Sarah Handy – A guide to finding TEFL work overseas post-CELTA!
Sarah Handy is from Watford, UK and has been working as a TEFL teacher for over 2 years since taking the CELTA. The qualification has helped her to travel across the globe, from Europe to Canada and she now plans to work in South America! Sarah helps us to understand the peak times for finding TEFL work, how she found the visa processes, what makes her stand out as a teacher to employers and how she prepares for interviews. She also gives us an idea of how exciting the life of a TESOL teacher can be and what her experiences during her travels around the world!
Hi Sarah! So, what were your motivations for becoming a TEFL English teacher?
Until a few years after finishing University, I had never actually thought about becoming a teacher. I first came across it when looking for a job where I could work and travel at the same time. After a bit of research, I started looking into becoming a teacher more and became more interested in it.
Where did you take the CELTA? How did you find the course?
I took the CELTA at the Barcelona location. I found the course so useful and essential for preparing to be a teacher, especially helping the confidence of actually being able to stand in front of a class and teach. It was a lot of work, but I remember thinking that in just 4 weeks I learned as much as I did in 1 year at University! I also remember it being well-organised.
Why did you choose Barcelona as your first destination to teach English?
I chose to stay and teach in Barcelona after the CELTA because I absolutely loved the city, and it was possible to find work after I finished the CELTA because it was a hiring period, even though I had little experience.
Find out more about taking the CELTA at our Barcelona centre.
Was it easy finding TEFL work there?
Yes and no. It was peak hiring period in August, ready for September, so lots of places to apply for, but some wanted more experience. You can’t be too picky straight after your CELTA as you just need to get some experience. You have to be prepared to take something that isn’t perfect at first, unless you are very lucky.
How did the real-life experience of teaching English compare to the CELTA experiences you had?
Pretty similar. The CELTA course throws you straight into teaching a class of real students on your 2nd day. Terrifying, but helpful.
Do you think the CELTA course prepared you well for EFL teaching?
Really well. I thought it would prepare me mostly about the English language and how to teach grammar, but it included so many more things including classroom management and how to approach teaching different levels, ages, nationalities etc.
When you weren’t teaching EFL, what else did you get up to in Spain?
A mixture of things! Trying to learn Spanish, drinking wine, and eating the delicious Spanish food! Also enjoying the weather, going to the beach or going on day trips with friends.
For more information on beautiful Barcelona, please click here.
What made you decide to take the big leap from TEFL teaching in Spain, to Canada?
I wanted to try teaching in a language school with a big mixture of different nationalities, and these schools are mostly in English speaking countries. I’d also never been to Canada and it looked absolutely stunning!
How did you find the Canadian visa process?
I didn’t find it the easiest process, because it was time consuming and a lot of steps. I know they’ve changed it since though and it’s definitely improved.
Was there a different in EFL teaching styles in Spain and Canada?
Both were actually similar. I think a lot of language schools around the world use a similar teaching style now. The language school I worked at in Vancouver, called Eurocentres, was a little more relaxed and a little less focused on textbooks and exams, which I preferred.
What is the job market like for TESOL jobs in Canada? Was it easy finding TEFL work?
I found it ok because, like Spain, I started looking in the peak hiring period. In Canada this is summer, so June, July and August. Also at this point I had 1 year of experience, which helped.
What did you do in your free time while you were there?
So many things! I found Vancouver an amazing base that had so many options around it. It’s so close to the American border so perfect for weekends trips to Seattle or Portland. There are also many beautiful islands to visit, so had a few weekends in a log cabin with friends. In the winter I went snowboarding a few times. It was a pretty expensive city to live though.
Interested in taking the CELTA in Canada? See more information about our centres here.
What do you think about your CV makes you attractive to potential TESOL employers?
I think having 2 years’ experience obviously helps a lot. Also teaching all different levels, different nationalities, and age groups.
How do you prepare for TEFL interviews?
I research the school as much as possible. I look at what classes/courses they offer, what textbooks they use, social activities, things like that. From that information I can have a good guess at what questions they’re likely going to ask, and try and think of some past situations/examples I can use in my answers.
On your first day in a new job, what do you bring? Is there a certain lesson plan you always use?
I make sure I’m REALLY prepared (the first day is stressful enough). I don’t always use the same lesson plan because it depends if it’s the start of term or not. If it’s a new class, I’ll plan a ‘getting to know you’ lesson. If it’s not the start of term, I usually email the Director of Studies to ask what was covered in their last lesson, and create a review lesson with a quick ‘getting to know you’ or learning names activity at the beginning.
Want to work in Canada? A travel guide can be found on Lonely Planet’s website here.
So, what’s your next step? Where to next?
Next is Medellin, Colombia!
What are you most looking forward to about working as a EFL teacher in Colombia?
Getting to know a new place and culture. I’m not too sure what to expect!
How did you go about finding TEFL work there?
I haven’t actually found one yet! When I arrive, I have a month of learning Spanish in a language school (I need practice!) while I look for a job. I don’t feel too worried about finding one though. Like Spain and Canada, I’ll be looking in the peak hiring period in January/February time, and with 2 years of experience I feel fairly confident I’ll be OK finding TEFL work.
Is it easy to get a visa there?
I don’t know how easy the process will be. I’ll be on a tourist visa until I get a job. Then depending on the job, some schools will help me with the process while others won’t. But like everywhere, there are always things like Facebook groups to help. I find those really useful because there’s always someone that’s been through the process before and can help out with things.
Do you think it’s easier to make a TEFL career in Spain or Canada? How do the pay and living costs compare?
It’s really difficult to compare them, they’re so different! The living costs are A LOT cheaper in Spain, but the pay is not so good (but still more than enough to live on). While in Canada, especially Vancouver or Toronto, the living costs are very high.
Do you intend to save money working in TESOL in Colombia? Or are you living for the moment?
I don’t think I’ll be saving much money. Any money I do manage to save will probably go towards weekend trips. I’ll probably need to do some private lessons to get a little extra.
Thinking of working overseas in Colombia? See more travel information on their tourist site here.
And another great info site here
How do you see your EFL teaching career progressing in the future?
Honestly, I have no idea! At the moment I love my job, so want to keep doing what I’m doing until I’m not enjoying it anymore!
Are you thinking of finding TEFL work overseas? See our full list of current TESOL jobs on our TEFLwork jobs page here. The adventure starts now!