year’s university graduates are likely to face stiff competition as they hunt for work. This is a good time to consider TEFL as a stepping-stone therefore. The advantages of spending two or three years in ELT are clear. First, the new graduate can avoid having to take a mundane job just to earn some cash. TEFL will introduce you to new skills, and an exciting range of opportunities to travel, widen your horizons and meet fascinating people.

The sort of experience you gain in teaching means that your personal development is enhanced in many ways: new interpersonal skills, greater independence, learning to take the initiative, planning skills, presentation skills and many more. These aspects of the experience can really help your prospects in the future.

So what should the new graduate do to get started? First make sure that you find reputable TEFL/TESOL course. This should be at least four weeks and should lead to a qualification validated by a leading TEFL/TESOL institution. In fact if you take a course provided by one of the international groups, you could well find a job placement at the end of it. So spend some time researching what is available to you and make a choice that ensures the course is a stepping-stone to the next stage of the plan.

When you are ready to launch your teaching experience, think carefully about where you wish to go. Don’t jump at the first offer unless you are satisfied that it is from a bona fide school or college, that the terms and conditions are fair, that you will get proper support as a new teacher and that it is in a country you really wish to visit.

Next research the culture you will be entering. Be open minded and ready to learn rather than to judge. Many aspects of life will be different and you need to be ready to accept that what is different is not necessarily bad.

Think about your social and emotional life. If you feel a little bit afraid of stepping into the unknown alone, try to pair up with another teacher to go either to the same school or at least the same town so that you can offer each other mutual support in the first few weeks.

You may not wish to make ELT your long-term career but it is an excellent way to beat unemployment blues and gain valuable experience.

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  1. Drew Ward Says:

    Brenda I think you've got a very good point here. ESL may not lead to any great future job, but the added cultural awareness that comes from living and working abroad is certainly of value to any young person entering the real world.

    Plus, with it being so easy for British citizens to get a job teaching ESL it would seem a waste to spend a year doing an otherwise unwanted job. In most of Europe the main qualification for a teaching post is simply being alive so long as you are a UK passport holder.

    I wish labour laws weren't such that one nationality is favoured so over others as it leads to unqualified people getting jobs over otherwise quality teachers, but if that's the way the system is set up, it does seem ashamed that people wouldn't take advantage of it.

    So yes, agreed, if you are an out of work UK national, go abroad and give it a try.

  1. Brenda Says:

    Hi Brenda~I couldn't agree with you more when you urge teachers to go abroad. I am a 14-year tenured teacher who was just caught in the budget cut. I've applied throughout my entire state and even abroad, but the few available slots are going to the teachers who were originally cut (hired back after the stimulus money came out), or newly graduated young people who require less in starting pay. That being said, the one-year I spent teaching in Austria has been the highlight of my entire career and I am trying to find another position in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. I will offer a word of advice for those who are contemplating a move abroad...don't be afraid to ask questions in the interview. I loved my school in Austria, but I found out after I got there, that they were not accredited and had no governing body. They paid us about 15 days late each month; this made it very difficult for those of us who had house and car payments that needed to be paid back in the U.S., and there was nothing we could do about it. Still, it was a fabulous year, and I am anxious to find another position abroad.~Brenda

  1. Lee Says:


    Although i see what you are trying to get at, TESL has given me nothing bud good experiences. I have a BA in foreign languages from UBC and am currently working towards entering the teachers union of Canada. The thing is, there isn't many jobs in teaching here. The school boards are full, and it seems that there is just a waiting list to get in. Teaching English abroad has no impact on anyone's chances of getting a career back in their home country. School boards what cold hard experience; such as CO-OP. I guess, the point I'm trying to get at is, TESL has lost pizazz in the eyes of professionals, who see children traveling abroad and teaching other children the verbal diarrhea of the English language. The experience I gained (in China) has given me a great deal of insight into other people's ways of life, though. It has allowed me to take the study of language to the next step and obtain fluency in an Asian language. I also met some of the greatest friends ever. It even opened the chance for me to work for my province during the Olympics. It was truly one of the greatest times of my life, and one of the biggest wastes of time.

  1. Eric Roth Says:

    Excellent post.

    I would add some points.First, read at least two major books on teaching English abroad beyond your 4-week curriculum. A solid primer might be Global Englishes by Andrew Kirkpatrick (Cambridge University Press) for a better understanding of how English has evolved around the world.

    Second, collect official documents such as a clean police record, transcripts, letters of recommendations, and make multiple copies of basic ID. You can't have too many documents when searching for a position abroad. Join TESOL. Join your local affiliate too. If you take yourself seriously as a professional, other teachers and school administrators are more likely to follow suit.

    Third, pick a country that you really want to study and live in. Sometimes novice teachers follow the dollar bill signs into very awkward situations and police states. Be careful. Ask yourself if you really want to experience living in a modern theocracy. Read about the education system where you will teach - and be a step ahead.

    Finally, I would document materials that you use and create while teaching abroad so you can present a portfolio of your work upon returning home.

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