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Notes From The Field: TEFL Through The Eyes of a “Late Bloomer”

By on Wednesday Oct 22, 2014

While the stereotypical TEFL teacher is fresh out of college, there are actually many people that come to TEFL later in life. After retiring from his full-time career, Wes Choc came to BridgeTEFL and completed his certification online. We’re delighted to feature Wes’ insight on his teaching career as a late-blooming TEFLer: 

I completed the Bridge TEFL Online.com program a few years back, thus finally completing one of my primary “to-do achievements” by my mid 60s. For years, I had wanted to teach English as a foreign language. What’s a little bit different about me, though, is that I couldn’t get anything completed on my rather lengthy “to-do” list until after I retired from my full-time career. Within a year of my retirement party, after zeroing in on South America, I took off for Ecuador. I found two short-term assignments in two different cities, Quito and Guayaquil, producing four distinctively different volunteer events that covered almost three months. Now, I am also a published author and have taken some time to create an in-depth recounting of my TEFL sojourns on my blog. I’m very grateful for my own TEFL experience on so many different levels. I hope others (particularly older folks who might not think they’re ready or able) will explore the worlds around them in similar ways.

I wanted to do more than merely tourist-taste what it might mean to be a real traveler. Once again, it was also modest rebellion against expected predictions for someone my age and a steering away from all the “ought” and “should” advice I kept wincing at privately that few others could understand. But Where to Go? I made extensive online deliberations among Latin American countries like Chile, Argentina, Mexico, while browsing through internet brochures from several companies specializing in helping people do this sort of thing.

I zeroed in on Ecuador in part because I had never been there, and in part because it was high in the Andes, one of those mysterious places always intriguing me and because I had liked Peru so much a few years back. Instead of instructing young students in classroom-type environments, I chose working with businesses whose clientele spoke English, rationalizing I’d be better tailored for that kind of setting. My wife, Carol, and I flew to Quito two weeks prior to my start date. We’d do honest touring, visiting Quito’s museums and cathedrals, plazas and restaurants, and sauntered the streets with camera around our neck.

Getting to work each day, I rode public transportation using a senior pass for passengers over 65. This permitted travel at half the usual 25 cent public rate (already pretty cheap by U.S. standards); but, I was also issued a special photo I.D. allowing me to board buses and trolleys quicker. I avoided long public lines with just a tiny tad of prestige for having such a government-issued card (or maybe just an I.D. written in Spanish that I could now show my friends back in the States).

Composed of six to ten male staff, my classrooms were made up of bartenders, stewards, waiters, chefs, engine room staff, and tour guides. Conspicuously eager to understand more than what they already knew, I was always well-received with smiling anticipations each day and perfect attendance. These guys even wanted to know all the English bad words to make sure they clearly understood what these words meant in Spanish. This was indeed enjoyable “work.”

To travel to Ecuador to teach English as a foreign language and learn Spanish as a useful byproduct, I also went to see what it was like to taste being a valid traveler, living among local folk, and trying to understand a completely different culture. To that extent, I have come to the conclusion there is much more to see and to taste than I would have ever imagined nor would have time to witness. Speculating how imminent days may yet unfold, I anticipate the unread next page of this book-to-come to contain considerably more ponderables of greater depth.

To read my post-retirement story in its entirety, visit my blog for stories about my traveling, teaching and worldly experiences, along with some interesting photographs I took myself. I elaborate about numerous insights and cultural discoveries that I share with my readers. I say, “you’re never too old to go ‘splorin’ in the World, you just need to decide to do it. And, go.” My TEFL certificate was indeed a ticket to a wonderful journey.

 

Heed Wes’ advice, it’s time to go ‘splorin! Enroll in a TEFL Certification Course, you’re never too old to explore a new career of learning and teaching.

About the AuthorKelsey Burns


 
  • Jack

    Here, here! I’m gently retired and working my way through TEFL at Maximo Nivel, Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica thanks to BRIDGE. Wonderful venue to learn to teach English and experience the local culture at the same time. This was on my ‘list of to-do’s’ for years. Next stop unknown, but I will be hoping to teach business English to adults – – maybe still room for one more in Peru?

    • belseykurns

      That’s great, Jack! We’re happy we could help you turn your “to-do” into a reality!

  • dawn

    It was good to read your story Wes and inspirational ! I took my Tefl in Cambodia almost 2 years ago and havent done anything with it …so far ! I think its time to take a look where my ticket may take me . Costa Rica has been recommended to me a few times recently and i have put it in the ‘maybe go see’ list . It would be very appreciated if I could have some more info from you and Jack about the Teaching opportunities there ! Where and contract lengths etc. Any details would be great for consideration of my next move . Thank you from Dawn ..not of retirement age yet but a Mature explorer at 45 yrs young !!

    • Kelsey Burns

      Hi Dawn, we’d love to help you cross some destinations off your “maybe go see” list! This page will give you a general overview to help you find out what to expect when teaching English abroad in Costa Rica and many other countries around the world: http://www.bridgetefl.com/jobs-at-a-glance/

  • Barbara Lam

    I’m not QUITE retirement age (54 years young), but have just accepted an English teaching position at an international school in Doha, Qatar! I am excited but scared tat even with 100 years teaching experience I won’t have a clue how to teach my non-English speaking from around the world kids (middle grades). Any advice to offer a newbie going in in mid-November? Any sites I should be looking at? All suggestions 100% appreciated!!!

    • Kelsey Burns

      Hi Barbara, and congratulations on your new TEFL position! Starting a new job can be scary, especially as an English teacher in a foreign country – but it is not impossible! Take a look at this blog post from Mary, who has some great insight on being a newbie in the TEFL world: http://www.bridgetefl.com/notes-from-the-field-nurse-turned-tefl-teacher/
      Hope that helps!