You Can Exceed Low Expectations
Once you’ve been teaching abroad for a year or two, it is time to start focusing more on your career and how to improve your employment prospects so you can move up in the world into bigger and better things. Teaching English as Second Language is not exactly rocket science and you will most often be teaching pretty basic things to students who often do not have high expectations for their native English speaking teachers. The administration at your place of employment is also likely to have low expectations of you as well. Nevertheless, this should not be an excuse to be lazy or fail to upgrade your qualifications; you should be constantly trying to improve yourself.
Career Behaviors to Avoid
I will give you examples of some career behaviors to avoid. I have numerous acquaintances here in Korea who have been working at universities for the past six, eight or ten years. They got their jobs back in the old days when anyone with a bachelor's degree in anything could get the job just by luck, or knowing someone on the inside. During their tenure, they have spent plenty of time at the expat bars, hanging out, or traveling around Asia--basically doing anything besides professional development training to improve their job prospects such as obtaining a CELTA or DELTA certification, or TEFL cert, getting a related master's degree, learning a second language, getting academic papers published, presenting at conferences, or getting a teaching license from their home country.
Over this long period of rest and relaxation, qualifications for university teachers in Korea have risen, such that it is now almost impossible to get the job without a master's degree and a few years of experience teaching at a university, or at the very least adults or high school students. Now, those people who were just enjoying life, sliding on by with only doing the minimum have started to lose their jobs and are finding it extremely difficult to get another job with similar benefits. Do not find yourself in that situation!
Do You Want to Make Teaching English your Career?
How do you go about improving your skills and qualifications? The first piece of advice that I could give you is to decide whether or not you want to make teaching a longer-term career option. Like many people, perhaps you just came overseas to teach for a bit of adventure and the chance to pay off some debts and save money. If this is the case, do not worry so much about improving your teaching qualifications and instead focus on making a plan for life after teaching. Perhaps you could do some online courses to improve your career prospects once you return home, maybe there is some sort of certification test you could take or you could work on applications to graduate school. Definitely be thinking about your post-teaching life because going home without a plan is the surest way to burn through massive amounts of money and find yourself teaching abroad again when you do not have any options left and are broke and desperate.
Get Qualified If You Want to Make TEFL Your Career
If you decide that you like teaching and want to make it a career, then get qualified by doing any of the following:
- complete a master's degree in education, TESOL, or English
- get a CELTA or DELTA certificate
- get certified to administer and grade popular exams such as TOIEC speaking or IELTs
- get a teaching certification and license from your home country, which opens up the option of teaching at international schools
- get published, formally or informally
- make a name for yourself through blogging, social media or other online ventures
- present at conferences and make sure you get certificates proving that you did so
- volunteer with an English teaching organization (for example, KOTESOL) and accept positions with increasing responsibility
You can find Jackie Bolen at the popular, long-running blog, My Life! Teaching in a Korean University.
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