Thursday, June 07 2012
I have taught ESL for four years and in a variety of settings. During this time, I have immensely enjoyed expanding the horizons of the young people that I have taught. Although I had no formal training in teaching English to non-native speakers before taking my first teaching job, I got through my assignments largely through trial and error, overplanning, and a healthy dose of what I thought was "common sense". And I was so busy focusing on staying afloat that I neglected to grow as a "professional" ESL Teacher. Even though I was often able to adapt class lessons to fit my own needs as an ESL teacher, I knew within myself that I could benefit more from ongoing training and development.
To remedy this, I made it a goal to engage in some sort of development on a regular basis. So, I joined a local professional organization of ESL teachers. We would meet on a regular basis and share techniques and strategies with one another. We found that we were able to help one another find many ways to enrich and enhance the delivery of our lessons for our students.
Some of my more experienced colleagues did not share my enthusiasm for the training sessions; nor did they partake in any professional development presentations conducted by our local professional organization. They felt this "training" was remedial and did not serve a practical purpose for them in their teaching of the students. This is an attitude that I have found is somewhat common in the world of teaching ESL, but one which I could never subscribe to. It is always my priority to develop into the best teacher I can be for both myself and my students.
Last year, I enrolled in the LinguaEdge online TESOL Teaching Certificate course at the urging of my principal. At first I was hesitant due to my already full schedule of extra-curricular student activities after school. The training quickly proved to be invaluable. I learned new ways to teach my lessons, to correctly write my lesson plans, to implement new behavior modification strategies, and to utilize new time management skills. More importantly, it gave me a whole new vocabulary I could use to expand my development once the course was over.
The addition of formal training really gave my career a boost. Implementing so many new learning practices and components in the delivery of my lessons really made me a much more effective teacher. It impressed my colleagues so much that they suggested to the principal that I be placed in charge of professional development for our department.
My recommendation to all ESL teachers, even those with "years of experience", is to get as much ongoing training as possible. In addition to possibly enhancing your pay rate, it will reveal new ways for you to enjoy teaching even more to take you and your students to a whole new level. It wasn't until I used the many new teaching techniques and tried out new teaching methods from my training sessions that I became a true believer in what I always tell my students: learning never ends.
Sunday, August 21 2011
Being an ESL teacher can seem daunting and impossible for someone who has little or no experience in this field. Most newcomers believe a teaching degree is required to be an effective teacher. This is not true. While I would argue that a TESOL teaching certificate course will provide the training, what makes a good ESL teacher is a combination of several things.
First and foremost, the teacher will have a native or near-native grasp on the English language. As you will be giving information, answering questions, and correcting mistakes, it is important for the teacher to demonstrate a knowledge of the different language systems. This doesn't mean that you have to know the name of every grammar term. You should, however, be able to explain language concepts in terms your students can understand. After all, you don't want to have to resort to explaining something with "English is strange like that"; or "That's just the way it is." Remarks like this will leave your students frustrated and their confidence in you severely eroded.
Just because a teacher is a native or near-native speaker doesn't mean she will automatically be a great ESL teacher. Other qualities must be found if she is to make an impact on her students.
ESL students are typically quite nervous about their English skills and lack the confidence to use them. Although many of them have previous English studies and knowledge or currently use English for work or other activities, students tend to lack confidence that they can communicate in English. A good ESL teacher, then, must have the ability to encourage and build confidence in his students. Giving encouragement, praise and showing the willingness to point out areas of improvement are hallmarks of an effective teacher.
An ESL teacher also must have a bit of a creative streak. Most ESL students, especially those who are older, are not interested in spending hours pouring over grammar exercises and documents. Studies have shown, and my own teaching and learning experience has confirmed, that this is not the best way to learn a language. A language is best learned through use--that is, speaking about many things in many different situations. Therefore, a good ESL teacher must be able to think of creative methods for teaching and learning. Some ideas might include reading and discussing articles of interest to the student, practicing role-plays, or performing actual activities using English.
A good ESL teacher knows that he is not to do the majority of talking. Instead, he quickly assesses what makes each student tick and how each student responds and then begins to ask many open-ended questions. The goal of the ESL teacher is to get the student to speak and express in whatever way possible. A student who does not speak cannot make mistakes, be corrected, or improve. A good ESL teacher draws the student out into a place of being able to express willingly and, later on, confidently.
In the end, anyone who truly has the desire to help others learn, as well as a basic knowledge of the language and teaching fundamentals, can be an effective English teacher.
Wednesday, April 07 2010
TESOL (or TEFL) is steadily growing more popular, and you can find jobs advertised for native English speakers in almost every country of the world, which gives you the opportunity to not only travel, but to discover a culture that is likely vastly different to your own. The largest market is currently in Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand), but if the Asian market doesn’t appeal to you, then you are able to find jobs advertised for positions in Central and South America, most parts of Europe and also in the Middle East.
