Tips for Teaching English in Costa Rica

written by local expert Tishely Ortiz

Shelly took a leap of faith in 2017 when she decided to leave behind a full-time administrative position in New York City, and move her life to Costa Rica. After completing her TEFL certificate in beautiful Manuel Antonio, she began teaching English and volunteering. Although she has since moved back home, Shelly continues teaching English as a second language and hopes to continue her travels abroad in the future.

Teaching English has become a very popular career choice for those who love to travel, explore new cultures, and yearn for adventure. It is a great way for people to work and travel at the same time and is something I highly recommend. With English quickly growing as a global language, the need for English teachers abroad increases.

More than ever, English speakers are traveling to exotic destinations and creating a boom in the tourism industry in countries like Costa Rica. Therefore, finding stable employment as an English teacher while you adventure off in a foreign land is a dream you can make a reality! Follow these tips to begin your journey of teaching English in Costa Rica.

You Must be Qualified

Unfortunately, being a native English speaker isn’t the only qualification for teaching English in Costa Rica, as it doesn’t guarantee your success as an English teacher. Therefore, English language institutes have raised their qualifications to ensure students are receiving the proper education from a qualified instructor. So, what exactly makes you qualified?

Native English speaker
Bachelor Degree in any field
TEFL certificate

Not all language schools in Costa Rica require previous teaching experience, but some might. That said, teaching English is a great starting point for anyone looking to begin a new career. Those with a Master’s Degree can consider teaching at a University. While not all institutes require a TEFL certification, most places will only onboard you as a volunteer without one.

The best advice is to acquire your TEFL certificate to get the training you need to succeed as an ESL teacher. Courses provide thorough teaching methodology, and English training needed to feel confident in yourself as a teacher in the English classroom.

Some TEFL programs provide lifetime job-placement assistance, making it even easier for you to secure a position after completing your course. Job placement assistance includes resources for finding a position, referrals to institutes closely tied to the TEFL program, resume revision, and more. teaching-english

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Do Your Research

Though it is more probable to snag a job teaching in Costa Rica if you’re already in the country, it is possible to land a job before you even travel. Doing your research beforehand and knowing your options once in-country makes the transition phase less stressful. With websites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and Transitions Abroad, you can be sure to stay updated on the latest job opportunities and begin applying right from your computer while still in the U.S.

Make sure to do research on any language center you are considering working for. More than paying a visit to their website, look at the reviews left by not only former and current students but also employees! A company should have no issue putting you in contact with a current employee, so if you don’t see anything online, ask the hiring manager about your options of speaking with someone. Be wary if the company is hesitant to send a referral your way.

Also, be sure to analyze the teaching contract if you’re offered a position. Teaching contracts are standard procedures for securing a teaching position overseas. Contracts help the company to stay protected by ensuring the employee isn’t solely interested in the offered benefits, but will also commit to the agreed upon time frame for working in-country.

However, teaching contracts should also work to protect the employee to receive the benefits agreed upon during the onboarding phase. laptop

Prepare for Professionalism

Teachers in Costa Rica are highly respected professionals in society and are expected to carry themselves as such. Teachers who fail to dress and act accordingly will quickly lose respect from their students and students’ parents. So, follow these points for dressing up for the job:

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Dress Smartly

Women are expected to dress in knee-length skirts, blouses, blazers, and dress pants. Sandals are usually not acceptable to wear in the classroom. Men should dress in casual button-down shirts, a tie, dress pants, and dress shoes.

Sneakers are seldom permitted, and tattoos and body piercings should be covered. Some language institutes might require a uniform. This can ease the pressure of wearing the right pieces. But always remember, if you aren’t sure about your outfit, dress up even more.

Wondering how to get around from one place to the next? Check out these Costa Rica Transportation Options

Understand & Respect Costa Rican Culture

Students love when a teacher uses relatable references during in-class examples. One of the easiest ways to do this is to learn about the culture and tie some aspect into the lesson. Referencing their culture shows that you are interested in your students and their lives. Being open to learning about the culture of Costa Rica will help you to build rapport, not only with your students but also with your co-workers. Learning the history will guarantee that you’ll be learning just as much from your students as they will learn from you. costa-rican-culture

Learn Spanish

In other countries, you might get away with not knowing the native language, as locals easily communicate in English. This is not the case for Costa Rica. Not knowing Spanish will limit your experience, overall. From not being able to order what you’d like, to not being able to run your errands, you’ll find life much more difficult than if you’d just enrolled in a course.

Of course, knowing only English will not limit your credibility as an English instructor, and you can very well secure a job anyway, but learning Spanish will ensure a most satisfying cultural immersion experience. learning spanish

But Don’t Use Spanish With Your Students

So now that you’ve enrolled in Spanish courses, you’re excited to show what you know and continue to learn from the locals, and who better than your students, right?! Wrong! Learning the local language definitely puts you more in touch with the culture, however, you are an English teacher. Your job is to teach English to students who are learning it as a second language. Is it easy for them? No. But learning a new language is never easy, and it will force anyone out of their comfort zone. Speaking Spanish in the classroom will ease the students’ need to learn the language and they might instead get lazy knowing you understand their questions and comments when they speak Spanish.

The best way for someone to learn a language is to be fully immersed in that language, even if only for an hour. So maximize your time as an instructor, and give them only what they came for-English!

Plan Your Lessons

If you decide to take a TEFL Course before securing a position abroad, you will become familiar with how to develop and structure an outline of a lesson plan. Utilize it! Lesson plans are amazing for structuring a valuable lesson, time management, and lifting your confidence as an instructor. Nothing is worse than being an unprepared instructor who has no idea how to steer their students. Remember that lesson plans act as a guideline for your class and nothing more. More times than not, you will be readjusting your lesson plan to fit to fit the classroom in real time, but even having a few bullet points on what you’d like to cover, and how you’d like to introduce your topics will be super helpful.

Have Fun

As always, have fun! Teaching English might be hard work, but there’s no need to stress. The instructor sets the tone for the classroom experience with his or her energy, so if you seem flustered, worried, or unconfident, you can be sure that energy will transfer to your students. Instead, take a more laid-back approach, while still maintaining structure in your classroom so that students feel comfortable with a structured academic environment where it’s OK to make mistakes! Lessons won’t always go as smoothly as you’d planned, but the more rapport you build with your class, the more likely you are to be able to understand their needs and go with the flow. Always include games that are relevant to the lesson, and be prepared to use them when your class is becoming flustered, for an energy boost, or to review at the beginning or end of class. Also, remember not to get too caught up in the job that you forget to explore everything that Costa Rica has to offer. It is an incredible place full of so many things to do. If you’re looking for more reasons to go to Costa Rica, check out the article above.

costa-rica So there it is, hopefully, this full guide on how to become an English teacher in Costa Rica would be helpful to you. Remember to do your research before setting out on the journey of a lifetime, and embrace the opportunities that awaits.

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