Aspirant TEFL teachers, watch our video for some answers on your TEFL questions and how to get certified.
I teach English in Cambodia. Why teach in Cambodia? This article explains how I made the move here, gained my TEFL qualification and found employment teaching English overseas. South Africa is the place of my birth, my roots, my country and my anchor. I love South Africa dearly. Last year however, my situation became untenable after two decades of being a self employed professional artist. Last year, after a spate of burglaries and thefts, no foreseeable future and a plummeting economy, I started research to find an alternative to my situation. I was about to turn 40 and needed somewhere I could find gainful employment with my specific skill set. It unveiled some interesting facts about the prospects for someone like me. To teach in Cambodia was one of them.
Obviously, the options are limited without a degree but there were a handful of countries that would be viable. I considered guinea pig farming in Ecuador, orchid cultivation in Uruguay, houseboat management on Lake Kariba in Zambia and admin work in Georgia. All of these options required a considerable investment with no real guarantees of returns. Then one day over a cup of coffee researching Asia, my eye caught a website in Cambodia.
A short introduction teaching in Cambodia
First of all, the Kingdom of Cambodia is not for everyone. It is rough around the edges, like Hessian cloth. Unpretentious, direct and unrefined with a rich history. Some might even call it a backwater of Asia. This is all true to some extent when viewed from a developed western perspective. The same is true of Africa and as a South African, I was intrigued to explore this option.
Secondly, I love nature and the outdoors. I also have a fascination with the tropics. Not the postcard tropical island idyll but the jungle. Raw, unspoiled tropical rain forest. Cambodia has the largest remaining uninterrupted stretch of tropical rain forest in Asia. It is a vast and beautiful place with a long chain of mountainous terrain called the Cardamom mountains running through it. It is accessible mostly only by boat on the numerous gentle winding rivers. I took the pictures posted in this blog on our recent trip out on the Tatai River to the nearest waterfall.
Is teaching in Cambodia safe?
Cambodia is still recovering from an horrific recent past. A brutal civil war and resulting dictatorship wreaked havoc on a gentle people. The trauma runs deep here and the population deeply resents violence of any kind. There is virtually no crime and the people are incredibly honest. It managed to reaffirm my belief in the positive intrinsic nature of humanity. This place had changed my life for the better.
About TEFL in Cambodia
The website I came across changed my life. It was a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) website. Teaching? Me? Never. Or so I thought. We started researching the field of teaching English in Asia. I found that besides from Laos, Cambodia is the only country in Asia that allows someone to teach English without a degree. I was well aware of all the TEFL scams in South East Asia (Thailand and China come to mind) and wanted to be sure that this was legal. A long story short, it is totally legal.
All that is required is a good command of the English language and a TEFL certificate with some practical experience. Cambodia is developing rapidly. It is struggling to meet its demands for decent, qualified English teachers.
Deciding to teach English in Cambodia
We decided to take the plunge and booked our tickets to Cambodia in January of 2019. A private taxi picked us up at Phnom Pehn International Airport. We were driven across the country to Koh Kong. Koh Kong is on the western coast of Cambodia. This is where we were to attain our TEFL certification.
We did not know what to expect. No amount of research could ever guarantee a physical outcome. You must implement your research in reality. We were astounded. The TEFL course is presented at a small English language school in Koh Kong City. It provides education for 122 Cambodian students between the ages of 4 and 18. This is where we gained our practical experience. Our course material was handed down to us by Nico Millen. He is the course instructor and principal of Koh Kong World Academy.
The TEFL course
The 4 week course was comprehensive, hands on and relevant. The course also provides valuable cultural insight of a society vastly different to western civilization. This turned out to be the hidden gem when teaching Asian students. Most Asian students are not familiar with the Latin alphabet. It is almost impossible to teach them the English language and it’s phonetics using traditional blackboard teaching techniques. The practical teaching component and the teaching methodology developed by Nico Millen over 8 years of teaching English in Asia, made it possible to traverse the language gap. It allowed me to teach these inspiring kids successfully.
