Getting TEFL certified through CIEE gave me the confidence I needed to be a successful lead classroom teacher in a foreign country. CIEE’s TEFL course is extremely thorough, but manageable. The course covers everything from a brief history of the English language to how to manage multi-level classrooms in a completely foreign culture. It even includes a 20-hour practicum requirement (and helps you find somewhere to complete that practicum) to give you hands-on experience in the classroom.
Initially, I was nervous about managing an online class while working full time. However, the class was the perfect balance of accountability and flexibility. I worked on the course for 2-3 hours at a coffee shop after work or on my couch before bed, 4-5 days per week. While this might sound like a lot, keep in mind that I was not laser focused for all of that time. I mean, c’mon, I was working 50+ hours a week on top of all this! So zoning out or dozing off added some bulk to those hours. Therefore, it is very doable.
Note, however, that even though I may have checked some emails or listened to music while going through the course’s PowerPoint slides, I was NOT simply clicking through them. I took notes, screenshots, re-reading for clarity, etc. It is worth noting that it is in your best interest to stay on top of it the work schedule though! While you can definitely work at your own pace week-by-week, your graded exams and assignments have due dates! Luckily, the rhythm of the course is easy to master. Each module culminated in a graded online multiple choice test, to be submitted by Sunday evenings. There was also a module graded assignment, due by the following Wednesday. So you basically had a week to complete each module and then take the test on it, and you had 10 days to complete each module graded assignment (which was usually an essay or a video). I feel this schedule incentivized me to keep plugging through the units during the workweek, but also gave me breathing room on those written assignments.
The Unit Tests
The weekly unit tests were just the right level of difficulty. I did not have to review or study for them, but I also definitely would not have passed them if I had skipped over each slide rather than actually read them and taken notes. There are smaller, non-graded, “Check Your Understanding” quizzes sprinkled throughout the modules, so there were no curve-balls on the larger unit tests.
The Module Graded Assignments
While I did not agonize over these assignments for days, I relied heavily on my notes and may have had to re-record a video from time to time to get it right. The assignments were straight-forward and easy to understand what they were asking of you, but you had to be thorough in your responses. A typical module graded assignment would be to create a lesson plan for a specific age group, language level, and setting, using some of the teaching methods or strategies you had just learned about in the unit. And don’t worry – you learn how to write lesson plans, and how age, language level, and setting would influence your lessons. So again – very straightforward! I actually think one of the biggest strengths of the CIEE TEFL course was how straightforward it was about everything – how you would be graded, how you were expected to participate in the video-conference-style review sessions, what they were looking for you to cover in each of your module graded assignments. In fact, each module graded assignment had an example available for you to access at any time, to use as a guide or point of inspiration. These were a major component of my success, and also just something I wholeheartedly appreciated from CIEE – I thought it was one of the many signs they showed that they wanted me to succeed!
This was my favorite, and most unexpected part of the certification course! Every Monday evening, we would gather for a group video conference, where our teacher would lead us in a unit review and answer questions about the assignment due that week. There were also several slides in each unit that prompted us to post to our classroom discussion board. This was fun because I was exposed to such a variety of opinions and experiences that my fellow classmates had. Nothing ever got dicey, though – everyone was respectful, even when our opinions or experiences were different. I loved that CIEE created this community within the course, because it made me feel comfortable to reach out to these new classmates with quick questions on assignments – or even about teaching and traveling experiences!
I was so glad the course included a practicum requirement. At first, I thought finding a practicum would be difficult. But, I emailed the CIEE TEFL coordinator right at the start of the course, asking if there were any schools/centers that any TEFL alumni in my area had completed their practicum at, and she got back to me with a whole list of places and email addresses! I ultimately observed an ESL teacher at a local high school for a total of ten hours, and then actually taught two of her classes. In total, I observed for 10 hours and taught for 10 hours. This was tough to navigate while working (I had to take a couple “sick” days from the office), but it was still manageable because it was a one-time thing, not a new weekly appointment to incorporate into my already busy schedule.
In Summary: CIEE for the WIN!
I honestly could not have asked for a better certification experience. I passed the course, made a ton of new connections with my fellow classmates, TEFL tutor, practicum teacher, and CIEE, and most importantly, felt that my money was very well spent.