It would be difficult for me to say exactly, how many times I have been asked this question.
My teaching career spanned almost 35 years, over half of it in Thailand, as a trainer for a TEFL/TESOL certification course. During that time, I was always very keen that we as teachers should ‘demonstrate rather than explain'.
The best way I can think to demonstrate an answer to the above question is to give an actual example. With the kind permission of and information given to me by an ex-trainee from one of the courses in Phuket, Thailand, I will use his words and mine to tell his story.
You can call me ‘Al' this is my story:
My first introduction the TEFL/TESOL world was an online TEFL certificate. Online was chosen because I was working on a cruise ship and obviously couldn't attend physical classes. I studied daily when off duty and took the final test within the time limit. I got a high grade. I then opted to attend an on-site course in Phuket, Thailand in my holiday time to bolster my online TEFL certificate, by doing a teaching practice component and gaining a combined certificate.
I then finished the cruise ship work and wanted to live and work in Asia. I chose Taiwan, because of the high salary, low living costs and plenty of English teaching jobs.
My first job was at a private school teaching kids (they call them cram schools here). It was a 1 year contract, for 2007/2008. I had to have a medical exam and give degree certification to the government; they do actually contact your university to verify that the degree is real. This is to stop people with bogus certificates-this was a big problem previously and that's why they became strict about it. It took around two months to get a work permit and visa. The latter is called an ARC, or alien resident certificate.
During that period, 2007/2008, I was approached by a cram school for adults, as they wanted a native English speaker to teach material for an external examining organization, which was an English proficiency examination, needed for non-native English speaking students to get into English speaking universities abroad, primarily UK, Australia and the USA. The adult students were primarily Taiwanese university students wanting to qualify to study for a Master Degrees abroad.
After I finished the contract in the first year with the kid's school, I went full time with the adult school. As this was more technical and specialized, there was a considerable pay increase.
I then did a diploma qualification, again online. Having successfully completed that, it gave me the confidence to go ahead with a Master Degree in ESL, with specialization in curriculum and instruction with an American University, again online, and attained a high GPA of 3.92. This took 18 months, and allowed me to continue with my present job and resulted in a significant wage increase.
Additionally, I became the lead teacher in my school for a large English examining organization; the school is quite big with multiple branches throughout Taiwan, so I had plenty of classes travelling from branch to branch, giving plenty of variety to my work schedule. I have also published a textbook and appeared in some promotional videos for our organisation. More recently, I also did some recordings in a studio for our institution-this included vocabulary listings and also our own 'mock Listening test'.
A more recent development was that we created an online mock test for an external speaking examination, so that our students could practice what the real test is like before the student is ready to be a candidate. This has been very popular.
Story from Al Reeves, Taiwan January 2018
It is difficult to describe the feeling, when as a teacher you hear a story like this from someone and that you were able to make a small, but hopefully valuable contribution. And as a teacher, you never know when this will happen. Al had a couple of advantages to create this story for himself; he was and still is humble and very well motivated. His story started with a TEFL/TESOL certificate.
So what can you do with a TEFL/TESOL certificate?
Peter Ticehurst January 2018
Retired Lead Trainer for ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training), Phuket Thailand