Tips for your First Time Teaching English in Asia
Teaching English in Asia can be a wonderful experience, but it’s not for everybody. Some are put off by having to deal with a radically different culture far from home. Others have trouble dealing with the stresses of a workplace environment which is a far cry from ones that they’re used to in their country. And some - usually those who aren’t career teachers - don’t want to have a large gap in their resume while taking a break from their real career.
There are people who absolutely love living overseas, and teaching English in Asia, however. Still it’s important to know if it’s truly the right choice for you. Moving to the other side of the world isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and with the proper knowledge about your desired country, required qualifications, and how to start out as a teacher, you can be certain it’ll be the right path for you. The following are some tips for those who are first starting out as an ESL teacher in Asia.
The first and most obvious thing to do is research. This not only includes researching things like the culture of the country you want to go to - it also means looking into what the job market is like for teachers. Some countries, like China, having thriving markets for those looking for ESL work. Others, like South Korea and Japan, have faced an increase in applicants in recent years or a sharp decline. And places like Hong Kong have a high standard of living, but require advanced teaching qualifications and experience. Not just the economy, but finding out what living there will be like is very important - what’s the social scene like? How many expats are there? Do the locals speak good English on average? These are important things to consider.
Next up is preparation for the job. This can take several forms. Teaching English in Asia usually does not require qualifications for entry level jobs. However if you have the cash and time it doesn’t hurt to get certified so you have some idea about what you’re doing. Trust me - being thrown in a classroom without having any teaching background or qualifications can be daunting, and when I started my first job in South Korea I would have loved to have some training beforehand.
Most entry level jobs will not provide this, or if they do it’s very basic. So it’s up to you to find the qualifications and skills that will help you do the job. Some people decided that a simple online TEFL course for a few hundred dollars will do the trick - and a decent one can give you some ideas for ESL teaching and theory. There are also those who go the extra mile, and take more rigorous certification such as the CELTA, one of the gold standards of ESL training. CELTA courses run a couple thousand dollars, take about a month to complete, and are held in various parts of the world. If you’re already living in Asia, you can see if it’s held in your host country or a nearby one.
Even if you can’t afford the money or the time for that, there are other ways to prepare. Books and the internet are an excellent way for first time teachers to get a handle on what they’re doing. Amazon often has ESL teaching guidebooks for reasonable prices. Some job boards also have sections where you can buy materials. You’ll be less likely to find information on teaching theory on the internet, but websites can be an excellent resource for teaching material. There are plenty of sites with material ranging from worksheets to Powerpoints to flash games. While it’s not the same thing as taking certification, or training to be a teacher, this can at least give you an idea of activities you can use in the classroom. Most websites out there provide their materials for free, others, such as Barry Fun English, provide extra content for a reasonable fee.
Many first time English teachers think that teaching English in Asia easy gig that lets them travel and see the world while getting paid for it. While it’s true that ESL teaching offers such benefits, it’s best to come prepared regardless of your motivations for taking the job. Taking a bit of time to learn about your host country and teaching in general goes a long way to improving your experience.
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