Category Archives: #ESL

Teach English in Medellín Colombia

English is becoming essential all over the world. Moreover, someone who learns to speak English has better job prospects, earns more money, and enjoys a higher quality of life regardless of background or social status. However, often the opportunity to learn English is only available to those with higher incomes.

In January 2016, I plan to establish an English program in one of the lower income areas of Medellín, Colombia. Once I find a location, I will announce classes and volunteer to teach English for up to 4 months. Donations will be used to buy books and materials for the students.

If you would like to donate to this good cause, go to my page at

Thank you!


30 Ways to be an Excellent ESL/EFL Teacher

  1. Do preliminary testing if possible in order to group students by language level.
  2. Identify your students’ language goals and vocabulary requirements.
  3. Choose your textbooks and resources carefully.
  4. Bring enthusiasm for learning English to the classroom.
  5. Establish your authority in the classroom from the beginning.
  6. Learn your students’ names, and take an active interest in getting to know each student.
  7. Always be culturally sensitive and aware, and show appreciation for the students’ native language.
  8. Don’t be bound by the textbook, rather use supplemental materials as needed.
  9. Prepare a lesson plan for each class, but be flexible and change focus in class as needed.
  10. Explain what you are teaching, and explain why the topic/activity is helpful.
  11. Make your instructions short and clear for each activity.
  12. Speak clearly and with sufficient volume … speak slower as needed, but not too slow.
  13. Don’t talk too much – limit Teacher Talk Time (TTT) to about 50%, depending on the activity.
  14. Respect both “slow” and “fast” learners, and teach to their language level while motivating each student to reach higher.
  15. Don’t try to force change on a student – allow them to be who they are, to use their own learning style.
  16. Motivate your students with variety … turn some activities into games or competition.
  17. Don’t overcorrect.
  18. Allow time for spontaneous communication.
  19. Be an encourager, and use humor to liven up the class.
  20. Stay calm, and don’t exceed their own desire to learn … practice engaged detachment.
  21. Be attentive to each student, and don’t show favoritism toward specific students.
  22. Circulate among all the students.
  23. Be fair and realistic in testing … and give each student honest assessments of their progress.
  24. Develop the 4 language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing … teach these skills in equal measure if possible.
  25. Become a grammar expert, and develop their grammatical abilities in each of the 4 language skills.
  26. A large vocabulary never hurt any language student … the more words they know, the better.
  27. Be reflective on how well a class went, on how well a term went … prepare future changes as necessary.
  28. Keep it light, and be willing to laugh at yourself.
  29. Be dedicated to always improving as a teacher.
  30. Trust that you are an excellent and dedicated ESL/EFL teacher … and trust that the Universe is working through you.


Here in Perú almost all of my students call me “Teacher” instead of Keith, even my adult students.  I can only assume that in this culture the students call you “Teacher” as a sign of respect, however I´m not sure that I was feeling much respect from the teenage boys I taught on Saturday morning last month.  One of those boys gave me the middle finger about 40 minutes into his first class after I had told him for the 4th time to put away his cell phone.  When talking about those boys I had to force myself to refer to them as my “angels” instead of as my “devils” … and I did that only because I was afraid of the consequences of calling them devils, fearing that they would fully become what I labeled them and what I perceived them to be.  Granted, there are the “name it, claim it” charlatans that are out there just trying to make a buck off naive followers, but I do believe that there is enormous power in words … for with a single word you can tear down or build up.  In any case, my teenage angels and I made it through the month relatively unscathed.

I´ve worn many hats in my life, and teacher is just one of them.  For these two months in Perú I am working in the official capacity as teacher, however the reality is that our teachers are everywhere, and everyone of us is a teacher.

I have come to believe that every single person that we cross paths with in life can be our teacher … from the child gleefully kicking a plastic bottle down the street and who teaches us how to find joy in the simple things of everyday life, to the elderly blue-haired lady who is in front us driving 20 MPH in a 45 MPH zone while teaching us to slow the hell down, and I could go on and on.  We can view everyone as our teacher.

On the other side of the coin, in everyday life I tend to be a little hesitant about making myself out to be anyone´s teacher.  Is there anyone who actually enjoys being around someone who acts like they know the answers to all of life´s questions?  When I am around people like that I generally disregard most (if not all) of what they say, and then I try to get as far away from them as possible just as soon as I possibly can.  An over-inflated ego is moving away from wisdom and not toward it.  So, I try to remember that the best time to offer advice is when someone asks for it, and if I do offer unsolicited advice, I try to do it with a genuine attitude of service.  They say that all the answers are within us, so perhaps real teaching is about helping people discover the wisdom that is within.

The business of teaching English as a second language has been a very eye-opening experience for me.  First of all, it is a business, and there is a fair amount of money to be made in this business … that is, if you are a school owner or in administration.  Generally speaking, English teachers are not raking in the big bucks.  I´ve heard that the best places to make money teaching English are in South Korea and in the oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and others.  One really good thing about this business is that if you are willing to travel and adapt to different cultures, you will have no trouble finding work.  All the world is learning English.

