There are so many TEFL/TESOL courses and options out there that sometimes it can be an overwhelming and daunting decision on which to choose. Being able to take the course in person and even in the country you wish to teach is a wonderful way of getting certified, giving you both classroom and cultural experience before you start your TEFL career.
In my case, I was not completely sure about where I wanted to teach or when I would be able to go, but I knew that I wanted to be certified for the future. Luckily, Greenheart Travel offers an in-depth and thorough online TEFL course which I took last summer, certifying me in 170 hours of both online and practicum training.
As with any other kind of online course, I had to give 100% effort to get the most out of the training. In the end, it was worth the effort and it brought me one step closer in pursuing my career as I am now an intern with Greenheart Travel and hope to teach English in South America this fall. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Manage your time and space. It is very important to set aside a specific time and area for you to do your online coursework. I find it hard to focus on work when I am in my own home and liked to treat this course as I would with any other in-person course I have taken. Find a coffee shop or library that you can go to each time to work. Going to the same space at the same time of the week gives you the mindset and routine of taking a course and keeps you focused and consistent.
Communicate with your teacher and peers. Just because you do not see them on a daily basis does not mean they are not active participants in your experience. I found my teacher to be very responsive and helpful. She responded to each and every little question with enthusiasm and encouraged us to participate. Treat them as you would if you were in class with them. The discussion forum was great because it got everyone to share their advice, experience, and opinions. Take notes on these topics, this online course is filled with a diverse range of students from all over, meaning diverse and meaningful conversations can be formed.
Take advantage of the resources given to you. This course offers a ton of really helpful and in-depth resources. This includes lesson planning, dealing with cultural differences and a comprehensive job search manual. Save them all! Create a folder dedicated to TEFL resources and put all of these documents in them for the future. Taking an online course most likely means you probably are not planning on heading off to a foreign country to teach English immediately, so saving these resources for a later date will come in handy when you need them most. This also includes all of the assignments you completed during the course. MUCH of the coursework includes getting used to making lesson plans and thinking creatively when it comes to teaching English to people who speak a different language. This will be very helpful for when you are searching for lessons to use in the future.
Practicum hours are key. These 20 hours are your chance to get some in-person experience. Take advantage of the time spent in the classroom and learning from another teacher. Do some research on where you can obtain these hours, and make sure you are getting a mix of both observation and student teaching. Learn as much as you can from the teachers you are observing, they are most likely very experienced and knowledgeable and willing to help you learn. I did my practicum hours at an immigration center called Chinese Mutual Aid Association located in Chicago, IL and absolutely loved it. The lead teacher that I worked with had years of experience teaching in Taiwan and across the globe. It is inspiring and exciting to see someone doing what they love and doing it well. Take notes and put yourself out there when you are student teaching!
Why is it worth it? Before taking the course, I was a volunteer English language teacher at a refugee center and found myself coming up with lessons and activities as I went along. It was stressful and they sometimes completely fell through, leaving me to feel like I wasn’t really making a difference in their language skills. After taking the online course, I feel more confident with the tangible resources and lessons to rely on for when I start teaching overseas.
I also feel like I have a better grasp on classroom management, something in which I had never been trained. Most importantly, though, I have a well-rounded understanding on how to effectively teach aspects of English grammar, pronunciation, reading, writing and speaking. Knowing and understanding the English language is completely different from being able to teach it! You would be surprised.
My final piece of advice would be to do your research and take your time seriously. It is easy to slide by an online course by not dedicating enough time to it. Don’t rush through the assignments in the last hour before they are due. You will thank yourself later for creating in-depth and usable lesson plans during this course. Deciding to become TEFL certified in order to travel the world and teach English as a foreign language is a big decision and well worth it.
If taking an online course doesn’t seem like a good fit, check out Greenheart Travel’s in-country TEFL certification options for destination courses including Chicago, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, San Diego and Spain!