All the feels of returning home after living abroad…

Okay, so as the title so eloquently states, this post is for TESOL teachers who plan to return home after working abroad.  The reason that I am writing this post is to share my own experience of what this transition was like for me. Returning home was a bit of a shock and can be a lot to navigate. I was surprised, how difficult my initial return to Canada was. I felt very out of sorts and unsure of what to do next.  What makes this transition so difficult is that many teachers are not actually qualified to teach in there perspective countries as a certified teacher. However, if you are looking to make a career in TESOL it is possible! I’m sharing my story so you can hopefully learn from it and apply it to your own experience.

So here’s the low down….

After living in Korea for 2 years working as an English teacher at a private English school (often referred to as Hagwons), teaching English to young kids all day, I realized two very important things:

  1. I HATED teaching English to children….wait let’s re-phrase that, I hated teaching children full stop! (No offense to the children…I really enjoy them…I have nieces and hope to have my own someday….I just don’t want to teach them as my day-to-day job)
  2.  I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back to Canada. Joke’s on me it was difficult to come home and set up my life again after essentially taking a “two-year-long vacation from “real life”.

At that point, the only teaching industry I had been exposed to in Korea was the private institutions or “hagwons” where children attended after school, or the kindergarten option which was more of a 9-5 teaching job. I had no real teaching credentials, and two years of basically babysitting and playing English games with my students while trying usually unsuccessfully to make the kids want to learn English. Plus! I knew I didn’t want to teach kids!

Just to reiterate, the kids were adorable (see below re: adorable kids!!!) …but as far as actually teaching them…..NO THANKS!

My initial return home and figuring out my next steps…

After some deep soul searching and discussions with family and friends, I decided that I wanted to continue to pursue a career in TESOL, I just needed to figure out how to make myself a more respectable TESOL teacher.

During my transition period, while I was doing all this soul searching I took an online teaching job teaching English to (yep you guessed it) Korean children! At this point (2011), online teaching was just starting. I worked about 3 hours a day teaching children one to one and making about $15 an hour. For me, this job was important to keep momentum while I was figuring out what to do next. I need some sort of stability to keep me grounded and focussed so having a part-time job helped me to keep my productive juices flowing.

The education of TESOL (so many options!!!)…

While considering my educational options for legitimizing my career prospects, I knew that I wanted a TESOL course that allowed me to work in Canada and abroad. I always wanted, and STILL want, to have the option of traveling and working.

I ended up deciding on a CELTA course (Certificate of teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). This course is a certified Cambridge English course and is the foundation course for TESOL. It is an internationally recognized certificate and also allows for further professional development options like the DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Like most TESOL training courses there are many options for study for the CELTA. You can check out more information about the course here if you’re interested: Cambridge CELTA Course Info

I did the one-month full-time in-class course and it was INTENSE! But I learned so much and really felt like I had a solid foundation for teaching English to adult learners.

Other course options…

Of course, there are other courses you can take to get certified as a TESOL teacher, however you really need to do your research on the legitimacy of the courses and whether they are recognized internationally. The other most common international teaching course I would recommend is the TEFL courses that are offered by most TESOL recruitment sites. A very well-known site that I would recommend that is legitimate and offers a variety of courses to fit your needs is International TEFL and TESOL Training or ITTT. You can register through this link and get a 15% discount on your course!

Another thing you may want to consider is whether you want to teach English abroad or in your own country as each country standards are different. For more legitimate teaching jobs in Canada for example, you can do an 8-month TESOL training course at a College which includes a practicum which will set you up for TESOL jobs in local Colleges or the Public education sector in Canada.

I would definitely recommend thinking about what you want to do in your teaching career and then doing the research from there. I’ll have more blogs about TESOL related subjects in future that will also help if you’re wanting to make a more professional TESOL career.

So I have my CELTA/TEFL certification now what???

After I completed my CELTA I started working as an English teacher in Toronto, Canada at a private language institution for adults. I moved around from a few jobs as the teaching hours were very unstable and the pay was low. Most teachers with these qualifications who are certified can work at a Private Institution, which is basically a business that teaches English to foreign students who pay for a travel/study experience abroad. I eventually settled in a bigger more legitimate institution called EF International. I started off as a contract teacher and after teaching there for four months applied and got a job as Senior Teacher. The job as a Senior teacher was half teaching and half administrative work.

This job was the perfect stepping stone for learning more about the global teaching industry and also having a more stable position. I was able to teach and also develop courses, manage teachers, create and adjust student schedules, deal with student issues, monitor testing and develop the internship program.  For anyone looking to get a more stable job in the ESL industry moving into a more administrative position is a great way to develop your knowledge and learn new skills. It also opens up a lot of new opportunities for future jobs both home and abroad in a teaching and administrative/student services capacity.

Furthering my TESOL Education…

In order to develop my TESOL training, I decided to do an online Masters in TESOL again to keep my options open as far as traveling goes (I can do this course anywhere) and also to gain more practical knowledge of TESOL. I opted for a practical Masters course which meant rather than a thesis I did an in-class practicum (in Canada) with a Professor over skype. Again there are many online masters courses which offer a thesis option and are very legitimate and can be done anywhere in the world! I chose my course from a Canadian University as I wanted to have the option to teach in Canada in the future and this would allow me to apply for TESOL accreditation in Ontario, Canada.

So off I went to South Korea yet again to work at a University and complete my “part-time” Masters course. I put part-time in quotations because it definitely was not that! It was a full-time, intense program that took two years to finish!

My reasons for moving back to Korea were threefold (a little taste of my Masters right there…big, professional sounding words like “threefold” try not to be jealous):

  1. The University position only required 17 hours of work a week, which gave me time to work on my “part-time” Masters.
  2. I was able to make enough money to fund my Masters and then some (SCORE!)
  3. I was able to study and apply the theoretical aspects of my Masters into my teaching…..BOOM….basically a Masters, MASTER!

Getting a Masters in TESOL would be good for anyone looking to teach at a University, or to be qualified for a management position at a private school.

With the credentials and experience, I have gained finishing my Masters, teaching English and working in administration I am able to work in more professional contexts at home and abroad. I would definitely recommend looking for opportunities to develop your teaching skills and credentials for more kinds of opportunities. The best part about this is you can do most courses online so they can be done anywhere in the world!! How’s that for awesome???

So what has all this education and experience done for me?

By now you must be thinking… what has all this experience and education actually done for you? Alright, Eliza, we have heard your story, but results girl…we need RESULTS!!! So here they are! I have been working as an Academic Manager for over 3 years and I have learned so much about the international teaching community and have had the opportunity to really develop my skills as a TESOL Professional and Manager. I worked as an Academic Manager at a private English school in Toronto, Canada and I am currently working in South Korea (again I know…don’t worry I promise there will be other places!) as an Academic Manager for a private English institution in Hyundai Motors. In the future years, as my hubby-to-be and I move around I hope to work in an administrative or Professorial capacity at a University.

Get to the point Eliza!!!! (A blog summary)

  • Be prepared for a bit of a rocky transition to get settled when you get home (Lots of decisions to make and new goals to set)
  • Think about what you want in your TESOL career and plan your education accordingly
  • Working in an administrative capacity is helpful to open up your future job prospects and can also provide a more stable position (at home and abroad).
  • Stay tuned for more detailed information about some of the points cover today like Tesol education, professional development, and the job market in the TESOL sector.

I really hope you enjoyed the experiences and information in this post. Please comment or share if you think it would be helpful for others.

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Welcome to the Unconventional Life Blog! I'm Eliza a professional English Langauge teacher living an international life. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about teaching English, working and living abroad.

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