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A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

 
Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What is Teaching English Abroad like?

What is a typical EFL teacher's day like?

Teaching is enjoyable work if you enjoy people.  Like any occupation, each specific job can vary greatly.  It depends on what type of school or company you work for, the country you work in, and the ages of your students.

Adults or Children

The teaching of adults is often less-structured than the teaching of children.  They are, usually, more motivated, have a reason for taking the class, and already have some English speaking skills.  Kids, on the other hand, are often in class because their parents signed them up, have short attention spans, and need a lot of activity to keep them interested.

New Teachers

New teachers tend to teach children's classes, though this is not always true.  Everyone has their own preference - some people love to teach kids and even kindergarten - some prefer to teach only adults.  Perhaps because of the more structured lessons, new teachers are more frequently assigned to the very specific routines that younger learners need.  That's not to say that teaching kids is easier - I think it is more difficult!

Teaching Kids

Language schools often hire EFL teachers for kids classes.  These classes are usually after school and will involve teaching the basics in a very interactive format.  Note the stress!  Kids need action!  This is not a lecture class.  Songs, games, activities and imitation drills will provide the basis for these classes. 

Sometimes these classes will be 30-45 minutes instead of 50-90 minutes more typical of adult classes.  Often, you would teach four to six of these classes in one day, with from six to fifteen kids in each class.

Adult Classes

These are sometimes called "conversation" classes where adults come to sharpen their already existing basic English skills.  While this sounds like a "chat" class - you would still be expected to provide instruction, some activities, some error correction - and a lot of encouragement. 

These classes can vary, but typically are 50-60 minutes - and you might teach three to six of them in one day.  Sometimes, due to adults' working schedules, you might teach very early in the day, or late in the day, and sometimes both! 

Adults tend to be easier to teach (IMO), but you can end up with some difficult work schedules to accommodate your students.

University Classes

Particularly if you already have a masters degree, you might find yourself teaching at a university or college.  High status - maybe - but you might also find yourself teaching 30-100 bored students who are required to take the class.  In my experience, a class of less than 25 is hard to come by. 

I once taught a reading class with 100 students in it - and have heard from another teacher who taught 150 students in one class.  Don't attempt this kind of teaching until you get a little experience under your belt.  Typically, you will teach fewer classes per week, but you can see from the numbers that preparation is critical - and any kind of home work will lead to piles and piles of work - that you will need to do at home. 

Most classes will be 60 to 120 minutes.

Middle and High School Students

These classes, tend to be middle of the road, lecture a bit: language principles, grammar, pronunciation, etc., then an activity.  Sometimes these too can be large classes of students who may not be highly motivated.  If you are teaching at a public school, classes can be quite large, in a private language school, classes will be smaller.

Corporate and "Company" Classes

Some companies will hire you to improve their workers' English skills.  Classes will tend to be small, but often at odd hours to work around your students' work schedules.  Student attendance may be erratic.  I personally enjoy these type of classes, but many teachers don't, as students are often quite tired after a hard day of work and just want to go home.  I can't blame them!  These classes tend to focus on "Business English" and the language of the workplace.

And everything in between

Expect just about any combination of the above and you will not be surprised!

 

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