Are you ready to do what I do – travelling the world but earning a salary as an English teacher as I go along? FET? NEST? Yes, that is the jargon here in Taiwan. FET: Foreign English Teacher or NEST: Native English Speaking Teacher. 

Here are some tips.

  1. Get accredited: If you already are a qualified / licensed teacher and you have not worked as a teacher in your home country for a long time the first thing to do is register with the national teaching authority. This is a document that says you have the qualifications. While you are dealing with bureaucracy get a Police Clearance Certificate / Criminal Background Check done too. You will be working with vulnerable children and in many countries they will not issue a work permit if you can not supply this document. 

2. Get qualified: 

Whether you are a qualified teacher or not next best thing to do is enrol for a TEFL  / TESOL /  CELTA course. This can be done in most cities around the world. I have a TEFL and it has served me well. Its usually a 2 or 3-week course. The first week is teaching you the basics of how to teach a foreign language. You will be given themes and at home prepare lessons for a class. Next day you will do that lesson in front of your peers / classmates and they will give feedback and discuss why things worked or not and how to make them work. 

The following week(s) you will be teaching actual students in real life situations. At the end of the course you will be given a certificate to say you did complete the TEFL course. You will also be given a TEFL report written by your lecturers stating how they observed you. 

For the purpose of applying for a TEFL job you need to submit both these documents with your application. So don’t laugh off the report. It is important. 

WHY should you do TEFL / TESOL / CELTA? Some countries / schools / language centres will only employ you if you have this qualification. Its easier to get a job with a TEFL / TESOL and the easiest yet is a CELTA. In many countries you can find a job teaching English at a language school with your only qualification that you are a native speaker or a fluent speaker of English. I think that is ok if you are young and don’t want to be tied down. I prefer to get a position at a government school or university with perks like a legal work permit, fixed contract for longer than a few months, paid holidays and medical insurance.

Most important reason I think is the confidence it gives you. You will be working in a foreign country and you may find yourself in an area where you are the only foreign teacher. The whole English programme at that school (or in my case, schools) depends on you. They expect you to supply the curriculum, the lesson plans, and they want to see the results. Often running to the local library for information leaves you facing a building full of books in a language you are not familiar with. You can also not rely on the local English teachers. Some will be very helpful, some are glad you are there so they can sit in the back of the class and sleep or play on their smart phones, others will be hostile (Why are you here? Am I not a good enough teacher?) At my 3 schools I have all of them.  

Not interested in teaching English: In Taiwan the government has started CLIL. Which basically means they want Taiwanese students to be instructed using the medium of English in every subject offered at schools. So if you are a biology, music, art, math etc major, you will be welcomed in Taiwan. You will teach your favourite subject in English to Taiwanese students alongside a Taiwanese teacher. 

3. Where to get qualified: When you start you Google search for TEFL courses you will have many options. I did mine in a city near where I lived at the time. It was convenient but afterwards I had to go out and find my own job. There is no problem with that. Its easy enough.

You also have the option of doing the course in a foreign country where the language school will help you find your first job. So choose a country you have always wanted to explore and can financially afford to live in for at least 2 or 3 months and enrol for your TEFL there. 

4. Am I too old? You are never too old to teach English in a foreign country. You may be too old to get a work permit in some countries, like in Saudi Arabia 60 years is the cut-off age and some Asian countries it in the 40’s. This applies for the government positions. The criteria for a work permit differs from country to country and even within a country it changes over years. Even when you do not qualify for a work permit there are legal ways to get around that problem without having to marry a local.

In most countries at language schools or language centres they will employ you as long as you can stand on your feet unaided. 

5. Where to find a job: There are several ways.

Google search: but be careful if a site wants you to pay for them to find you a job – that is a red flag. Stay away. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say most people find their jobs, or at least the first one, through Dave’s ESL Cafe. Dave’s Cafe sets the standard. Its also a useful site for advice, lessons, and just about everything an English teacher in foreign country would want and need. 

Networking: Those friends you made during the TEFL course, stay in touch. They may be employed and then asked if they could get one of their friends to also join the team. That question has often come my way. Stay in touch with your friends who are working in this industry. They will know when jobs come up or who you should talk to. 

Travel: Just arrive in the country you would like to work inwith a tourist visa, and go around to schools, language schools and language centres and ask about jobs. Soon enough you will be employed. After all the paperwork is done you may have to leave the country and come back in with your new visa / work permit. 

I’m very happy doing this job and I would encourage others to consider it. There will always be a need for a FET. In Taiwan right now there are hundreds of newly created and still vacant posts. 

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