Who would be an English teacher?



Well, lots of people actually!

Although everyone's journey is different, these interviews of teachers I' met along the way might give you an idea of what type of people end up as teachers, and what their lives are really like.

If you TEFL, and would like to be featured on Tall Travels, then please get in touch.


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Nicola in Peru



What's a typical day like?

I work 9-1 then 5-9. I teach 3 x 1 hour 40 minute classes per day and share an office with other teachers. I work at a private university so the teaching facilities are pretty good. Classes typically consist of 15-30 students. During my lunch break, I go to the gym, usually eat lunch at home, catch up on emails, Skype somebody at home, etc. I can't sleep during the day so I try to keep busy. Sometimes after work I'll meet friends for dinner or drinks.



Why did you start teaching?

To enable me to live in other countries and experience different cultures.


What's the best part of your day . . . and the worst?

The best part of the day is watching all the wildlife around the campus. It's the most beautiful place I've ever worked. The students here are also great - smart, motivated, respectful and hard working. The worst is dragging my ass back to work at 5.00pm, just when I'm starting to feel tired. I will never work a split schedule like this again!


What advice did you wish you had received before starting?

I wish I had know that the cost of living was so high. Also, that El Nino was going to strike this year, although no-one predicted how devastating it was going to be.





What's the best thing about where you live?

The wonderful fresh fruit that always in season and the chocolate ice cream. The eternal sunshine is also nice for someone from Ireland, although the summer is just too hot and humid, even for me. I got sunburnt, through my shirt, on a 10 minute walk from my house to work!


Are you paid enough?


No! The cost of living here is on a par to the UK for things like food, eating out, drinks, clothes, etc, but the pay is around £700/month. If you are prepared to live like a student - in a room, rather than an apartment, eat "menus" (cheap set lunches) every day and socialise in your room, then it's probably manageable. And you can forget about travelling on top of basic living. You definitely need savings to life comfortably here.


What are your plans for the future?

Who knows? I'm looking at the moment - Middle East or Europe.



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Andy in Vietnam



Tell us about yourself . . .

I'm 37 and have been living in Hanoi now for 6 months. In England I planned my life reboot project via a TEFL after various aspects of my life got a good kicking and I lost my way. Once my course was completed, I was free to travel and live a brand new life. I got a credit card, sold what I could, filled up my parents attic with my paintings and writing and books and memories... and bought a one way ticket to Hanoi on the 14th of December 2016.


What's a typical day like?

Currently my daily life involves running the summer school and English centre 9-11am weekdays, with 20 kids and a range of abilities and ages. I also have evening classes 6-8pm Tue - Sat. Normally I'd have nursery classes 3-5 pm Tuesday to Friday instead of mornings.  The weather is hot, but lounging by a nice pool in my free time helps keep things chilled, and helps recovery from too much cheap beer.


What's the best part of your day?

Waking up without an alarm clock! Or maybe exploring Hanoi on my motorbike, which my manager loaned me. Every drive takes me somewhere new, cafe, road, area, and let's me see real Hanoi life, it all its madness and beauty.

And the worst?

Mental traffic. You'll often see fruit sellers walk through moving traffic and stopping to sell to people riding with a toddler and a dog riding on the bike.
The traffic or when one brat-monster is being disruptive and smiling while ruining your perfectly prepared class.


What advice do you wish you had received before starting?

There are lots of teaching jobs, and plenty of teachers - sample some, and then stake your claim for 6 months to a year. The homes and schools need consistency and teachers who care, which they won't get with teachers who move from class to class. I got lucky with my centre, I liked their ethos, they liked me. They've helped with everything, and together we are building for their future.




What's the pay like?

$25 per hour in Vietnam is AWESOME. You could work an hour a day and still cover your bills if you live and eat modestly; or you can work flat out. I hear stories of those who have earned $3-4000 a month. Cost of living is low and it's a growing economy and city with newly completed huge modern apartment towers. I have enough money working 18 hours a week, teaching (mostly) awesome kids enjoying my time and my free time... and can save money to send home.


What are your plans for the future?

To finish the mural I'm painting at the centre. I agreed to work for a year and now have a year visa until June 2018. My passport needs renewing next September so, I've got till then to explore Hanoi and Vietnam and to enjoy my teaching. My initial thoughts are that I'll be here for 2-3 years.




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Skye in Spain




What is a typical day like?


