Getting TEFL Certified, a Second Time Around

A laptop with a Greenheart Travel sticker on it.

When I think of my semester teaching English in Thailand a few years ago, there are a few solid memories that come to mind: literally pinching myself while looking out the window of my hostel the first morning I woke up in Thailand, sleeping on the street for 12 hours to get a glimpse of the King, traveling cross-country on a rickety overnight train, and all the wonderful people I met throughout those five months. Unfortunately, the other memory that always sticks out was my complete lack of preparedness to properly teach my students.

Lost in My Search for a TEFL Course the First Time Around

I was a little lost in my search of a TEFL certification course when I was applying to teach abroad, and didn’t have the resource of an experienced expat friend to ask for advice. After being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of courses available online, and being confused by the drastically different fees, I settled on a $200 online course. It wasn’t the cheapest option I had found, and it certainly wasn’t the most expensive. So, I thought it would be as good as any other course I could find.

The course gave me a year to take the test. Eight months later, after reading all 13 units, I regurgitated that information on the test and BOOM! I was TEFL certified.

Except that I wasn’t, really.

I had the piece of paper I needed to get the job, but I definitely didn’t have the skills I needed to be an effective teacher. It was like I read “Law for Dummies” and thought I could waltz into a courtroom and win a criminal case.

English teachers in Thailand.

Kara and some of her co-teachers in Thailand.

The Challenges I Faced as an English Teacher in Thailand

Throughout my semester as a teacher in Thailand, the list of things I wish I knew kept getting longer, and the list of things I thought I knew was shrinking a little every day.

My biggest challenge was not knowing how to handle my students in most capacities, but specifically I had troubles with:

I’ve come to realize that these challenges all stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have any previous hands-on training or practice prior to my first day of teaching.

The other challenge I hadn’t anticipated was dealing with burnout and not taking good care of myself mentally. For the first two months, I was bringing work home almost every night and traveling most weekends, so I never really gave myself a break or time to relax. I had expected to work a full-time job but in reality, I was probably working more like 50+ hours a week which resulted in a chronically tired, frustrated and cranky teacher most mornings.

English teachers with a group of students

Kara with a group of students in Thailand.

Why I Decided to Get TEFL Certified, Again

1. I decided to take Greenheart Travel’s 170-Hour Online TEFL Course with 20 in-class hours for a few different reasons. First, I would love to know all of Greenheart Travel’s programs like the Teach in Thailand program. We make a conscious effort to be as transparent as possible for teachers, volunteers and students about what they can expect from the program they apply to. Not every challenge can be anticipated ahead of time, but having gone through the application process and lived in Thailand for six months, I have the opportunity to be open and honest with teachers about my experience – I want to do the same for this course and my future TEFL students.

2. Second, because I took such a basic TEFL course in the past, I am very curious to compare the two courses as they will undoubtedly be vastly different experiences. One of the decisions for many teachers who need to take a TEFL certification course is to discern between 20 different options as there are so many courses available online. Due to the sheer amount of options and overwhelming information, that decision usually comes down to the simplest difference – price. Price is an important factor in the decision, but because of the gap in quality, it shouldn’t hold the most weight.

3. Third, I want to walk the walk. Factually, I know this course is designed for those who work or go to school full-time, and I also know it’s fairly intensive for an online course, so what does that weekly schedule actually look and feel like? I will be doing all of my work outside of my time at Greenheart Travel’s office as, presumably, my students don’t have the luxury of doing outside work at their jobs or during their other classes.

An English teacher with students in Thailand.

Kara with some of her students in Thailand.

The Perks of Greenheart Travel’s Online TEFL Course

Since the course offered by Greenheart Travel is much more thorough than the course I took three years ago, there are quite a few differences between the two. The main differences with this course are:

  • It’s not self-guided. Even though this course is fully online, I still have weekly reading, weekly group discussions to participate in, and weekly homework assignments. Each of these assignments is due on a specific date and my grade will be docked each day it’s late.
  • It includes live practice teaching. I haven’t started the practicum portion yet, but I have reached out to a few non-profit organization and neighborhood community centers asking if I could volunteer. In order to receive my completed certificate, I will need to observe an ESL teacher in a classroom for six hours, and the remaining 14 hours I will need to actively teach real students learning English.
  • It’s a community. I have an instructor and 19 peers in my course. My instructor will be providing me with personal feedback on my weekly assignments, and is available by email and weekly “office hours” to ask questions or ask for feedback on certain assignments I may not understand. My peers are active in the discussion boards, and I’ve already gotten to know a few of them, where they hope to teach and why they decided to take the plunge and get TEFL certified as well.
An English teacher at a desk in Thailand.

Kara working at her school in Thailand.

The course I took before I taught in Thailand wasn’t all bad; it gave me some insight into parts of speech and general grammar along with some lesson planning ideas. But, I didn’t gain any of the practical experience that’s so important for a new teacher. Even though I don’t have any plans to teach abroad again, I do still hope to learn the skills I was missing in Thailand by taking a TEFL certification course a second time around. And, I’m genuinely excited to start the practicum at a local organization here in Chicago!

Teaching is not something that’s only done in a classroom, and I think what I learn during this more robust online course will be useful in both my professional life as a program manager working with teachers from all walks of life, as well as in my personal life.

Here’s to the next 11 weeks!


Are you busy trying to balance work, classes or both? Greenheart Travel’s online TEFL course fits with your schedule. 

5 thoughts on "Getting TEFL Certified, a Second Time Around"

  1. Jordan says:

    Hi Kara, I am taking the TEFL – Chicago course this fall and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for accommodation.

  2. Lauren says:

    Should I be certified prior to applying or can I commence the online TEFL course after acceptance or at least a little further into the interview process?

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