The New Teacher
There was a day when English Language Teaching Jobs were readily available to those with no formal TEFL qualifications but who were deemed qualified simply by virtue of being a native speaker. This is increasingly not the case in the current ELT climate where the student of English as a foreign or second language has become increasingly more sophisticated in terms of knowing what s/he needs to learn, how s/he learns best and the results s/he expects to achieve.
ENTERING THE PROFESSION
How does one get started? Formal TEFL qualifications are generally aimed at
postgraduate level, although many courses will admit non-graduates if they can demonstrate an ability and level of maturity which would enable them to succeed on the chosen course of study. That said however, more and more countries are insisting on a first degree before issuing work permits to EFL/ESL teachers and indeed some consider first degrees over formal TEFL qualifications.
Entry qualifications, generally termed as being at 'Certificate' level, can vary in length from a few days to several months with concomitant variation in content and cost. However, most employers tend to favourably consider courses of a minimum of 120 hours and which include teaching practice. These are not confined to native speakers and thankfully the profession is generally re-assessing the quality and benefits that non native speaker teachers can bring to the learning/teaching situation. Before deciding on which course to take, it is important to candidly assess your own needs.
Identify in which country/countries you would like to work, not only in the immediate future. This done, research the standard qualifications required in your selected countries. Typically the USA will require an MA TESOL while Europe generally requires a minimum of a first degree plus an ELT entry qualification. Costs for the latter range from around $US800 - $2,500.
IS IT FOR ME?
If you prefer to have a taste of what ELT entails before investing time and money in a further qualification, Far East countries will generally employ native speakers with a degree and no formal TEFL qualification or experience (although this trend is changing in some centres). There are also very short one or two day taster courses which can give you an idea of basic skills etc.
If you are keen to "give back" something, gain experience of teaching and other cultures and consider remuneration to be less important, you may wish to apply to voluntary organisations such as VSO or The Peace Corps. They generally require candidates to have undergone TEFL training or alternatively, they may provide it before posting.
If a good to above-average salary and a sound professional environment are important to you, again look carefully at your intended destination/s. Some countries' economies, while providing a living wage in the host country, cannot provide one which translates into savings and/or a reasonable currency exchange with the teacher's country of origin. Also, be aware, that such posts are in high demand and therefore competition is tough. In these situations, it is unlikely that an applicant with only the minimum qualifcations will be successful and that at least two years' experience plus perhaps a qualification at diploma level would be required.
You will also want to consider the time you have available before deciding on the best course of action. There are now TEFL training courses provided by distance, via the Internet. These allow you to study when and where you want and are generally more flexible in terms of spreading your study hours to fit in with existing commitments.
Distance study does not necessarily mean study in isolation. Nowadays technology permits fully interactive courses and good training courses will also include a teaching practice component.
FINDING A JOB
Having assessed your needs and wants, addressed your options and made your choice as to how to embark on your new ELT career, you will then reach the point where you are looking for your first teaching post. Probably the easiest way to see what is available is to access job sites on the Net. These are also a prime resource for researching your needs in the first instance. Sites vary in quantity and quality of content, the most comprehensive of which is TEFL Professional Network (http://tefl.com). TEFL.com is currently the most extensive ELT jobs postings site on the Net, carrying the most posts per week as its career database allows ELT employers to post current vacancies free of charge and job seekers to view these jobs in real-time. Therefore, its jobs information is always bang up to date!
Additional services to job-seeker teachers are 'JobPrompt' and 'InstApply'. 'JobPrompt' is an immediate e.mail delivery service of the latest worldwide vacancies as soon as they are posted by the employer within the TEFL.com Career Database System. This eliminates the need for you to search through all the postings and you can further narrow your search by specifying which job type/s and countries you are interested in. The 'InstApply" service allows you to send your online resume/c.v. and a personal letter of application to any e.mail address in the world. It is not restricted to posts advertised on the TEFL.com site and eliminates the need for repeated and lengthy correspondence for each job application. Details of these and TEFL.com's complete suite of services can be found at http://tefl.com.
More expensive and restricted, in terms of content, is hardcopy Press which carry ELT advertisements. Also some professional journals carry some ELT jobs' information. In addition you may wish to approach government organisations such as The British Council and the USIA which have numerous posts worldwide at any one time. These organisations also regularly advertise their vacancies online and in hardcopy. Recruitment agencies are another alternative. Some may charge a registration fee but many offer their services free of charge to the teacher. Job Shops at Professional conferences are becoming a regular feature but again most, if not all, of the posts on offer are also advertised electronically on the Internet.
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