The day starts with coffee... of course. And then a few hours preparing for the classes that afternoon/evening. I like to prepare. In fact, I prepare a lot! I don't like going into a class not knowing exactly what I am going to teach and what resources I will use. After that I'll go out ... on market days I'll go to the market, or else I'll just take a walk into the historical centre and enjoy the delicious cuisine (tapas, croissants, etc). On a good day I may even spend a few hours on the beach before going back to the apartment to get ready for teaching. I usually teach from around 3 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. after which I would head home to have dinner and put my feet up in front of a movie … that's my way to wind down after the intense hours of teaching.



Why did you start teaching?


I had a “change of life experience” and just wanted to get away from what was happening in my life at that time... and do something different. I had completed my TESOL qualification a few years before this experience and so I applied for some teaching posts and was accepted to work at a university in Mexico. That was my first ESL Position.



What are you most proud of?


I was the ADOS for a summer school program last year and received this email from one of the students a few weeks after the course:


Your book made me change the way I used to think about myself and I always carry it with me wherever I go. I highlighted some of the best quotes too. I'm glad we met. Without your positive energy I would be the same little depressed teenager with no self esteem! Thank you very much Skye. You were my favourite teacher in Worcester!! With love, Giulia. 


This is what makes teaching worth while to me. The fact that I can make a difference in the lives of at least some of my students.



What's the best part / worst part of your day?


I don't really have a worst part of any day. I do have a few “best” parts. My walks through the city, the few hours on the beach, my adult elementary and intermediate classes... I love those two classes. We have a lot of fun.


What advice do you wish you had received before starting?

I do wish my first job had been with an organisation that had a clear, set, structure in it´s teaching curriculum, and I do wish I had learned about IPA and how valuable the phonetic alphabet is in the process of learning English.

What's the best thing about where you live?

I love Europe – Sicily and Spain have so many beautiful places. I love getting on a train or a bus and walking through beautiful cities and eating delicious food.


What are your plans for the future?

I will be the DOS for a summer school program this year in the UK and I have a contract to work in Spain for a language school during the next academic year. That may be the end of my ESL teaching. I think it´s time (after this year) to go back into the market place and get a “real” job.


Skye is an author and speaker whose passion is to help people navigate their own times of difficulty and change with grace and poise. You can find more information on her website.



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Dean in Romania



Tell us about yourself . . .

My name is Dean and I’m thirty years old and I'm from Chester. I’ve been teaching for 7 years now. I’ve taught in Ecuador, Vietnam, Slovakia, Thailand and Romania, come August I’ll be heading off to Hong Kong to start a new job.

I completed all three modules of the DELTA last year and though I found it challenging. I doubted how much I’d learned at the time I’m seeing the benefits almost daily now. Recently I've become interested in character education and teaching critical thinking skills so am experimenting with these and, so far, the results have been fun. 


What is a typical day like?

A typical day involves getting up at around 7 and checking the previous nights Major League Baseball scores, then making the fifteen minute to walk. I used to drink a bottle of coke a day but have kicked that habit recently so have to rely on a combination of fresh air and dodging Bucharest's traffic to wake up! 

Once I arrive at school I teach teenagers in the morning and primary level youngsters in the afternoons. Many Romanian schoolchildren attend school for half a day with some buildings doubling as both primary and secondary schools. 


Why did you start teaching?

Like most people I started to teach because I contracted the travel bug. I'd worked at an American summer camp the year before graduating and that sparked my interest in travel. I graduated after the recession hit so after saving money by working in a call centre I decided to go on a post university gap year. I took the CELTA so I could make a few extra pennies if I needed to while on my travels. 


I went off to Quito, Ecuador with the plan of travelling south through the rest of the continent. I got a job teaching English fairly quickly in Quito and was so happy I stayed for 6 months without moving at all! The whole thing taught me that the plans of mice and men are really just as easily disturbed, but having a good plan gave me the courage to try something new. 


What's the best part of your day?

The best parts of the day are always the light bulb moments that students have. These are most rewarding with my teens. We recently read a Katie Hopkins article and watching my students recognise all the subtle ways that the text was biased and coming to the conclusion that a text with facts in it is not always objective was nice. I like to notice the different lesson shapes and approaches and then give them a whirl. 

What's the best thing about where you live?

The best thing about where I live is definitely the energy and the drive of Romanian people. Seeing 350,000 spill out onto the streets to protest against the government's plans to release former political allies before they had served their time was amazing. This enthusiasm spills into the classroom where motivating students is rarely an issue but trying to get them to focus on what you are teaching can be problematic! 


What are your plans for the future?

Two of my good friends, who know each other very well are getting married within five days of each other in July. After that I'm hoping to go walking in the High Tatras, which I never made it to while in Slovakia and then finally I start my new job in Hong Kong at the end of August.


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Thanks to all of the contributors, I wish them all the best in the future.



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