Parin Hemtanon

How to gain teaching experience when you have none

Could lack of experience be the reason why schools aren't replying to your job applications?

You have your TEFL certificate. You apply for dozens of teaching jobs in Thailand. They fill you up with optimism. Applying for so many jobs, one of them HAS to get back to you. 


Weeks go by….. 


That optimism gets deflated. You feel embarrassed. You feel gullible for even thinking that you’d get hired.  

“Why aren’t they replying to my job applications?!”, you question yourself.

You begin to accept that you won’t be a teacher after all. That your TEFL certificate is worthless. But you’re still so confused! Your resume and cover letter were written so well! You demand an explanation! 


Thin air.  

At least that’s what I felt before I landed my first teaching job in Bangkok. I remember feeling so frustrated at the fact that the sheer volume of teaching jobs I applied for came to no fruition. Not even replies of rejection!

That’s when I realised that it must be because I’m an inexperienced teacher.  So with a focus on that, I then decided to create my own life-changing “teacher training program”. These are things I did to pack my resume with relevant teaching skills and experience, which I believe gave more of a ‘kick’ to my teaching profile and helped secure my first teaching job. 

I will be unveiling the “program” with you today.

Volunteer teaching programs

This is the most direct way to get practical teaching experience without being an official teacher. And the best part of it all is that you don’t need experience to partake in a volunteer teaching program.

This will help you gain valuable on-the-job experience because you’ll get to develop the soft skills required to be an effective teacher. You’ll come across problems that taking the TEFL course didn’t prepare you for, and you’ll be forced to use your judgement and instincts to solve those problems as they arise. 

And when it’s time for you to apply for English teaching jobs, you’ll have hard facts and evidence to go alongside your TEFL certificate to help leverage your job application with a potential employer. 

Volunteering abroad in Thailand before you get your first teaching job is also a good way to acclimate yourself to life in the Land of Smiles. You’ll be able to gauge whether teaching English in Thailand really is something you can endure. 

The only catch with volunteer teaching programs is that you won’t receive any salary, and you’ll have to pay for the program yourself. But it’s a return on investment. You pay now to gain hands-on teaching experience, which will increase your odds of being employed in the future, and your teaching salary will pay that back multiple folds. 

Teach your family and friends

This is an easy-to-use technique that does not require much, is very informal, and won’t cost you a penny!  Whenever you get the chance, sit down with your friends or family, pick one topic of the English language, and teach it to them as if they were your student.

I’d meet up with my friend at Caffe Nero about once a week. We’d chat and catch up on life while drinking cappuccinos (as you would), and then I’d ask him to role play so that I teach him, say, the present perfect tense. 

The best part about this is that I would get immediate feedback from him. This helped to polish the rough edges. 

Where this really becomes useful is that it challenged me to use simple analogies to explain complex grammar structure to him, because my friend had no knowledge of the backbones of English grammar.  

This was something I did which built up my confidence in explaining difficult concepts of the English language in a more comprehensible way - something that became very effective when I taught ESL.  

Practice public speaking

Oh no! Did I just say the “P” word?! No wayyyyy! 

Public speaking.  The two words that gets everyone shaking in their boots. 

This is a feared skill, yet a very rewarding one if you can muster the courage to practice it. And I’m afraid for teaching it is a very important skill if you are to become an effective teacher.  Standing in front of a large crowd of people is something that you’ll be doing everyday once you get employed, so it’s better to start practicing now so you are desensitised to the fear of it. And when you become a teacher, you’ll own that stage like you’re an expert at it.

It’s very simple to practice public speaking. 

  • Check out your school or university for public speaking programs
  • Search “public speaking programs” on Meet Up 

They are free most of the time, but there may be a few Meet Up events where you have to pay - but it will be a worthwhile investment!

Become a student yourself

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” - Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

As Atticus Finch summed up, you can never fully empathise with people UNLESS you have experienced what they’ve experienced.

You’re about to teach English as a second language. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be learning a second language? So wouldn’t it make sense if you were to learn a second language as well? 

This experience is very useful because you get to perceive the vulnerability and discomfort that comes with learning a second language.  You get to participate in your own language learning journey, and you start to notice which teaching methods do and don’t suit you, and which kind of teachers are effective and not effective. 

You then use this arsenal of pedagogical methods to launch teaching programs that inspire your students to learn English. 

It can be any language you want as well. The most important thing is that you’re experiencing life as a student of a second language. So go on! Pick up that Spanish textbook that has been collecting dust over there!   

Observe other teachers

Albert Bandura, the famous Canadian-American psychologist, coined the term Observational Learning. This theory states that we learn behaviour from observing others. How can this be useful for you? 

By observing other experienced teachers, you will learn how they behave in a classroom, how they carry themselves while teaching, how they communicate to their students. These are often the skills that AREN’T taught as you go through the TEFL course, but definitely serve as nuggets of wisdom. 

As you observe other teachers, you gain more ideas of how you’re going to teach, and when you do become a teacher, you’ll find that the plethora of ideas you gained will serve you well. 

Experiment with them. Trial and error. Modify them to fit in with your personality. 

The point is by doing those observations initially, you put yourself in a position where you have lots of ideas and behaviours to play around with when you do become an ESL teacher. 

It’s not difficult to get observing either. For those who are proactive: you can easily go back to your primary or secondary school and ask for a few days’ worth of teacher observation.  For those who are lazy: you can use Google or YouTube. Teachers often upload their experiences online for the sole purpose of helping out people like you.  

So there you have it. My “teacher training program”. Try these out. Your resume should now be landing you more interviews!  

Khun Parin is an English-born Thai person who once fulfilled his dream of teaching ESL in Thailand. Now it's time for him to share those experiences with you.
You can follow Khun Parin on social media - Follow on LinkedIn / Follow on Twitter


Hi, could you please elaborate more on volunteering, teaching at schools. How long were you there for and how much did it cost ?.
Many thanks.

By Mike, Bangkok (29th August 2019)

Hi @Joel,

You can check out the hyperlink I used in the blog for volunteer teaching opportunities in Thailand.

Alternatively, if you are already in Thailand, you get ask around at the many language learning institutes here and see if they offer voluntary positions. Who knows, they may even be willing to hire you.

Good luck with your search, and let me know if you have anymore questions :)

By Parin, Bangkok (21st June 2019)

I want to practice what I learned; teaching.
However, I have never tried even once to put into practice the profession I chose I am looking forward to someone who could suggest for me to have the very first step to becoming a TEFL teacher. What volunteer group in Thailand is offering an English teaching program?

By Joel Bucawe, Philippines (10th June 2019)

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