One other aspect of this business that I´ve discovered is that in many places (especially in Spanish America) it is only the upper class rich people who can afford to pay for English classes in a private school like the one where I am teaching right now.  What that means is that you have to be prepared to deal with a fair amount of snobby, spoiled, generally unmotivated students.  In fact, during teacher orientation here I was told NOT to give any of my students homework, that homework is not something they want or will do.  But as for me, in every place I have taken Spanish classes I have insisted on receiving homework virtually every day because I am very motivated to improve my Spanish.

To this day, the best experience I have ever had teaching English was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, through a program that was known at the time as “Children of the Dump.”  A large evangelical local church was operating an after-school program at a facility that was located a few blocks from the city landfill, and the kids that lived in that poor neighborhood were provided English language lessons for free since all of us teachers were volunteers.  The classes were held at night after the regular school day, and guess what?  Those kids were the most motivated, well-behaved, students that I have ever had.  They were truly angels in contrast to the rich and snotty so-called angels that I have taught in private English language schools.

Well, I suppose that I will continue to teach English for pay for the foreseeable future, but I look forward to the next time I can teach English to an entire class that really wants to learn, to teach people who can use English to escape poverty and improve their standard of living.  And I expect that those people will be my greatest teachers.

On Teaching English

I´d like to share with you a little about my experience teaching English in Ecuador, as well as talk about the business of teaching English in Latin America and abroad. 

I finished up my 3-month teaching cycle a few days ago.  I taught 3 classes, which I affectionately called my Niños, Chicos, and Sabados.  In my Niños class were two boys about 10 years old, there were three teens in my Chicos class, and my Sabados (Saturdays) class was mixture of niños, chicos, and two adult students. 

Most of my students called me “Teacher.”  Maybe that will be my new nickname, kind of like the boxers who have nicknames such as Joe “Sledgehammer” Wilcox, or Calvin “MessWithYou” Jones.  Now I´m Keith “Teacher” Kreuz … not really that menacing of a moniker, but a part of me always wanted an extra name that is surrounded by quotation marks. 

I have a newfound respect for English teachers, or for that matter all teachers.  Being a teacher is not only a lot of work for comparatively little pay, but it can also feel like a huge responsibility.  This may seem odd or comical to you, but sometimes I was concerned that if I did not clarify a specific grammar point or facet of the language, that I might negatively impact their progress.  Or, if I were too firm in establishing order in my classroom, such as in my Saturday class that included rambunctious chicos, would I discourage them from wanting to learn more English in the future?

 I loved my chicos, but I am not going to miss a single one of them.  Teens are teens the world over.  I hope they all have happy and successful lives, and I´m praying that I never have to teach teens again … ever. 

The niños were great, too.  They were not nearly as disruptive or challenging as the teens were, but in a heartbeat niños can go from being on task … to building castles made of erasers, pencils, scratch paper, etc.  They can be very resourceful in finding building materials.  One of my niños, during the final exam no less, decided to see how many pockmarks he could put in his eraser.  With my niños I felt like a farmer with a cattle prod who constantly had to poke them to keep them going in the direction I wanted them to go. 

My adult students were a lot like me, they were looking for the magic key that opens the door to fluency.  But that key does not exist, for the only way to become proficient in a new language is through consistent effort over a long period of time.  Sometimes I put my adult students through drills such as  … say this … now say it again … now say it in a slightly different way … now say it in the negative, etc.  However, they quickly tired of such drills, and in spite of the fact that they still didn´t fully understand the specific point I was trying to teach them, and in spite of the fact that I know that these drills are helpful, they were ready to move on to something else.  I´ve actually searched for a Spanish teacher who will drill me like that, who will pound into my head in a fun and creative way some foundational blocks I can build upon.  But not all students are alike, and where pounding seems like it would help me, each of my adult students of English can have a different learning style.  All any teacher can do is their best to guide and inform each individual student.

With regard to teaching English abroad, it seems that many of the teaching positions for pay are in schools or businesses that cater to the rich and privileged class, that cater to this extremely small segment of society.  (At least that appears to be the case in Latin America).  And in spite of the fact that this is the clientele, teacher pay remains relatively low.  (Someone is banking the money somewhere).  So then it becomes a game of how cheaply can you live in order to make teaching abroad worth your time and effort. 

In strictly business terms, this opportunity to teach English in Ecuador has not been profitable.  My wife and I invested much more money in this opportunity than we got back in return.  But we knew that would be the case, and we were willing to make this investment in order to learn something about the business of teaching English internationally … and we were also investing in a South American vacation together.

I´ve already decided that if I´m going to teach English to the privileged class in the future, I´m going to seek better pay relative to the cost of living.  I think that private, for-profit, business schools would be the way to go.  The other option is to pursue opportunities to teach English to the marginalized, to the less fortunate, to the poor … and expect to receive little or no pay. 

The ability to speak English as a second language can be a powerful tool that gives someone more opportunities, better job prospects, higher pay … who knows, it could even lift someone out of poverty.  And if it could lift one person out of poverty, perhaps it could be a hand-up to an entire village. 