Since completing our course, we have found gainful employment here in Koh Kong as English teachers. We are loving it. We have also seen many fellow South Africans complete the course since January 2019. They have all found employment in Cambodia. Nico Millen has a fantastic track record of helping his TEFL students. He can boast of the fact that 100% of his students have found employment as English teachers in Cambodia.
Easy visas and no red tape
I have spent years in a line at the South African Department of Home Affairs for relevant paperwork. I cannot convey the ease of process here in Cambodia. South Africans can visit Cambodia without a prior arranged visa. You get your 30 day visa on arrival for $35. Your employer applies for your work permit (which you pay $200 for). Acquiring a one year multiple entry visa is as easy as paying between $280 and $300 (depending on the service provider). This one year visa can then be extended indefinitely, year on year.
Life is too short to wait for your government to sort themselves and your country out. Come live a decent life here in Cambodia. Have a look at the rest of the website as well as their Facebook page . I urge you to send them an email and they will contact you back.
In this video, trainee English teachers comments on the TEFL course they did in Koh Kong. It is their own comments and the video is the work of Chris Cox and Vong Phanno, photographers in Koh Kong, Cambodia. The trainee teachers did not use a script, but answered random questions by Chris Cox. Therefore we are truly proud of this video and of course our trainee teachers.
Please follow this link to get more information on how you can become an English teacher in Cambodia. You too can make a difference in the lives of the Khmer students.
Your Career Teaching English—from Start to Finish
Teaching English is a wonderful job and it can provide you with an even more wonderful career. Teaching will grant you a sense of accomplishment and, along the way, you will change lives, meet outstanding colleagues, and make superb friends. ESL (English as a Second Language) is also a job that will pay the bills, provide a nest egg, and allow you to travel, or to put down roots in a community—but for all of this to happen you need a plan.
First, a little about the job. It seems that few people decide from the outset that they aspire to a career teaching English. It tends to be a path that originates from a desire to travel, or to make quick money while travelling. This is not a bad thing. We reach where we are in life from various routes.
To start, you need to take the job seriously. I say this as many teachers begin as “backpackers”. This is always a sneering term of contempt. “Backpackers”—the image of the unwashed young, short of cash, who find a semi-legal job teaching English poorly to those who know or can afford no better. It is true that some do fall into this category, but far fewer than is generally imagined. At the very least, if this is you, take the time and a little trouble to give yourself basic training. Take a TEFL course. This is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. These courses come under various names, with different emphasis, but they will give you the essentials: an idea of how to retain your student’s attention, what to teach, and what you should expect to achieve.
Why should you do this? I mean, why? You can find yourself a job teaching English with no greater qualification than being a native speaking westerner in many countries. There are two reasons. The first is your students. Take what you do seriously. Your students and their parents are entrusting you with their time, our most precious commodity. Don’t waste it. The second follows from the first, when you do something do it well. Do not drift, slack, or fritter away your time. If you teach, learn how to teach. If you do something else, learn how to do that. We have a short time on this earth, if you are doing anything useful, which teaching definitely is, take the time to learn how to do it well.
So, get yourself educated with a certificate course, but which certificate? There are many options, online or face to face. At home or on the road? Do your research, ask around, find out the situation, and make your choice. Then ensure that you get as much as possible from that course. Learn as much as you can.
Next, after you have been teaching a while, ask yourself a vital question. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Important question. By this I mean, should you continue teaching? When I say enjoy, be assured that teaching is demanding, stressful, and difficult. You are responsible for imparting information, and creating new identity in the minds of your young charges, however, if you are a teacher you will look forward to this challenge, and feel rewarded when you see the result. This is my question. Do you enjoy this exhausting and demanding job?
If the answer is no, then I suggest that you look elsewhere. You will not be a good teacher, and most likely do more harm than good. Find a different path.
For those who answered “yes” then a new career awaits. There are seven billion plus people in the world, and only 500 million are native speakers of English. That is a lot of students! You can spend the rest of your life teaching these people—and let me assure you, most of these good folk want to learn, study, and eventually master English!
What should you do next? The answer is to get serious about your academic background. You will need to educate yourself with an ESL degree, or, if you have a degree, a graduate diploma in teaching English. These qualifications come in various names, from various institutions, but they all have the aim of giving you the background knowledge and awareness to be an effective teacher of English.
