Or more specifically- no education degree, no problem.
After I finally figured out my answer to the 'what are you doing after graduation?' question, I thought I was off the hook with the interrogation. Silly me. The next most pressing thing the fans kept asking was, "why would you go teach abroad if you weren't an education major?" I mean, I guess that's valid, since most people have four years of studying and practice before standing up in front of a classroom. However, little do these people know that CIEE has a way of condensing those four years down into ten weeks with a little help from my new friend, TEFL.
TEFL and I weren't always friends. Some days it made me want to cry, scream, or throw my laptop across the room. But hey, every healthy relationship has its ups and downs, right? Ten weeks of lectures, quizzes and projects will really bond ya. And let's not forget to mention that final exam or practicum requirement. We really went through all of the emotions, TEFL and me. From celebratory smiles when I aced a practice lesson plan, to attempts at pulling my hair out when all my pages of notes couldn't help me pass a quiz. But in those moments of pure frustration, I had to stop and remind myself that in the end, I would be achieving what I love most; proving all the questioning folks wrong (and I guess the certification was a pretty good outcome too!).
For every one way that TEFL added stress into my life, it added two more ways in which I felt more knowledgeable and confident. For example, I'd get home from a ten hour day of work and the last thing I wanted to do was stare at a screen, but then I'd finish a lecture or two and feel super accomplished about everything I'd gotten done. Or, I'd spend many meticulous hours scrolling on Pinterest to write up the perfect lesson plan to fit a prompt that wasn't even based in Thailand, but then I'd complete it with a sense of pride in knowing that I could write a lesson plan.
TEFL taught me the inner workings of teaching an ENL class, and provided me with insight that I may have never otherwise gotten. It presented me with realistic situations that could arise, and suggested practical solutions and various means to solve a problem. It explained how to correctly approach my students in order to best suit their needs, and reminded me that making them feel comfortable by getting to know who they are is so important. It demonstrated suitable ways to manage a classroom, and advised proper etiquette to use in order to remain both personable and professional. It required me to push myself out of my comfort zone by responding to circumstances as if I was an experienced teacher, and showed me that I am capable of being the best teacher that I can possibly be.
Though this is a loose introduction to the TEFL certification course, I wanted to focus on my raw feelings about it, rather than on what it specifically entails. To find that out, you'll just have to cough up the $1,000 enrollment fee and take it for a spin. This may sound like a lot of money, but you'll quickly realize that your classroom confidence is worth more than the cost. Whether you have a degree in education or not, TEFL will provide you with a wonderful foundation to start your career as a foreign teacher.
So the next time someone asks you why you want to teach abroad, just respond, why not? Four years in a school of education isn't the only way to be successful in an ENL classroom. All you need is motivation, resilience, and a little help from my friend, TEFL.