If you are reading this article, it is most likely because you are asking yourself this very question. People decide to become teachers for various reasons. For instance, some take a different route than single subject teaching to become ESL teachers. Teaching is a rewarding profession and in this article we will help you answer the question, “Would you like to become an ESL teacher” and hopefully provide you with additional insight into the exciting world of teaching English as a second language. Let us get started! 

What is ESL? 

ESL means English as a second language.  

Many schools will place children in an ESL program if their non-English speaking family recently immigrated to the United States or other English speaking country.  International students planning to study at a University in an English speaking country will take ESL classes to help prepare them for academic success. For example, an international student who plans to study at an American University in the USA may enroll in an ESL course at the university to achieve English proficiency required by their degree program and expose the student to many facets of American culture. Adult ESL classes may focus on survival English to help them function in their day-to-day life in the English speaking country or for career progression. 

Qualifications 

No one steps into the role of an ESL teacher as an expert. Even seasoned teachers continue to engage in professional development and reflect on their teaching skills. Getting TEFL certified is a start. A TEFL certification is the globally recognized qualification you need to teach English abroad or online to non-native English speakers.   Whether you choose a 120-hour course or a Level 5 course, the certification program will introduce you to the basic skills you need in order to teach English. While you do not need a bachelor’s degree or specific degree such as a degree in education to pursue your TEFL certification, many jobs hiring ESL teachers will require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to a TEFL certificate. There is a variety of TEFL certification programs online. To choose the best one, consider reviewing the cost of the program, reading reviews written by course participants, checking the course content and course duration, and making sure the program is accredited by Ofqual or TQUK (Level 5 course). Look at the TEFL program’s website and the more accrediting bodies it lists, the better.  

If you are just starting out, you will qualify for entry-level jobs or jobs that may not be your ideal pay rate. Research all possible ESL jobs including ones that are your ideal jobs and work towards gaining the experience or additional education required to qualify for these jobs. 

Assess yourself 

Now you understand what ESL is who the students in an ESL program may be and the basic qualifications required. If you are still reading, it means you are still interested and that is great!  Let us assess yourself and your goals to check if this could be the right path for you. 

There is no accurate indicator of who will succeed as an ESL teacher. In addition to learning, the skills needed to teach English, a successful and effective teacher would bring other skills into the classroom.  

Empathy

An effective teacher puts themselves into the learners’ shoes and understands the students’ struggles and anxiety when learning. The empathetic teacher will adjust the lesson to ensure that the lesson accommodates the varying learning styles in the classroom.  An empathetic teacher is compassionate, patient and understanding and seeks to create a comfortable learning environment.    

Intercultural competence

Empathy will play a role in your ability to exhibit intercultural competent. Intercultural competence is the ability to think and act appropriately, and to communicate and work with people from different cultural backgrounds. Your students will be diverse and you should be comfortable stepping outside of your cultural comfort zone to understand people who have different lifestyles and beliefs than you do.  

Genuine desire to engage with your students

It is not difficult to spot the teacher who does not have passion for the craft or the learners. A good teacher will care about their students and help them when they struggle and celebrate their accomplishments. When you are engaged with your students, you will reflect on ways you can make learning fun and enjoyable rather than how quickly you can get through the lesson and call it a day.  

A successful teacher does not require numerous degrees or certificates.  The desire to learn, connect, reflect and evolve are important qualities to develop great relationships with your students and effectively apply the knowledge and skills you acquire in your TEFL certification program and any future studies you pursue in this field.  

ESL is a rewarding career with opportunities for professional growth. Time, patience and perseverance will ultimately lead you to your ideal job and pay grade. Take the first step by getting TEFL certified! 

Read more: Differences Between 200 Hour and 300 Hour Teacher Training

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