Your degree will open new doors, foster new opportunities, and give you fresh knowledge. It will impart the history, background, and the theory and practice of your career—the condensed wisdom of generations of teachers who have gone before you. More importantly tertiary education will teach you how to reason, analyse, and understand the world. At the end of the process you will be a better and different person. Someone who can comprehend and measure the world, not simply react.
A degree takes three to four years to complete. At the very beginning of your career this will seem a long time, and it is, but the time will pass irrespective. It is up to you to get the most from these years. A degree will do this. Bear in mind that it is possible to teach while studying, it is also possible to teach and travel while studying, or to complete you study in a different country.
My recommendation, study where you want to teach. If it is Asia, look for a degree in Asia—study, teach, and experience your new world directly. Look for a course with teachers teaching, look for a course with community involvement, one that schedules your employment into the curriculum, and most importantly, look for a course that is demanding and difficult. Don’t waste your time.
You might want to consider learning a second language while you study. This is not necessary to teach English, but learning your own second language will give you an insight into the thought processes of your students, demonstrate a commitment, and benefit your own mental development.
Upon graduation a new career waits. You can teach in a primary or secondary school, public or private. Also private language schools, private coaching, and the special projects that come along. You can work in Asia, from the huge city of Bangkok, the mega cities of Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai, from Indonesia to the less developed countries of Myanmar and Laos, and others. Also look elsewhere, there are excellent and highly paid opportunities in Europe, the Middle East, there is also work in parts of Africa and Latin America.
When starting out—acquire experience. Move around, do you prefer high school or kindergarten, Japan or the Netherlands? Read education journals, discuss with colleagues, conferences, stay up to date, and learn. Make contacts, network, become known, get ideas, think short term and plan long term. Also, teaching. Teach, when and as often as you can.
Teaching English as a business.
Regard your career as a business. I say this as opportunities abound for good ESL teachers, but these require a degree of entrepreneurship. There are teachers who make a living from English camps. These camps run for a few days to a week, have various themes, and are self-funded by parents. Create a program, find an interested school, talk to the director, and then win the hearts and minds of the students and their parents with your camp. You can return several times a year.
Outside school there is the corporate sector. Businesses want their staff to speak English well. Think 5 star hotels, executives, sales staff, import and export departments—create a course and market. There is always corporate work around, but you have to ferret it out. Get into self-promotion. There is also the larger option of opening your own language school, or being asked to open a school. Be a capable teacher and opportunities will present themselves.
Returning to the academia, and if this appeals, think of further study. There is the prospect of a masters or even a doctorate in education in order to improve your teaching, or to move into the field of tertiary education. Also, a career as a specialist teacher. Does the combination of math and English appeal? Students with disabilities? Medical English? Gifted children? All are possible. Also, education itself, do you want to move out of the classroom and become a director, HR, an Ed advisor, curriculum development, or school design? Opportunities exist. They will come along, be ready for them.
A new development, over the past three or four years, is online teaching. You can sit comfy, in your shorts (as the expression goes) anywhere in the world and teach. Not a bad choice. Though I will state that to be regarded as a teacher, you should be able to teach face to face, and keep a class of youngsters on topic and learning. Online teaching is an excellent option. Either work for yourself, which requires a degree of marketing and effort, or find a suitable company(-ies) to work for.
To return to the point of this essay, teaching is a wonderful job and career. You will improve the lives of many people, and see them grow and move out into the world. Over the years you will ‘bump into’ your students, who will be overjoyed to see you again. No feeling is better. No accomplishment greater.
This article about “You Career Teaching English – From Start to Finish” by Dr. Ian Reide – Freelance English Teacher, academic and IELTS English. A great big thank you from TEFL International Cambodia to Dr. Ian Reide for giving permission to share this very informative article.
TEFL/TESOL course: Online or Face-to-Face?
A question I get all the time is: “ Which is better to do, the online course or the face-to-face TEFL/TESOL course?”
After reading this, you can decide for yourself which is best for you? Online or face-to-face TEFL/TESOL Course.
