Teaching ESL/EFL

Teaching students  is a rewarding career. I absolutely love my job and am quite passionate about it.  There is nothing like the feeling of teaching a student a new concept.  Many people ask me about getting into the field of teaching English as a second language or foreign language, so I  have put together some helpful information.  Just like any career choice, what’s good for one person is not for another, so the same is true with teaching English to non-native speakers.  Here are some things to consider:

  • You must like teaching, sounds simple, but not everyone has the patience to teach.
  • You must like people and like to talk.  I can add smile to the list, since a positive attitude is a must.
  • You must be reliable and ready to stick to a schedule for students.
  • You should get a TESL/TEFL certification in the very least.  Some countries require a bachelors degree and/or have further requirements, so do your research.
  • Teaching ESL/EFL is a great way to travel and/or live abroad, but you will never get rich doing it.
  • You do not need to be a grammarian, but you need to have a good command of English language/reading/listening skills.
  • Think about the types of students you want to teach: children, business people, adult immigrants, etc.  Also decide if you would rather teach in-person or online.
  • It helps to have experience in order to find a job, volunteering is a great way to do that.
  • You can also freelance and advertise for  students to teach in-person or online via Skype or other platforms.
  • It  helps to have support from other teachers, mentors or partners.
  • If you aren’t mentally into it, your students will be able to tell, and you won’t do well at teaching.

So if you are teaching ESL/EFL or would really like to get into it, I thought I would also  share with you some things I have learned from teaching English.  Here they are:

  • Don’t obsess about grammar, students learn better when they learn grammar by usage rather than memorization.  I am really into intuitive learning, which is the way we learn a language as children.  English grammar is so complicated and full of exceptions that make no sense.  I hate grammar, and so do most English language students, and that is ok.
  • Along the lines of grammar is learning straight out of a book.  Lesson plans, worksheets and the like are great, but real-world English is best.  Integrate idioms, slang and collocations into lessons.  Teach not just “correct” English, but English the way people really use it.  This will also help to keep the student interested in what they are learning because it is relevant.
  • Find out what is motivating a student to learn English, and provide relevant information.  For example if a student is learning English to do their job better, teach them profession specific vocabulary.
  • Don’t focus too much on mistakes.  While it is important to correct students, help your students build confidence.    Help them to understand even native speakers often make mistakes. I always warn students that I may make mistakes.
  • Learn different approaches to teaching.  Each student is different, and there are many different learning styles too.  Mix it up during a teaching session.  In fact, never stop learning about how to become a better teacher.

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