5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting TEFL Certified:
1. Get certified while you’re still in an academic mindset. If you think early on in college you might be interested in teaching abroad, going abroad, or teaching English, set aside time to get certified. The 60-hour course can be broken up into levels of intensity. Since you have six months to complete it, you could break it up as a semester course and do fifteen weeks at four hours per week. You could do ten weeks at six hours per week, six weeks at ten hours per week, three weeks at twenty hours per week, or some other configuration.
Imagine that TEFL is another course at university, and take a lighter load that quarter/semester. Do it over summer. Take your winter break to dedicate the time. The 150-hour is different at eleven weeks, but that might be perfect for a summer project in tandem with part-time jobs or internships. If you’re about to graduate, even better! Keep the study train going, because let me tell you, getting back onto it is less graceful than riding a bike.
2. Getting certified is going to take longer than you thought. Take the date you intended to finish, and add on two or three weeks for cushion. If you’re planning to complete the optional Grammar Modules, add one week onto that.
As I griped through in my last post (Losing Steam), continuous motivation is a skill not yet mastered by the majority of humanity. Even medium motivation is difficult in these cold winter months, so know yourself, and don't get down on yourself if you hit a snag and can't get onto that ole ciee.instructure.com for a week or two.
3. The assignments aren’t easy. There are three major assignments you’ll be tested on throughout the course. The assignments are meant to help prepare you to teach different types of students, as they have varying levels of English, and will learn best in different ways. My favorite section dove into the types of learning intelligences (see below). It was insightful and introspective. In the end, we as teachers tend to favor the types of lessons that align with our types of learning, and neglect the types in which we don't excel. For example, I'm a fast and hard kinesthetic learner. I'm not musical in the slightest (concerts yes; jazz chants no), but am thus going to make an attempt to incorporate songs into lessons.
In the second assignment, you fill in parts of an existing lesson plan for a teacher, attempting to address as many different learning types as makes the class exciting and helpful. I botched it. I think I failed. The critiques on my final assignment -that I spent about two hours on- were that the students would never learn what they needed. I didn’t take the students levels into account, and was just plain wrong with the order of mini-lessons within my overall lesson plan. I didn’t know aspects of a lesson could be plain wrong! Well, now I do, and I’m grateful to have the specific feedback for what I needed to do.
The third assignment is a lesson plan from scratch. I found that easier and (finally) fun, because it’s your blank canvas to paint. You can be traditional (structural, functional) or new-age creative (communicative). You can decide which of the six types of educators you want to be, and completely own it.
- Needs Analyst
- Materials Producer
In the end, you’re not going to breeze through this certification like you may have done some online classes in college. You need to invest time, and focus on absorbing the information in the context of a class you might one day teach. It helped me to put faces on my Spanish students, and imagine I was teaching them this lesson to help increase competencies. Once I made it real, it became something of pride to work towards.
4. The quizzes are easy, but don’t think that means you can flake out on the slideshow presentations. Yes you can guess and maybe pass, but you’re not going to learn anything. You’re going to glean generalities that will end up hurting you in the classroom. Plus, there are a lot of specific quotes from the presentation in the quizzes that if you pay attention, that’s why they’re easy, because you learned.
5. When the instructor says “write it down” or “check out this example”, write it down, and try to check out the example. I’m not one of those people where when a computer tells me to “write out three ways in which you’d have addressed the situation differently…” I’m going to do it. I’m going to pause, think about it, and then go to the answer section where the computer’s friends tell me what I should have been thinking. This is a major problem with online education, and the instant gratification run society we live in right now. There’s nearly zero time allotted to critical thinking, and we need to practice quality over speed.
There’s additional resources at the end of every module, including articles, downloadables, and discussions about the covered topic. They’re current, and would benefit you immensely to take the time and digest it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do this most times. I didn’t put the love and care into each module that I should have. Am I a worse learner for it? Maybe? Probably
Bonus: Get certified with a friend. If you're considering getting certified, for whichever reason (teaching abroad, teaching online, helping students in your community, sharpening your skills, becoming more interculturally aware as an educator) try to find someone who is also interested. Similar to studying with friends in college, many people perform better when they are held accountable by someone else. If you say you’re going to be at Starbucks at 6:30 to do module 12, you need to be there. If it’s just you alone, you might try to skirt around and tell yourself you’re too tired.
*ALL RIGHT. I’m almost off to Spain! I’ve gotten TEFL certified, have my long-stay visa, my passport is ripe for the stamping, and I’ve narrowed down my packing to one carry-on. I don’t have long-term housing lined up, but have something for 11 days and am confident I’ll find something. Wish me luck on the transportation end (so many layovers), and talk to you on the other side!