How to Become a Professional ESL English Teacher

Most North American ESL English language schools are marketing organizations. They like to sell their ESL school as the best (in everything) to the international language students. The English schools like to present themselves as established, well organized, professional, with highly qualified and experienced teachers, proven curriculum, lots of resources, a history of happy students.

If you want to teach ESL in the competitive private school industry then you have to realize that as an ESL teacher you are part of a packaged commodity. Remember that most ESL schools pay for advertising, marketing, salesmen, agents, flashy brochures and have to travel to expensive international student education fairs to recruit students. ESL schools pay out from 25 to 50% of the tuition they receive just to get ESL students in the door.

For most ESL teachers to get a job in North America you have to have a combination of personal qualities, education and teaching experience. The ESL schools that try to cover 10 levels, 15 electives, activities, and self-directed programs are usually over-stretching their teaching staffs because of budget restrictions created by the huge marketing expenses. Many schools are on low-margin, high-volume operations programs and cannot afford to make hiring mistakes.

To be a successful career ESL teacher you can look at the stages most teachers go through. The start can be wonderful or ugly. It depends on your preparation. Many successful career ESL teachers tutored while they finished their university and teacher education programs. As a tutor you can really learn how to help a student. You can see their struggles and provide the solutions. The next step is the classroom. The leap from one student to 15 is major and requires all the theory and methodology necessary to operate as a classroom professional. You have to do this in person. Get the practicum supervision and corrections necessary to teach ESL professionally.

Experience can be gained in North America as a community volunteer, operating your own classes, team teaching classes, teacher observations, or tutoring. Travelling internationally where experience is not required can be exciting and educational – however one has to consider the dramatic life-style changes and risks which accompany these opportunities.

After two years of mistakes and corrections, continuing education, workshops, professional exchanges, brainstorming, team teaching, collaboration, students calling you wonderful, others not so happy – then many of the higher paying professional organizations consider you job-ready. Career ESL teaching in North America is not easy and not available overnight with most professional organizations.

New ESL teachers should take an internet tour of teacher white, grey and black lists, personal teacher web pages and blogs to see good, bad and ugly teaching experiences.

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