Teaching Abroad – In The Know (No.17): “Open your mind, Quaid! Open your mind!”

Success is down to preparation and hard-work (Photo Credit: Thomas Dowling, 2014)

Hello, and welcome to this week’s instalment of Teaching Abroad – In The Know!

Some of you will know the reference in the title: it’s Total Recall, one of Arnie’s best action movies. And this is also the idea behind the next few weeks (certainly the rest of January and part of Feb, too), whereby I’ll be talking about how you can ‘open your mind’ to teaching and improve or otherwise acquire directly applicable skills (some of which will be professionally recognised) before you get to wherever you’re going.

Today will be a swifter affair than Quaid’s eventful meeting with Kuwarto – that mysterious rebel leader on Mars with whom Arnie reveals his great secret. Instead, this blog will be closer to another classic of my teenage years, that of Treasure Island. When Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver get to their destination, they eventually find a skeleton. This jumble of bones has a finger that points towards the objective of Silver’s expedition: the gold. This blog here seeks to do something similar: point the way; think of it as a content’s page.

With that in mind, I’ve divided up the forthcoming discussion into four main posts (though there will be ancillary blogs, posts, and specials as well). For each of these subtopics (listed below), I’ll be drawing on my own personal experience so as to highlight the pros and cons of such ventures, as well as conducted email interviews with the relevant parties to enable readers to fully appreciate the value of these courses.

(1) Online Courses such those offered by ESLStarter.com/UKTEFL aspire to teach you the tools of the trade according to your budget and available temporal commitments; while Norwood English puts you through a grammar bootcamp that will provide you with a solid base for all those future lessons on phrasal verbs, homophones, and if clauses.

(2) On-site Courses such as a CELTA with institutions like ITI in Istanbul provide not just extensive classes on teaching theory and methodology, but also an invaluable 8 hours of assessed teaching practice. It’s not cheap, and requires significant effort over a sustained period, but the results and application of this widely recognised certificate will hold you in good stead throughout your teaching career.

(3) Teach Yourself Courses and/or quality books that you can work through and garner the basics are a wise activity for the soon-to-be ESL teacher of tomorrow that may be time-poor or lacking a few gold bars today.

(4) Lastly, I’ll offer some leads on what good free stuff is out there from lesson plans and virtual vaults of resources from our friends over at Twinkl, to Facebook forums, YouTube videos, and gratis online courses via iTunes U.

Fundamentally, there really is plenty out there, and definitely something to suit your wallet, calendar, and work ethic. Like Long John Silver, you just have to know where to look.

In hindsight, I do regret that I did not take a grounding teaching course, buy a decent grammar book, or make a concerted effort to learn more about the ESL industry before I started my first post in South Korea way back in 2010. To be fair, I ‘winged it’ until I was able to do the job properly, but I would spare other Digital Travellers the same stress and anxiety by strongly advising that you invest just a little time and money to give yourself a good, solid head start. Trust me, it will make your first few weeks MUCH more enjoyable and ultimately easier.

And while you’re waiting for the first instalment of this new segment of related blogs, remember: there’s no harm at all in checking out the websites listed above before we really get cracking next week.

EditorialThomas Dowling has worked in the ESL industry for over 7 years, having lived and worked in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Myanmar, Kuwait, and the UK. His work experience has included an international school, a university, private academies, and summer camps. Currently, Thomas is a full-time PhD Student studying Environmental Security at the University of Leicester. He has previously studied degrees in Ancient History (BA; MA: Bristol), and International Security Studies (MA: Leicester). In 2014, he earned his CELTA qualification (ITI: Istanbul, Turkey), complementing previous TEFL certificates acquired in England. Thomas is also the Co-Founder of The Digital Traveller, focusing upon content and content management. Thomas presently lives in Daegu, South Korea, with his wife, Jack Russell Terrier, and newborn baby, Zeno.

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