I wrote this for the TEFL Prague blog and thought I’d post it here as well. Basically it deals with some basic thoughts about why, even though it’s not absolutely necessary, one might do well to consider obtaining TEFL certification prior going to teach in South Korea. Feel free to message me with any TEFL related questions and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.
“(South) Korea with(out) TEFL”
The title of this posting is somewhat misleading. Many people do in fact venture to Korea sans TEFL certificate and even lacking teaching qualification of any sort, manage to do fairly well in their new home. Sadly, I can confidently say that, for a number of reasons, this is not the case across the board. Perhaps a better title would be something akin to “Korea Without TEFL, or, How TEFL certification will benefit your teaching EVEN if you go to Korea.” As I will elaborate below, earning a TEFL certificate before trying to teach in Korea will not only make you more attractive to employers, potentially wealthier, and a better teacher, it might even help make you a happier person.
So why would you want to go to the trouble of getting your TEFL if you don’t have to? First, practically speaking, there’s money. Sure, a TEFL will cost you a bit of change, but in the case of Korea, your new qualification means the possibility of being paid up to two hundred US dollars more every month. Over the course of the twelve-month teaching year, your TEFL certificate will easily have paid itself back. It doesn’t matter if you have experience teaching, a teaching certificate from your home country, or a degree in Education or English Language/Lit; having a TEFL certificate will make you more marketable in Korea and in the case of Public School jobs, will result in a fattening of your hard earned paycheck.
Secondly, as mentioned above, having TEFL Certification will make you more marketable to potential employers. Even in Korea, where “English Fever” seems to rage in the heart of every man, woman, and child, the current worldwide economic situation has meant a tightening of the job market and a general increase in competition for desirable teaching positions. While a TEFL certificate alone will not guarantee a job, it will certainly stack the odds in your favor.
If I’ve already convinced you and you’re already signing up for a TEFL course, then feel free to read no further. For everyone else, please bear with me for just a bit longer.
A TEFL Certificate will make you a better teacher, period. I’m not saying that you will automatically be a good teacher, but you’ll definitely be a far better instructor if you actually know the language you’re trying to teach. Having a TEFL certificate means you’ve demonstrated a working knowledge of English grammar as well as basic teaching principals and ESL theory. Think about that for a second. So if you don’t have these things, what exactly do you think you will be doing in front of thirty Korean children staring wide eyed and expectantly at their new foreigner? Coming off as preachy is not the intent, but I truly believe I die a little when I meet other NETs (Native English Teachers) who aside from seemingly being able to speak English have absolutely no idea what to do inside of the classroom. Even if you discover that teaching is just not for you, at least with a TEFL you will have some semblance of an idea of what you should be doing in the classroom. This will not only make you look better, and most importantly help your students learn (remember, that is your job) but will also convey desperately needed positive reinforcement of the image of foreign teachers in Korea. It’s win-win for everyone.
Lastly, living in a foreign country can be tough. There’ll probably be times when you want to pack up and retreat to the safety and comfort of your home country. Classroom and work related stress can be big contributors to these feelings. Having a TEFL certificate from the right school means that your first day in Korea is not your first day teaching. It also means that you should be more confident when you step in front of your students for the first time, which in turn will likely mean that you are received warmly both in the classroom and amongst your fellow teaching colleagues. It’s not that far of a mental leap to say that having good experiences at work will lead to having a generally better overall experience in Korea; in other words, if not making your stay amazing, at least making you a happier person while you’re there.