Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

What to expect on a TEFL Course! By Elena Bigini (Mexico)

Are you thinking about taking a TEFL course, but have no idea what they look like, or what country to get certified in? Keep reading to find out more information like what actually are they? In what circumstances can you apply? And can you actually fail it..

Are all TEFL courses the same?

First of all you might already know that TEFL courses are run in different (and beautiful) countries, and you might wonder if they are all exactly the same?

In a nutshell, they actually are different from place to place. This is because these courses can be proposed by a specific person or institution (like a school or a language centre) who put the materials, resources and the structure of the course together. The institution sends its proposal, which is reviewed, and if the requirements are met, the course is approved.

There are some standards that need to be met by all (for example teaching practices done by the trainees must be of minimum of six hours, certain topics must be always covered, the length of the course which is one month etc.) but the rest is dependant on the person/institution that offers it. If the course is approved then it can be conducted.
Therefore keep in mind that although you can get certified in different cities, the type of training you receive can change.

Depending on the country, you can also receive a specific recognition from the government educational department of the country where you take your course. In Mexico, for instance, you will receive an official document from SEP (Secretaria de Educación Publica) that is recognised throughout the country.

What are TEFL courses like though?

Let me give you a detailed breakdown of the TEFL course conducted in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, so you can have a general idea. Students attend the course from Monday to Friday for four weeks and this is how they spend their time:

4 hours in a classroom with the trainer in the morning for the entire course. This is for you to learn the basics of teaching. Each student, in turn, is in charge of a grammar workshop too which they present to the rest of the class. This is for you to start getting into the routine of a teacher

2 hours of lesson planning a day in the afternoon with the trainer. This is your time to prepare your lessons for the teaching practices ahead. Trainees can work together and get help and feedback about their plans. One to one coaching is provided too. This is for the entire course

10 hours of observation during the first week. This is a warm up where you can get to see other teachers of different levels in action, their activities and how to structure a lesson. It is also an opportunity to ask any question you may have.

10 hours of teaching practices between the 2nd and the 4th week. This is the most practical and fun part of the course where you get to put into practice what you have learnt! Trainees are given the opportunity to teach students with different levels of English (beginner, intermediate, advanced) as well as different age ranges (children, teenagers, adults) to get as much experience as possible. Topics can be anything from grammar (I.e. present simple, articles, past perfect etc.) to vocabulary lesson (I.e. hobbies, sports, food etc.) to debate and conversational topics. You will be observed every time you teach so you can get instant feedback on your performance

Assignments are also given throughout the course. This is something you do in your own time, so you can manage them however you like, as long as you submit them before the deadlines

Weekends are free! Which means you have the possibility to relax, go on tours and enjoy what’s around you. Excursions are organised, but are optional. In Mexico there are three: a free walking tour of the city, and excursions to two beautiful beaches.
Last day of the course is graduation day. You dress up and formally receive the so wanted piece of paper! Well done, you made it! You will take pictures and celebrate!

I know at first this might seem a huge workload (140 hours in total)! Let me tell you though... the morning classes are student focused, and made enjoyable. There are a lot of fun activities used to make the training challenging and entertaining. You won’t stay for hours in a class and just listening to someone talking... you are involved from day one and you will learnt a lot, even though you already have experience! You can also be as creative as possible when it comes to your lesson planning, so you are given a lot of freedom.

And don’t worry... weekends are off so you can recharge the batteries!

Just remember to not consider the course as a “holiday”. As it is s month long, the course is intense, and you need to put the work in to prove yourself. In fact, TEFL courses can be failed! Let me explain:

At the end of the month you will be given a certificate, that allows you to teach English as a foreign language, and a score.

Here is the score guide:

- 50/100 or less, you fail the course;
- 50-60/100: the trainers will decide depending on the whole trainee’s performance. Has the trainee improved at all during the course? Has he/she tried to make an effort at all? These are the kind of questions asked to evaluate a pass of a fail;
- 60/100 and above, you pass your course with no problems!

There are seven different criteria considered when evaluating the trainees:

Punctuality: is the trainee professional? This is considered for all aspects of the course, your morning sessions, teaching practices, assignment deadlines

Participation in class: are you an active or passive trainee? Does the trainee participate in activities in class, does he/she ask questions at all?

Grammar workshops: the quality of the workshop and the activities prepared. Did the trainee prepare in advance or did he wing it? This is easily noticeable, even though you know the topic well in advance

Daily activities: again, is the trainee interested in learning at all?

Lesson planning: is the trainee using the feedback given to improve the lessons? Are they following the structure of the lesson? Do they have the right activities?

Teaching practices: your skills will improve with time of course. Trainers want to see if the trainee comes to class well prepared, enthusiastic, empathetic and if they can manage a classroom.

Assignments: the quality of your assignments depending on the topic.

The total score you get depends on all of these factors so...

Make the best of your course and take it seriously! Paying for the course doesn’t automatically mean you get your certification with no effort!
Some trainees might start the course unwilling to put a lot of effort in, or they tend to focus more on enjoying themselves as they are in a new country. As a recommendation, remember you are there first of all to get certified, and secondly to enjoy yourself (which is of course part of the experience), but don’t confuse the two!

Can I TEFL without a degree?

And luckily the answer is YES, you can still get certified even without a bachelor degree!

A degree is not a fundamental requirement, although it can help a lot when it comes to job hunting, both online and in institutions. For instance, for high education institution like universities or private schools, a degree is a must. A degree (or master) can also help you in negotiating your salary.

All in all, anyone can find a job as an English teacher once they get TEFL certified. The aim of the course is to train you to be a teacher, you will then get your experience through practice during your career. Therefore don’t let that be an obstacle!
The most important requirement is your English. If you didn’t go to university but you are a native speaker, you still have plenty of opportunities.
There are other two cases that can be considered:

1. A non native speaker with a degree;
2.  A non native speaker without a degree.

In these two specific cases, your English is your asset. You do have to show you are fluent, capable of understanding any accent and speak about any topic.
In order to verify this, they would look for any certifications you have regarding English, your passport and they could even conduct oral and/or written exams in order to make sure your English is good enough to take the course.

Speak to the TEFL Heaven team today ​to find out more about getting your TEFL training and travelling the world!

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