Discipline and Sacrifice: How I Balance the "Real World" and TEFL Certification

Authored by:
Leonard B.

I lead a very busy lifestyle here in sunny San Diego. From grabbing fish tacos with friends, to attempting to surf on the weekends, volunteering, and not to mention a corporate 40+ hour work week, you can say fitting my TEFL certification coursework into my schedule was a tad daunting.

I'm not going to lie, when I initially signed up to get my certification I anticipated a lot of PowerPoints and video lessons that I could cruise through half-heartedly in my spare pockets of free time leading up to departure to Thailand. Boy was I wrong.

This isn't to say that the TEFL coursework is by any means unmanageable, it's not, in fact, it's some of the most engaging and thoughtful instruction I think I've ever had (including four years at college). With some slight adjustments to your schedule and mindset, you too can take on "adulting" while preparing yourself to be the best teacher possible for your prospective students.

"So, how'd you do it?" You might ask. And to that I would reply - discipline and sacrifice. As I said before, my life here in San Diego as your typical 20-something bachelor was pretty busy with work and leading an active social life. However, I realized that by cutting back on things that didn't progress me towards my goal of becoming a EFL teacher, I couldn't actively take the reins on life and play an active role in shaping my future.

While I'm just beginning week 7 of my 10-week course, I've got the work/study balance down to a science. My advice, and that of the CIEE TEFL program is to set aside 3-3.5 hours per night, 5 nights a week to dedicate to your coursework. Yes, the last thing you want to do when you get done with a shift or get out of a full day of classes is to do more work. But I promise you, it's so worth it.

That being said, I've also come to realize that you need to set aside time for yourself, give yourself a break, lest you burn out. My breaks I've built into my day, Monday - Saturday. I go to work from 8 AM -5 PM, get home around 6 PM and take an hour to decompress. That either entails going for a walk and listening to my favorite podcasts/music, or doing something therapeutic which, for me, is cooking and/or cleaning (odd, I know). This gives you the chance to get your mind right and transition your brain more smoothly into an area on which you're ready to learn and be an active participant in your own education.

Apologies if you were reading this looking for a silver bullet answer on how to balance your "real-world" duties with further educating yourself. What I've come to learn from this process is that not only does that not exist, but it takes time to figure out just how best to tailor the work load of a Tefl program to your life and your needs. You may stumble on your first week or two in the course and that's okay, because you're trying. Nothing that is worth it comes easily and that idiom holds true in this instance as well. Keep grinding, and keep striving to attain your goal. Nobody is going to do it for you and the sense of accomplishment and pride you feel as you slowly feel and see yourself changing into the teacher mindset is one of the coolest and most rewarding experiences you can get. And think, this is just the first step on an incredibly unique and adventurous path. Whether you're headed to a remote village in Chile teaching against the backdrop of the Andes or set to teach working professionals in China how to navigate English conversation in the corporate world, becoming TEFL certified is an invaluable tool not only for your tracking career but for your personal development as well.

So, stay focused, stay the course, and be sure to set time aside for your own mental and physical health as you embark on this journey. You won't regret it.

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