Working overseas teaching English is the opportunity of a lifetime, but if you don’t do your research, it could turn into quite an adventure. Before agreeing to any position, make sure to research the school. There are many horror stories of westerners turning up expecting to find a job and accommodation lined up for them, only to arrive and find out that they are going to be farmed out to the highest bidder, or subcontracted out to different schools every day, giving no job stability.
There are a myriad of sites that you can use to investigate the legitimacy of the organization proposing the contract. Many of the websites that provide job vacancy lists also have a school review area, making it easy to see how other teachers have fared at a particular establishment.
In addition to checking the internet for reviews of particular schools, it is also crucial to ask the organization for the contact email addresses or phone numbers of previous and current foreign teachers. If they refuse, this is a definite red flag, as any legitimate institution will be more than happy to give you this information. Chances are that if you don’t find any scathing reviews on the internet, and any previous teachers don’t tell you to turn tail and run, then you’re fairly safe in accepting the job.
Once you have decided on a school, with undertaking any new job, you need to make sure you understand and agree with everything in your contract. If there’s something you don’t agree with, or understand, contact the appropriate person and get it sorted out before you arrive. There’s no point turning up with the idea that you can change something once you’re there.
Deciding where to teach will also have a huge impact on your time overseas. You need to consider your financial situation, as the wage and benefits vary from country to country. What sort of living conditions can you abide by? Are you able to accept spending time in a patriarchal society, or do you require a more liberal culture? Will you be able to survive in a country where the temperature drops to below –30, or do you hate the weather when it consistently reaches above 25?
You also need to decide what style of teaching is going to best suit you. Do you have lots of energy and love kids? Then teaching kindergarten or primary classes is probably for you.
If your idea of job fulfillment doesn’t include running, jumping and rolling around miming actions and playing high energy games, then a position in a high school or university is probably going to be more suitable.
It is vitally important that you realize that the conditions of your housing and workplace are likely going to be extremely different to what you’re used to. Moving to a country where you have no grasp of the unfamiliar customs or language has it challenges, and culture shock affects many people during the first three months in another country.
While offering challenges, both personally and professionally, teaching is also very rewarding. If you’re the type of person who can go with the moment, and adapt to any situation, as long as you’ve done the research, your time overseas will be a time to remember, for all the right reasons.
Saturday, November 07 2009
If you are curious about other cultures and eager for a challenge, obtaining a TESOL certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) might be your ticket to travel. Many countries around the world are looking for qualified, creative, and articulate English teachers to instruct students of all ages and backgrounds in the proper use of the English language.
In the past little was required of English teachers abroad other than a command of the English language, but school administrators have come to realize that teaching is both an art and a learned discipline, relying on creativity, structure, planning, empathy, and organization. Most institutions abroad require TESOL certificates, which was the case in my travels to Japan and Korea, and those who don’t require TESOL certification are more likely to hire someone with this tangible recognition and testament to instructional training and skill.
People who train for a TESOL certificate are a diverse group. Though most are college students or recent college graduates, many are retirees, people changing careers at mid-life, or teachers eager to travel and experience other cultures. Some see it as a way to add to their resume, while others see it as a way to broaden their horizons and benefit from new and challenging experiences. Having a TESOL certificate can open many doors, from gaining a more worldly perspective to establishing a stronger foundation for a future career in instruction, leadership, or management.
Many people seeking a TESOL Certificate worry that they will have to learn the language of the country where they will be teaching. Knowing another language is not a requirement since most foreign countries prefer an immersion-style approach to the learning of English. This may be in part because qualified bilingual English teachers are difficult to find, but also because a typical class of ESL (English as a Second Language) students may speak several different languages or dialects. A TESOL certified instructor need know only English, but must be able to gear instruction to non-English speaking students in a clear, creative, and supportive way using methodology and approaches learned in a TESOL certification program.
Though the majority of TESOL certified instructors choose to work overseas in elementary and secondary education, or business or community centers, some prefer to teach English in the United States. These instructors often find work at private or charter schools or in church, non-profit, or community education run ESL programs. Some teachers with TESOL certificates choose to work independently, setting up their own ESL workshops, seminars, or schools.
The benefits of a TESOL certificate are many and varied. The opportunity to travel and immerse yourself in other cultures while helping learners in other countries to become accomplished English speakers can be so rewarding. Enhancing your resume, as well as your work and life experience, can enrich your life and increase future career choices. Whether you plan to teach English abroad or within your own country, a TESOL certificate will make you an infinitely more attractive candidate.