So just how easy is it to up sticks, change career and go live in another country, teaching English to the locals to make a living? It’s easy peasy easy! Just need a bit of motivation and a sense of adventure!
I’ve been living in Mexico City for just over 9 months teaching English and seeing the country during the plentiful time off you get as a teacher. I started off by taking a TEFL Teacher’s course at Teacher’s Latin America, chosen pretty much on location and price….the website didn’t look as professional as it’s competitors. No need to worry though, there were plenty of good things said about the instructor on Dave’s ESL Cafe, TEFL’s online bible, and both he and the course lived up to expectations.
It was just a two week course, as opposed to the four week’s that is usually standard for these courses, so at first glance the $1,000 it cost doesn’t look terrific value when you can double the quantity of tuition you recieve for just $500 more. But cost is always an issue, and of course you don’t just save £500, you save the extra money it would cost to keep a roof over your head and food in your mouth for those extra two weeks! And besides at the end of the day, I felt the course left me prepared enough to get out there working. I had no complaints.
Would I have been better prepared if I’d gone to another school and done the full 4 weeks? Maybe. I didn’t, so I don’t know for sure. But I wouldn’t imagine I would have started day one in the workplace with double the ability. It’s Day 1 that the learning really starts, regardless of the length of your course. That’s when it is for real, and it’s a job that you are being paid for, not practise students in a course that you are paying for!
The key thing is that your course provider gets you some work once you’ve finished the studying! It might take a few weeks to build up a full schedule, so going with a litle bit of money or a credit card is a good idea. Demand for English teachers is strong throughout Latin America, so there shouldn’t be too many problems getting work! Again, I had no complaints to make of my course provider. It’s also worth mentioning that you will probably have two options when choosing what sort of jobs you go for.
Business English will have you travelling to businesses (funnily enough!) where you will teach students with a reasonable grasp of the language, and fluency with relevant vocab is perhaps the main focus of the lessons. Alternatively you can teach students in a language school. Their abilities may be at any level here, and lessons can be harder as grammar, grammer and more grammar are expected features of each session!
As a Business English teacher you can expect to earn three, four or even five times the hourly rate, and work 20 to 30 hours instead of 40 to 50 – that excludes time spent planning lessons. The down side is the travel time! In Mexico City that adds up….in my case I end up spending up to 50% more time on buses and metros than I do teaching!
Anyway, I soon had my first jobs, and marched off to GMAC and Intel with my new course books and audio CD’s. And yes I made plenty of embarrassing mistakes in my first few lessons….maybe there are even a few grammatical errors in this post! Don’t think for a moment that your excellent command of the English language means you know how to teach it!
Just because you know what works, chances are (unless you’ve just finished school perhaps and grammar is still very fresh in your mind!) you won’t remember why it works! Modals, time conjunctions, phrasal verbs, idioms, subordinate clauses, blah blah blah….jeez, I’d forgotten there was so much to it!
You have to plan your lessons, if only so that you have a vague idea what exactly you are teaching the next day! But things get easier. You soon find you have also ‘learned English’, and after a while you are repeating lessons with other classes, or at least the subject matter if not the same course book. I’ve even gotten brave enough to create lessons from material downloaded from the net. Most recently the story of Nick Leeson to students who are legals in the banking industry. One can but hope they learnt more than just a few new words!
And that’s basically it! Your course provider should arrange pretty much everything for you…reception at the airport maybe, accomodation definitely, and a job afterwards hopefully!!! All you need to do is hand in your notice at your current 9 to 5, book a course and flight and have enough money in the bank for your first few weeks – £3,000 in my case, but that was more than needed really. I spent 2 weeks here before the course and then a month in the States, and still had plenty left a couple of months later to buy myself treats. My course fee and flight also came out of that!
Just one words of caution! Expect the job you get to pay for your living and a little travelling – you won’t be going home with a small fortune saved! That’s not the reality, regardless of what some would have you believe!