Do you think that you might be interested in teaching English?  If so, I have some advice for you.  The business of teaching English is a HUGE industry, and getting bigger by the moment.  It seems that everyone wants a piece of the pie.  There are also competing certificates, and one can be overwhelmed by the amount of choices available when wading into this business.  I did a lot of research on the industry, and decided that since I already have my college degree that the TEFL certificate was the one I could get the quickest and without too much expense.  (TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language).  The TEFL certificate is widely accepted throughout the world, and paired with a college degree it makes you an even more desirable candidate.  The problem is that you will find hundreds of TEFL certificate providers when searching the internet, including lots of fly-by-night providers that will gladly take a lot of your money and give you a crappy experience in return for a piece of paper.  Again, I spent a lot of time researching the industry, and I narrowed my choice down to 2 very well-known and respected TEFL certificate providers.  One is called i-to-I TEFL, which is based in the UK … and the other is based in the United States and called BridgeTEFL.  I might sound like a North American snob for saying this, but I opted not to go with i-to-I in spite of the fact they were a little less expensive; after watching i-to-i videos and completing their initial assessment, I decided I did not want to be trained by people who spoke with heavy British accents.  Thus, I chose BridgeTEFL. 

BridgeTEFL provides local classes in several cities across the United States; however, the upcoming classes in Salt Lake City were booked when I tried to enroll.  As a result, I opted to do all of my training online at their online site  I went with the 120-hour “Master Diploma,” and it cost about $420.  It took me about 8 weeks to complete the course, and I was very pleased with it.  Something else you should know is that completing the course was not a walk in the park, which I was also pleased about.  They don´t call it a 120-hour course for nothing, for that is the amount of time it takes to finish it.  You will have your own tutor that grades your assignments and is available via email to answer any questions you might have, but other than that you just read the information on the web site and watch the videos and then complete the quizzes and do the writing assignments (that your tutor grades).  When you complete the program you receive an access code that enables you to download and print your certificate, and each certificate issued has a unique number.  You can also give out your access code and certificate number to any school that might want to hire you, and they can go to the Bridge website and verify that you indeed completed the BridgeTEFL program.  Like I said, I was very pleased with BridgeTEFL, and doing it all online was very convenient. 

Regarding pay, English teaching positions in Asia generally pay better because several governments are funding the programs in order to make their people more competitive in the world markets.  I´ve heard that you can make $20K per year in Asia, and in addition receive an apartment and return airfare.  But for me, I don´t have any interest right now in going to Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, or any of those other places over there.  My interest is in going places where I can also work on improving my Spanish, so Latin America and Spain are my target areas.  In Spanish speaking countries you can earn enough to cover all of your expenses and bank some cash as well, especially if you can live frugally and hold the line on expenses.  As for my wife and I, we are not so much looking to make this a lucrative venture as we are looking to fund adventures.

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

If you have ever thought about teaching English in another country, and if you don’t already have a TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), now might be a good time to get that certificate.

First of all, the TEFL certificate is widely accepted and will get you a job teaching English just about anywhere you want to go. The only certificate that might be a little more desirable is the TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) only because someone normally earns the TESOL through university studies, and thus it not only takes more time to earn the TESOL, it generally costs a WHOLE LOT MORE. But from what I have seen, the TEFL certificate is just as good … and a lot CHEAPER and LESS TIME CONSUMING to earn.

Now you can find schools all over the world that would gladly take your money (and as much of it as they can get) to give you a TEFL certificate without doing hardly any work. But that’s not what you want, right? Besides, if you get your certificate through one of these fly-by-nights, you may not get that job you want as an English teacher.

Before I started my TEFL training, I did extensive research on the internet to find legitimate certificate-issuing TEFL training institutes/schools. In my opinion, you can trust two schools in particular – BridgeTEFL, and the other is called i-to-i TEFL. You can find i-to-i TEFL at, they place students all over the world, and seem to have an excellent program. I was very close to choosing i-to-i TEFL because their online course was a bit cheaper, but they are based in Europe and I was afraid that my personal tutor as well as their online and print materials would be “European English,” and I did not want to add that to the mix. Having said that, I expect that some of my fears are unfounded, and that I probably would have had an equally good experience with them. But having said that, I chose BridgeTEFL, also widely known and respected, and based here in the United States. You can take BridgeTEFL courses locally if you can get in the class (which were booked when I tried), or you can take their course entirely online at

I was very pleased with the BridgeTEFL program I took online at It is not an easy program by any stretch of the imagination – it took me about 8 weeks to finish the course – but it was very informative, with very well developed materials and video tutorials. You will also have a personal tutor that corrects your assignments, and with whom you can communicate throughout the course.

Earlier in this message I said that now might be a good time to get a TEFL certificate because I noticed that both these training institutes have their prices about as low as their going to ever be. At the time of this post the 120 hour online TEFL course by i-to-i TEFL is being offered for only $249; BridgeTEFL had also discounted the price for the 120 hour online program to $416.50 (which is what I paid for it several months ago). Again, I felt completely comfortable with BridgeTEFL, and was willing to spend the extra money to go with them, and I took their online course.