This question makes me think back many years ago, when I was small and Christmas trees were tall. I wanted to ride a horse as I’ve seen them do in all the good Western movies of those years. I went to the library and read up all I could about how to ride a horse. Google search did not exist yet.
After months of studying the theory I was confident that I knew enough to ride a horse when the opportunity should arise. Of course I still watched the Cowboys ride their horses in the movies too. Things started to come together all of a sudden. My mom got a call from my uncle. He asked if I would like to come work on our family’s farm during the school holidays. Our schools normally closed for a 6 weeks summer holiday early in December. Of course I said yes to the opportunity to get out of the city.
After getting used to waking up at dark and start the daily farm chores before eating breakfast when the sun is up, I gradually fell in with the daily routine of a fruit farm.
My big opportunity came when the neighbour visited the farm one day. He rode in on his horse and I just stared at this big monster of a horse. My confidence I built up sort of drained to my foot soles. My uncle asked if I wanted to ride the horse. I was in two minds as the theory and the reality suddenly met. But I had to keep my pose and not show my mixed emotions of fear and anxiety.
How theory without practice can go wrong.
Firstly what more can go wrong after I got on and off on the other side in one smooth move. Not how the Cowboys did it in the movies. When I eventually sat in the saddle, they gave the horse a pat on its backside. Now let me tell you, this is where the theory from the library books really had to come into play. The ground looked far from the top, but I recalled that by pulling the reigns to the left would make it turn left. Therefore the same would be true for the right turn.
No problem, but the horse started picking up speed. The books said that you have to pull the reigns down for the horse to stop. I was out of sight of my uncle and his neighbour by now and fast approaching the tarred road. There were traffic on that road and I needed to stop before I got there. I pulled the reigns down and towards me. Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity while the tarred road came closer. Then the horse pulled up his hand brake and put down all fours so suddenly that I lurched forward.
Hanging forward, arms around the horse’s neck, I was out of breath and felt this indescribable pain in my groin, only men will know about. The thing standing up in front of the saddle caused the pain. Cowboys normally hung their ropes on this thing. My head started spinning with questions and remorse. What did I think when I was studying the books and got all the theory, why was I so stupid to believe I can ride a horse.
To make a long story short, I whispered in the ears of the horse and told him what I thought about his actions. Luckily I managed to turn him around and walk back to where my uncle and neighbour were waiting. Needless to say, the experience put me off horses for life. I like them, but only to watch them, not ride them.
What did I learn from this experience and how is it related to online or face-to-face TEFL/TESOL courses?
Firstly, theory is just what the word says, theory. Secondly, reality and theory are two vastly different things. Thirdly, if you don’t combine the two and only rely on theory, it might put you off the real situation forever.
Online TEFL/TESOL courses.
I have seen the reality of people with online certificates that do not have the experience on how to present a class. They could not even do basic classroom management. They have no cultural experience or know-how of the students that is sitting in front of them. While it is true that they do learn how to do it through their online study materials it is still theory. That is when pain and remorse sets in. Then they blame the students and the schooling system etc. Some of them pack up and go home after a month or two. Most leave teaching as angry persons and won’t teach again.
Please do your research on online courses, even if they say they are accredited. Most schools do not hire teachers with an online TEFL/TESOL certificate because of the above reasons.
Face-to-face TEFL/TESOL courses
However if they started of the right way by doing a face-to-face TEFL/TESOL course right from the beginning and preferably in the country they are going to teach in, things would have been very different. They would learn the theory and if it is with a reputable company, also get observation time to see how other teachers go about their lessons. Very important is that trainee teachers should do at least 6 hours of teaching themselves. Because it is in a controlled environment, trainers can guide the teacher and give advice where and when needed. I have seen how the trainee teachers start the course with absolutely no confidence to where they finish the course full of confidence and energy.
In conclusion, think long and deep when you decide between online or face-to-face TEFL/TESOL courses. Don’t try to save money by doing an online course, it is just theory. You need the combination of practical experience and theory that a 120-hour face-to-face course will give you.
TEFL International Cambodia
Look out for the next post on the Pro’s and Con’s of Online or Face-to-Face TEFL/TESOL courses.