Here's a tip for current or prospective JETs: CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations) offers a ￥15,000 grant to up to 100 JETs who complete an online TEFL course. You must apply for this grant by mailing a form (see the 2014 example here) to CLAIR before the cutoff date (around May/June). You must then complete the online course and send proof of completion to CLAIR before a certain date (usually sometime in January), and they will then send the grant to your Japanese bank account. There are a few conditions, such as the class must require over 100 hours of study, and you cannot apply if you already hold a TEFL certificate - you can read more about those on the link I posted earlier, and see more information posted by AJET here. If you're interested in this opportunity, talk to your supervisor about it. They should receive all the information you need to apply.
In addition to this very helpful grant, AJET has organised a 30% discount for current JETs with TEFL certificate provider ITTT, which you can read more about here. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from combining the grant with the discount, as long as you quote the correct price on the CLAIR grant form.
I researched a lot of TEFL certification providers while I was trying to decide which course to take. Personally, I became very interested in myTEFL.net for a number of reasons. After my experience with the free course, I was looking for an online course which offered detailed modules on grammar. I may have studied SLE, but my technical knowledge of English grammar was still limited. I couldn't clearly explain to my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) why some sentences were right, and why some sentences were wrong - actually, they could explain it much better than I could! myTEFL's 120 hour professional course had three modules dedicated to grammar, along with some other modules I thought would be very helpful, such as "Smart Curriculum Planning", and "Designing Testing Systems". Aside from the content of the course, I was also convinced by their tutor support team (who were very helpful when I had a few questions before signing up), online library of language teaching resources, and their charity work. After reading a few more reviews of them online, I signed up.
The course follows a very logical progression of topics. It starts with a few modules which give a really nice general overview of language teaching, including the typical language teaching situations in different countries (mostly in Asia). I found that information very interesting, and it gave me a few ideas about where I might like to teach in the future! For example, did you know that Poland and Italy are up-and-coming places for English language teachers? Getting TEFL jobs in Europe can be more difficult than in Asia, so it was good to know where to look if I decide to head that way sometime.
The level of technicality builds with each module, so after learning about general teaching strategies, you go on to learn more about language learning theory and practice. Four modules are dedicated individually to speaking, listening, reading and writing, which are the four strands of language learning you will be focusing on when teaching. After this, it gets a little tough in the grammar modules. Those were mainly what I signed up for, so I was looking forward to getting stuck into it. They definitely provided the in-depth look at grammar that I was after. Those modules were a challenge, but I finished them feeling much more confident in my grammatical knowledge of English. I don't know that I'll ever be on par with some of the JTEs that I work with - they could still analyse and explain the grammar of any given sentence much better than I ever could. But now when they do that, I'm familiar and comfortable with the term they're using, and I can use them too.
All in all, the mTEFL 120 Hour Professional Course complete met my expectations. I came away feeling like I knew more about TEFL than when I started, and I felt prepared to discuss English in detail with my colleagues. Although I was already fairly experienced with in-class teaching, it gave me some welcome fresh ideas for activities and strategies. I was able to complete the course in a reasonable amount of time, and I would surely recommend it to people who want to develop their TEFL knowledge quickly and comprehensively.
I have some final advice to share about TEFL courses. Most of them will do a price match with other TEFL companies, and many will offer to beat their competitors price, so do shop around. There are aso discount coupons to be found on sites like TEFL course review, where you can also compare courses and read reviews. myTEFL have a few coupons available, and offer to beat any competitor's price by 10%. By emailing back and forth with them a few times, I was able to arrange a 40% discount off the displayed price. But, if you can, I highly recommend shopping around over the Christmas/New Year's period. myTEFL had a 60% off promotion around this time, and as I had signed up only a month or so earlier, I felt quite disappointed that they hadn't offered a bigger discount, or I hadn't waited a while longer.
I hope this review, and my tips about TEFL grants and discounts has been useful to you. I really do think that learning some of current research and theory behind language learning and teaching is a great asset to your skill set as a teacher, so do consider taking a course. If you have any questions, please comment below!