Yes, I’m writing about a Google search. Maybe it’s weirder that you’re reading about it…
I admit that I know squat about TEFL – that is, Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Which is why I’ve been trying to research it. Duh.
But the majority of the sites I’ve found are the ones that are offering TEFL courses. And of course whenever someone’s trying to sell you a product they’re all “happy yay buy me I’ll make your life perfect!” I’ve had problems finding information on people’s real life experiences with TEFL.
What’s more, I figure that for every product available there’s someone who hates it. Come on, in this day and age everyone has a blog. Someone out there has to have written a scathing first-hand account about what it’s really like to do TEFL.
So I typed “the truth about tefl” into Google. Bingo.
The very first hit was a blog post titled “TEFL Slaves”. (Yikes!) Though published in 2006, it linked to a downright scary UK article from 2004. The article talked about the low pay, the long work hours, the difficulty of finding work, how it’s mind-numbingly dull, and the fact that it’s a job that goes nowhere.
Clicking the links for the next dozen hits, they weren’t near as scathing, but not much more encouraging either. One outright stated that the only people who become TEFL teachers are those who have failed at everything else and have no other option.
Hear that smashing sound? It’s my dream of international adventure breaking in a million tiny pieces like sharp glass that you try to clean up but then always miss a piece and end up stepping on it barefoot in the middle of the night.
I swallowed hard and felt incredibly sheepish for writing a whole, cheery post about how teaching English would be so much fun. “All you people sitting at your desk jobs are such suckers! Come with me and we’ll be skipping through a daisy-filled field in Tuscany with all our happy little pupils!”
I very seriously considered deleting the whole post. Man, I must have been completely off my rocker to write about something I knew nothing about.
But, on the brink of a panic attack, I sat back and tried to look at this a little more logically and a little less emotionally.
Regarding the last point of having no other option, you have to admit that most people even if they can’t do anything else can speak. So I can see how TEFL programs could attract some.. unique characters.
Another thing I noticed in these sites was the complaints coming from people who were doing TEFL as a career. Sorry if this comes across as rude, but who has a career anymore? I see more and more people doing X for a while, then dabbling in Y, maybe finally figuring out a way to earn a living from their passion for Z. Unless I really end up loving it, I don’t intend to teach English for 12 years; I’m thinking a maximum of two!
(The way my mind works: in those two years I’ll build up my native-language ability and make friends and contacts. Then one day someone will have a position open to answer phones or wait tables or paint houses and say, “Hey, Alissa, want to work for me?” Seriously, one of the happiest times of my life was when I was working as a dry-cleaning clerk. I do not scoff at retail or grunt jobs.
Or, I’ll be ready to return home.)
More than one site mentioned CELTA being a superior certification to TEFL. (From what I can tell, CELTA is essentially the same thing but the ‘C’ stands for Cambridge. So, you know, they’ve got a little branding on their side.) But even those talking about CELTA were still critical of the whole English-teaching phenomenon. Honestly, though, I can’t see how getting CELTA certified would be better than TEFL. You take the CELTA class in the UK (at Cambridge, duh) where, last I heard, they speak English. How do you build contacts and network with the non English-speaking people in the country where you want to work?
Even with all that, though, I’m definitely getting that sinking feeling.
I’m on a roll, people, and I have a lot more thoughts and stuff to say on this topic. But I’m not sure many folks want to read a 3000 word post. So I’ll keep typing and you can come back on Monday to hear my story of meeting with a TEFL program.
I hope I haven’t spoiled your weekend with my sad, sad story of crushed dreams. If I have, to make up for it I offer you a picture of a cute bunny wabbit: