Applying as ESL Teacher can be either daunting or frustrating for some Filipinos but once hired, it can be life-changing.
I didn’t even imagine that I will score a teaching job here in Thailand. I quit that 9-5 desk work that I’ve been doing for several years, without knowing what I will do next. It seems the number of Filipinos wanting to become ESL (English as Secondary Language) teachers is growing. So I have listed down 10 important things that Filipinos should note before deciding to become one:
Brush up your English skills
We, Filipinos, take pride in being a bilingual country. English is widely used in the Philippines, making it easy for us to welcome English speaking visitors. Even a 4-year old could speak a few English words. Road signs are written in English. Most of us post Facebook statuses in English. But how good are you when it comes to grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary?
Filipinos have a unique accent when speaking English – a neutral one. While an Australian or British accent is an advantage, we don’t need to fake it to score a teaching gig in Thailand. Neither should we speak American slang just to impress a potential employer. The skill we need is the ability to communicate in a clear if not perfect manner with ESL students and teach them effectively how to respond to us in the same way. And that skill calls for accurate pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. How do you expect a 5-year old Thai student to learn how to say “hamburger” when you pronounce it as “ham-bor-jer”? Some of you may raise an eyebrow to this but if we’re going to take pride in being bilingual, we might as well accept our flaws and start improving. After all, you are asking to be considered as a “teacher” aren’t you?
Do Some Research
Before I left Manila five months ago, I barely kept my laptop away. When I wasn’t blogging, I would be Googling job sites for ESL teachers. I joined job forums for teachers, mostly on Facebook. For weeks, I have religiously read ads from schools and agencies and comments from members. Comments are vital because they will guide you to those schools and/or agencies that treat their teachers fairly. Schools placing their ads on these job forums are required to state the salary being offered, among other provisions for teachers. This is where you will learn if the offer is acceptable or not, based on the pay standards for ESL teachers.
Below are the job sites that may be helpful to you, job seekers:
For job forums on Facebook, you can check out:
- Teaching Jobs in Thailand
- Hanoi English Teaching Jobs
- Teaching Jobs in Korea
- ESL Teaching Jobs in China
Prep Your Requirements
I have provided below a list of the requirements that schools/agencies normally ask once the applicant is being considered for a teaching post:
REQUIREMENTS TO SUBMIT (Scanned copies, if applying online):
- First page of passport (visa, if available)
- Degree (Diploma)
- Transcript of Records (TOC)
- Police clearance
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) with photo
- TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/IELTS certificate (if available)
As I am not an Education degree holder but of Mass Communication, I had to invest in a 120-hour online TEFL course. I would have preferred a course that provides a classroom training but the cheapest I could find then was around 9,000 Php. I’ve used, though, a myTEFL.com discount code through the Two Monkeys Travel. As I mentioned, you need to do some research before taking that big leap. If you’re lucky enough, some schools/agencies do not require these teaching certificates (especially when the hiring season is about to close and they need to fill in vacancies). In my case, though, I have decided to invest on TEFL to get a fresh grasp of what ESL teaching requires.
I also secured CHED’s red ribbon for my Diploma and TOC. Not all employers require it from applicants BUT if you decide to further your teaching experience and opt for higher institutions overseas, this red ribbon comes in handy.
Set Aside an Emergency Fund
Booking flights is easy these days. So is getting an accommodation, at least for a week or two. But if you would pull a stunt like mine – hopping onto a plane to Hanoi, camping out in a cheap hostel for three weeks, waiting for Skype interviews – better be armed financially. I was fresh out of resignation from my last job so I had what I call “emergency fund”. I had it planned – one month ONLY in Hanoi to get hired, with a little exploring on the side. I’ve sent out applications from Vietnam to Myanmar for possible teaching, writing, hotel jobs. I did Skype interviews in my hostel room, in a random coffee shop or wherever there was a good WIFI connection.
