TEFL Graduation: The life beyond

Chapter 5: TEFL Graduation

Ken MandelI was once, long ago in Santo Domingo, told by a more experienced expat; that TEFL for survival is a path many have taken in their early years in country. For a while now, after four years as a TEFL, I have been considering my options. Translation work with my wife is always a good business, when we get it. But sensing that we needed more and on the prompting of a blog friend, I followed an ad to a teaching job in a large office park, looking for opportunities. Within two weeks I was discussing a job offer with a publishing company.

After one month at the new job, now that my Spanish is good enough to exist in a Spanish-speaking environment, I see that I can function and contribute in an office, once again. Once you can communicate you can bring your skills and experience to the bargain. As an older expat (50) with a variety of business and life experiences, I am finding that I can provide unique perspective for the company.

My Spanish is by no means fluent and I have found an office with an international market, which means a lot of the work is done in English. The money might actually work out to about the same rate per hour as teaching, but this is a steady monthly salary and full-time. The worst part of TEFL for me was the way the schedule was always changing, even in Institutes, commitments can disappear and get scaled down. And of course, the early mornings and late evenings, Saturday classes, and canceled classes…

I think my transition to a regular job took a little longer than usual. I came close to alternative employment a couple of times in my TEFL career. While teaching at an NGO I was in discussions about working as a grant writer. Lesson learned: Never let your boss know that you’re going to work for a client, especially before you get the job. He nixed the job and our relationship changed. Another client, offered me a position at her company at a call center; an expat option that is an alternative to teaching, I saw that as more of a lateral move and declined.

Learning from past mistakes, and recognizing that good opportunities don’t come along every day, so grab them if they do, I did. The challenge now is to improve my language fluency. My osmotic belief that I will speak Spanish someday, may have been hampering my progress with the language, but it is working with time. I’m hoping someday soon to reach a critical mass of language proficiency, and just take off with it. One hopes. Good luck those who would follow this path, TEFL can get you through and keep you alive in a foreign country, probably anywhere in the non-English speaking world and if you like people, it can be fun. – Ken

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