I got TEFL certified in the U.S. and arrived in Costa Rica without a job, because it seemed most employers there preferred to meet applicants face-to-face. I spent about two weeks job searching, visiting language schools and dropping off my resume or emailing schools to set up interviews. It was tricky to navigate the city since I spoke no Spanish, but that was part of the adventure!
To my surprise, I was offered a job at a private, bilingual elementary school in Heredia, Costa Rica, even though I had no training or experience with kids! In workshops (which were all in Spanish!) leading up to the start of school, I realized I was one of just two American teachers at Golden Valley; my colleagues were mainly bilingual Costa Ricans. I did my best to prepare for my job as a 4th grade teacher, but a week before classes were to start, the principal switched me to teaching kindergarten! This was my first lesson in being adaptable when teaching abroad!
Though nervous about the change, I tried to make the best of it. I had an open house with parents, complete with translator. My class of 11 five and six-year-olds spoke little or no English, so it took some time to work out a curriculum that was effective and a system of classroom management. I petitioned my principal for a teacher’s aide, which helped facilitate the kids’ learning significantly, and helped me remain sane!
After six months at this job, I moved on to a position at a language institute, teaching adults, which is a more common position for TEFL-qualified teachers in Latin America. The hours were shorter and there were more foreign teachers like me, so it turned out to be a much better fit in my case. I stayed in Costa Rica for a total of three years, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life!