While waiting, I’ve had the chance to tour Ha Long Bay and a few other attractions around Hanoi. I splurged on pho, banh mi, and bun ho hue. I hopped from one coffee shop to another because I wanted to put my Hanoi adventure into this blog. I was oblivious of my expenses because Vietnam is cheap, they said. It was not until the hostel desk handed me my payables. I panicked and started looking for rush online work. I scored one from Freelancer.com but the job was too demanding so I had to give it up. At least, I got paid neatly and that somehow covered a week’s stay in the hostel.
The list of expenses didn’t end after I got hired for a Thailand public school. When you get hired and start teaching, you will have to spend first your own money for food, transportation, and other personal expenses. In Thailand, teachers wait until the end of the month to get their salaries. I have no idea if this works too for other Southeast Asia countries.
ESL Teaching Will Not Make You Rich
The heading is self-explanatory. The pay grade for Non-Native English Speakers (NNES) is low, compared to Native English Speakers (NES) who are understandably prioritized by ESL learning schools. I’ve read one post from a Filipino teacher in the jobs forum, seeking a teaching job in Thailand. Apparently, he was still in the Philippines at the time, an Education degree holder and had been teaching for a decade. The Thailand-based Filipino teachers cautioned him to rethink his plan.
Before you jump into ESL teaching abroad, keep in mind that you are a NNES. And being one, whether you fake an American accent during your Skype interviews, your pay grade is still that of a NNES. Cost of living may be cheap in Thailand and Vietnam but it won’t make you an ESL teacher with a fat account once you go back to your family. While there are online jobs available to augment your income, it calls for more time and hard work to keep up with the earnings of the NES.
Be Ready to Spend Your Earnings Wisely
It’s so easy to be lured by cheap handbags, perfumes, trainers, and jackets when you’re in Bangkok. Back in Laos, I saw how fellow Filipinos mad dashed to a store next to a Duty-Free shop to buy trainers in bulk for their loved ones back home. I understand it very well. But when you’re abroad, with no relatives to run to, you cannot rest on the assumption that fellow Filipinos will help you financially every time. You should be ready to take responsibility for yourself. You’ll be on your own. If there’s one tip I could share with you, it should be this: SET SOME MONEY ASIDE FOR YOUR RETURN FLIGHT because one day you might have to use it.
Be Informed on Visa Renewals
Research well on visa rules for Filipino passport holders before booking a flight. Normally, we are entitled to up to 30 days of visa-free stay in ASEAN member-nations. But extending that period will require you to exit to neighboring countries with embassies/consulates. In my five-month stay in Thailand, I have done two visa runs in Laos and one in Cambodia.
Most schools in Thailand refund expenses for the non-B Immigrant Visa only; tourist visas will be at your own expense. What’s important is that always be mindful of your visa expiry dates. Penalties for overstaying could reach over half of your month’s salary.
Read About Your Preferred ESL Destination
Every country has its own set of traditions. Read on the beliefs and traditions of the country where you want to teach in. Once you get hired, you will no longer be just a visitor but also a teacher. You are expected to observe do’s and don’ts in and out of the classroom. If you think you can live with it, go for that teaching job.
Balance Work and Travel
It’s inevitable – one of the come-ons of ESL teaching is travel. It’s part of the package, so might as well enjoy all the non-working holidays and long weekends. You are free to explore, in fact, you are encouraged to. But “With freedom comes responsibility.” Balance work and travel because after all, the former pays for the latter.
Ask Yourself One Important Question
Before you hit that “send” button for your first application e-mail, ask yourself “Do I really want to teach?”
ESL teaching isn’t just a decision NOT even passion, otherwise, you would rather stay where you are and enjoy the benefits of a higher salary. Rather, IT IS DEDICATION. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to hold back-to-back classes. In a classroom. On a daily basis. More so, to handle 5 and 6-year-olds. But I embraced teaching because I never really thought desk job is the only lawful thing I’m good at. So if you are ready to push yourself a little more, go for it and be the best ESL teacher that you can be. Good luck!