What Kind of Teacher Are You?
Many people who decide they want to teach English as a Second Language do not consider all of their options. Teaching ESL is a broad term. There are dozens of ESL disciplines, and a wide range of class types. Which of these are you best suited for?
Before you start applying for jobs and going to interviews, take a few moments to think about your personality. It may even help to take a personality test. Have you ever thought about whether you are introverted or extroverted? Just because you prefer small groups, or working alone doesn't mean you can't work in the ESL field. It may just mean you will be more comfortable teaching smaller classes or even private lessons. Alternatively, you may start teaching and realize after a few months that you are drawn to an ESL office job such as curriculum planning.
Are you a teacher who likes to stand at the front and be the head of a class, or do you prefer to mingle and help students out individually? Does the thought of standing in a classroom all day, make you feel claustrophobic? You might want to consider schools that offer holiday courses and regular excursions. Some schools use the communicative approach, where learning English outside of the classroom is compulsory. If you are truly drawn to the ESL field, there is a job out there designed with you in mind.
There are certain personality traits, such as being friendly and patient, that are required of all teachers. Other traits, such as being open-minded, are important for ESL teachers in general. Teaching may come more naturally to people who have many of the traits in the following list. Personality, however, is not something that remains static throughout a career. If you are willing to let them, your students will bring out the personality traits you need to become a better teacher. Here are some qualities that students look for in ESL teachers:
Types of ESL Classes
Those going into the ESL teaching field often focus on where they want to teach. With so many job postings around the world, the choices can be overwhelming. However, it is also important to think about what you want to teach. Consider the following chart before you sort through the job postings. Keep in mind that, like any field, specializing becomes easier once you have a little experience on your resume.
Job Shadow or Volunteer
A supervised teaching practicum, which is often a requirement for TESL certification, offers more than a good job reference. A practicum can also help you see your strengths and weaknesses in various classroom settings. Did you enjoy the large group of teenagers, or did you prefer the attention and enthusiasm of the adults? What about the lesson planning? Did it feel like a chore to write a lesson plan on the present perfect tense? