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Teaching without TEFL

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A TEFL certification is not always required to teach English. The benefits of getting this certification are out there, but we don’t usually talk about what happens when you teach without TEFL. This is what happened when I taught without training:

I gave them a fish, but didn’t teach them how to fish.

When I taught without training, I could tell my students when they made a mistake, but I couldn’t tell them why the mistake was made (and how to not make it again). For example – if my student said “I don’t play tennis, but I look at them playing every day”, I knew from being a native English speaker that was incorrect. The correct sentence is “I don’t play tennis, but I see them playing every day.” I could tell my students the right way to say this sentence, but I couldn’t explain the difference between look and see in this sentence.

Is that grammar correct?

This was embarrassing, but I hadn’t studied grammar since I was in high school. In my daily life, I’m very confident with my language skills, but when trying to teach sentence structure, adverbs, relative clauses – let’s just say it wasn’t great.

That lesson didn’t take long.

This happened a lot in the beginning. I thought my students had a lower level than they did, and the lessons I planned that should have taken an hour took 20 minutes. Now I have 40 minutes of class left with nothing to do. That’s seriously not fun for anyone.

I can tell they’re bored.

I hated this – I spent so much time planning for class, and I wanted my students to enjoy learning English. They clearly didn’t in some of my classes, and that was hard. I knew it was because the content was too easy for them, but I didn’t know how to elevate the material to be appropriate for their level.

The semester is over. What did my students learn?

This is the worst one, because I had no idea what I did to help improve the English level of my students after teaching without TEFL. I hated feeling defeated and unaccomplished. I knew I owed it to myself and my future students to put the work in to actually teach them. If I’m not going to make a difference, why do it?

Life after TEFL


So you're TEFL certified and thinking about what’s next. Your future. You’re a planner and a realist, and understandably grappling with the question:

What will I do after teaching English abroad?

Maybe you fell in love with teaching. Maybe the course made you realize that teaching is not for you. Maybe you like teaching, but only as means to travel. Maybe you are unsure how to transfer your international teaching skills to a job in your home country. Whatever the case, everyone comes to the inevitable “what next?” question after teaching abroad.
The good news is that we are living in a growing global marketplace, and employers are placing even more importance on effective international communication and cultural competence. . As a teacher in a foreign country, you have already proved that you are capable of both. You now have invaluable cultural experience that will help guide your life path and make you stand out on a job or graduate school application. Rest assured that your decision to teach abroad will continue to pay off.

Capitalize on your global experiences

These make great talking points in interviews. Don’t underestimate the importance of real-world experience. Aside from teaching students and trying to keep up with the local language, maybe you were solving transportation crises in Thailand, or figuring out how to negotiate with street vendors in China.

What did you personally gain from teaching English in a foreign country? Increased patience, cultural understanding, greater adaptability, a comprehensive worldview, improved communication with others, management and leadership abilities, confidence and independence in unfamiliar environments…and the list goes on! Don’t be afraid to mention personal experiences either—this will make you an even more memorable candidate.

Brag about your TEFL Certification

Another resume booster! Maybe you won’t be teaching professionally anymore, but that doesn’t mean your hard-earned TEFL certification will go to waste. This course helped your professional development, interpersonal skills, relationship building, cognitive and problem-solving ability, and cross-cultural sensitivity. It’s all about relating one experience and ability to the next—even lesson planning skills can correlate to project planning for a company.

Never underestimate what you’ve gained from managing hundreds of students per week in a foreign country. The ability to adapt to new environments can help you in whatever career you choose back home. Or, you may never want the adventure to end! Don’t forget your TEFL certificate never expires, and with it there are endless job opportunities abroad—especially if you are an alumni of CIEE.

Pros Of A Practicum

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All teachers can describe two very important moments in their career: the first time they stood in front of a class, and the first time they succeeded as a teacher. Practicum takes CIEE TEFL trainees beyond the theory and into an authentic learning environment where you can finally put what you’ve learned to the test. Don’t worry, we won’t take off the training wheels until you are 100% ready.

So why is practicum so essential? Let’s break it down:

It’s required by many schools abroad and at home.

The international standard for TEFL certificates around the world is 100-120 hours of coursework combined with at least 20 hours of practicum with ELLs. A credential that complies with these requirements will give you flexibility as an applicant and world traveler.

It helps you find your footing.

If you’ve ever taught before, you’ll know firsthand that this is a hands-on profession. Acquiring the knowledge and skills that TEFL will provide is one thing, but applying them is another. Practicum allows you to get your feet wet, work out the nerves, and see what teaching English is all about. It’s a safe space for you to learn, grow, and gain confidence before starting a paid position.

See your coursework in action

You’ll work hard on your TEFL assignments for a good reason. Practicum helps you to apply concepts and approaches used in EFL classrooms around the world.

It’s crucial for professional development

Your course hours should give you an idea of where you want to go next professionally. This is a time for you to establish career goals whether it’s exploring a specific area of English, getting to know different learning styles, or working with a certain age group.

Benefits of a TEFL certification

Those who consider teaching abroad often come to the same crossroad: Should I invest and become TEFL-certified? Experts and English teachers alike will all have slightly different answers to this question. Almost everyone can agree that even for the countries that don’t require it, a TEFL certification can always benefit someone headed into a foreign school system.

Here’s how:

Gives you classroom confidence

A CIEE TEFL certificate benefits both you and your students. It’s totally normal and expected to be nervous about moving to a foreign country, standing in front of a class, and teaching a grammar concept that you might not have learned well yourself. Earning a TEFL certificate will put these nerves to resting you the confidence skills you need to rock any teaching position anywhere! Even if you have teaching experience, TEFL is invaluable in preparing you to enter a foreign classroom—because let’s face it, no one really knows what they’re doing until they get there!

Resume booster

This is the most straight-forward reason. Many like the fact that they can translate their teach abroad experience to a unique certification on their resume. A TEFL certificate equals an added professional skill that most recent college graduates lack. This course will develop your interpersonal skills, relationship building, cognitive and problem-solving skills, all highly-desirably skills in the workforce, no matter the discipline.



Opens the door to a global career

As an added bullet on your resume, your TEFL certification can also lend itself to a global career. TEFL is not only a teaching certification but your key to becoming an international citizen. It gives you the training to think and speak cross-culturally, react quickly and think on your feet.

It never expires

Don’t want your teach abroad experience to end? Most don’t. With your TEFL certification, you can extend your contract, or travel to another country and teach English. Your TEFL certificate is your one-way ticket to paid travel. If a country requires a TEFL certification, you will always be able to teach English there. How about that for job security?

Better paying jobs

In some cases, having a TEFL certification earns you a higher salary. With a TEFL certification, you are automatically more qualified than the average college grad with a bachelor’s degree and no foreign experience., and many employers look for that. In a stack of similar resumes, this special credential will make you stand out as a candidate.

Opportunity to test the waters

Maybe you’ve recently graduated and want to try your hand at a teaching career, but aren’t ready to go back to school right away for your education degree. Maybe you are curious if teaching is even right for you. Or maybe you have no idea what you want your career to look like at all! If this is the case, then TEFL is your answer. It’s a short-term course that gives you the knowledge you need to succeed, and first hand experience in the classroom as part of your required TEFL practicum. It’s the perfect way to give teaching a test-drive without the full commitment.


Getting TEFL Certified: What you need to know before committing


Okay, so you’ve decided you’re ready to get certified. Picking a course is the next step and it’s going to require some thought. Here are your first five steps to committing to the course that is best for you:  

Online or in-person?

Decide if you prefer an on-site or online course. This will be based on your learning environment preferences, finances, or work schedule. An in-person class will typically be more expensive (expect to pay $1,500 - $2,500 for a quality course) and requires time and travel commitments. The plus side is that you’re getting an immersive, collaborative classroom experience. If you’re motivated by face time with an instructor, collaboration with classmates, old-school pen to paper note-taking, then an in-person class is a great option for you.

If you can’t spare the time for an immersive in-person course, go for the online course. You’ll be able to schedule your coursework around existing commitments, and the tuition will typically cost $500 - $1,000 less than an on-site course. Some online courses even have live tutors to instruct you throughout—so you can have the in-person feeling without the in-person price tag.

Check accreditation

Don’t let them fool you! You are in the driver’s seat of your TEFL experience, so make sure you are getting the best one possible. A quality TEFL course should be reviewed and accredited by a scholarly or non-affiliated organization. Make sure the TEFL provider can provide a means for you to confirm the accreditation from the relevant entity.

Verify that the course meets international standards

The TESOL Press has identified 100-120 hours of coursework combined with a minimum of 20 hours of practice teaching as the international standard for TEFL certification classes. If a school requires a certificate, it will recognize these standards and expect applicants to meet them.

Make sure you get in the classroom

Double check that the course has a practicum, i.e. it requires you to spend time in the classroom with English language learners (ELLs). The practice teaching is a crucial part of your development as a teacher and will give you work experience to present to future employers. Furthermore, it’s the very best way to truly experience how teaching works.

Beware discounts and deals

Avoid courses offering coupons or special deals on websites like Groupon. An accredited course with valuable content, personal instruction, and over 100 hours of coursework is going to have a corresponding tuition for the value. Just like university courses that are a few thousand a pop, a quality TEFL course is going to require an investment.


Learn more about TEFL and how to pick the right course!