Getting away from the west is all well and good, but what's your plan now?
So what do you do if you find yourself without direction after university or you can no longer stand the lifestyle or politics of your country of birth? Where do you go if you hate your job and you can't for the life of you comprehend why you were put on this godforsaken planet in the first place? Why, you hop on the nearest plane full of smiling Southeast Asians, get dropped in some sweaty polluted hole of a city, and voila, you become a TEFL teacher and discover the meaning of life. You 'find' yourself. Problem solved, must be better than sitting on a deckchair in Bognor Regis modelling the latest in handkerchief adornments for the head and nursing a warm beer. They'll have real beaches with sand, beautiful weather all year round and the country's chock-a-block with attractive people of both sexes. Not only that, but you?ve heard that this TEFL teaching malarkey's a doddle, and it's your bloody language anyway. It can't be too hard!
Is it really that easy though? On a personal level, having only taught in Thailand, I can really only talk about my experiences here. That said, I do know plenty of teachers who have taught or are teaching in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia.
I remember how daunted I felt when I first started teaching. I had sat in on a few classes and to my relief about half the lessons were taught by a pair of teachers. Nonetheless, I had a tendency just to jiggle about a bit and gawp. I mean, what was I supposed to do with these three-foot uncontrollables? How could I teach them English when I couldn't speak their native language? A doddle? I think not.
After teaching just four or six lessons a day I would stagger back home to collapse on any large soft object that happened to catch my eye. I was out like a light for two hours. Having to match sets of children's energy levels several times a day -- how is it possible for them to run around in circles for so long? -- was proving to be very demanding.
After a while (albeit a considerable one) you start to pick up the tricks of the trade. Few people seem to have truly original ideas, you just pick something off someone else, adapt it and hey presto, you have a successful lesson. It obviously helps to have access to the brain of the odd experienced teacher who's willing to share their most successful lesson plans with you. Contrary to what some people say, these people aren't hard to find. Everybody loves to talk shop.
As to not knowing the local lingo, it's not hard to find other ways of getting your point across -- gestures, examples, realia -- the list is endless. It's actually an excellent idea to avoid using Thai (for example) in the classroom; expose those infants' ears to the harmonious sounds of English!
If you really want to live a rewarding and satisfying lifestyle abroad then it benefits you to take your job seriously. Admittedly there are schools around that let you get away with not very much at all, but you?ll only exorcise those demons of the past if you put the effort in and thereby reap the awards.
So, no, TEFL teaching is not just a doss option, you are after all contributing to the greater good by being a teacher of English in a foreign land. Teaching is a highly respected profession in Thailand, so act like a professional and hold down your place in Thai society. Believe me, it's worth it.