How has TEFL changed my life?
At the 7 month mark as an official TEFL teacher I can say with confidence that my experience can be described with many MANY adjectives! The predominating ones being very positive, although the negative ones are also cool, because aren’t we all just trying to learn a thing or two in this thing we called life?
Anyway, instead of categorising my feelings toward this experience, continue to read if you are curious about what they actually are, and if you want a completely subjective depiction of the TEFL life and certification journey!
I am a recent recipient of a bachelor’s degree from a really incredible and funky college in Florida (shout out to Eckerd) with a degree in Economics and Human Development. The reason I tell you this is because this is where my desire to explore was fostered and nurtured to full potential anticipating the day that I could no longer consider such courtiers my home; forcing me to find a new adventure!
With the certainty that May 22nd 2018 (Graduation day) would bring a crippling fear of the imminent unknown, I was just as certain that I wanted nothing to do with comfort, offices, or business casual just yet!
Although I eventually plan to utilise the knowledge I gained in my areas of study (because I truly loved what I learned) I was not yet (and honestly am still not) ready to start forming ties to places, occupations, people, or really anything for that matter!. With no preset ties needing breakage, the way that TEFL has changed my life might be a little different than those who abandoned a life of repetition and mundanity of which I have heard many stories!
My story and life changing experiences have come through a self-growth, development, and understanding of things that get me and my brain going! When I say that my TEFL experience has been life changing, I don’t mean that I had a clear idea of a path paved and waiting for me, from which TEFL has inspired me to detour, what I mean is that everything that I am experiencing right now from TEFL has caused my undetermined path to begin to take form, and the walker of this path (me) to feel confidence and control in her own compass!
So metaphors aside, the tactical effects of teaching English have shown themselves, first of all in my development of new skills. By this I mean my confidence and comfort in leading a class and fitting into the role as leader, this has advanced astronomically and I have found that I enjoy this role and am actually quite good at it (not to toot my own horn or anything)! This does not necessarily mean that I have a new found passion for being a teacher, but I think the qualities and skills advantageous to teaching can also be qualities and skills advantageous to other occupations as well.
Without TEFL, who knows if I could have truly developed those skills, such as presentation and adjusting to meet the needs of others, and realised the importance of these skills. This experience has given me a great desire for language; understanding it, thinking about it objectively, learning a new one, realising how weird it is, noticing how truly well you know your own native language, and just observing it as an essential tool for human connection! This has been through teaching a language and also trying my hardest to learn another one (and let me tell you, it is freaking HARD!)
Can anyone take TEFL?
When I arrived in Argentina, I didn’t know much Spanish, since what I had learned of Spanish was from high school classes in which I was too busy thinking about how much I hated Spanish to learn anything! With this as my Spanish background, I could never understand anyone and was perpetually confused, and I therefore interestingly found it difficult to see Argentinians as humans instead of aliens (I know that sounds weird and melodramatic, but I seriously had this strange blockage because I wasn’t able to understand the words coming out of their mouths)! I was surprised how so quickly and intensely I developed a desire to learn the language and to be able to relate to the other people in their home country. Since then, I have learned a thing or two of the language, and their humanity has been restored in my distorted brain and with that process has come as a realisation of the importance of language! My students have given me a COOL and USEFUL tool that I will continue to utilise throughout my life!
Can TEFL change lives?
Yes, I am thankful for all I have gained, however I’m not going to say I’m overly humble in that way as the work I do does benefit my students as well! Learning English here, in my opinion, is not similar, or really even comparable, to learning Spanish in the US. It is highly demanded because it is often learned for a purpose instead of learning it for fun or brain expansion, or getting the credits that you need in whatever schooling situation you are in. For example, a lot of my students are adults and learning English because more and more jobs require it. Or, they want to travel and knowing English is the best for them to be able to communicate with the most amount of people. And, not only do people want to learn English but they want to learn from a native speaker to ensure they are pronouncing their words correctly and to be able to understand native English speakers when they talk (because lets face it Spanish speakers do not pronounce in the same way English speakers do!) I also use words and phrases that are actually common. So in this way I really feel as though I am doing meaningful work and maybe changing their lives, however in a different way, then they are changing mine!
I bet we can all think of teacher that we had in the past that changed our life because of their passion and inspiration. Same can be said of the potential to inspire people here. It’s truly a two way learning and growing experience for both me and my students that I meet with each week.
Where can TEFL take you?
I am constantly curious about how my experience might be different in different countries because what I am learning here has greatly to do with the specific culture and people. Therefore, I have recently been thinking that maybe after I feel as though my time has come to leave Argentina, I might continue this journey somewhere else because with this TEFL certification I can go to SO many places. I have thought about Japan because I know of others who have taught in Asia (because there are so many opportunities in Asia) and they really loved it.
But really, I can pretty much go to most countries that don’t speak English! Even if I move somewhere and don’t find a job immediately, TEFL is really cool because I can teach online from anywhere around the world and online jobs pay pretty well! So, even if I move back to the US and want to make a little more pocket money, I can teach online for however many hours I want per week. This is something that I had not realised was possible and am PUMPED about. Who doesn’t love a portable job?!? This experience has made me very thankful to be a native English speaker for the fact that I can share it with others and live in foreign places, learning culture and experiencing a different lifestyle to do so.
Although I do say native English speaker, I know that if English is your second language but you feel as though you are as advanced and comfortable with it as a native, there are still opportunities with certain programs to write a statement with a follow-up interview to show your stuff. The credentials for becoming a TEFL teacher depend on the program you take it from. I have a friend who took the TEFL course online without a Bachelor’s degree but most in-person courses require one and an age minimum of 18. So technically those are the credentials to take the TEFL course but my personal credential recommendations are as follows; one must be ready to step out of their comfort zone and want to experience new things, be ready to be adjustable, be open to a new culture and way of living life, have a desire to explore and develop and learn, and finally, want to teach! Of course some of these credentials might come with time in the country, but they certainly won’t hurt if you are experiencing all the above. For me, choosing to be a TEFL teacher was such a perfect, courageous, crazy, beautiful decision and I will encourage others to do the same for the rest of my life. So my advice is :TEACH ENGLISH ITS COOL.
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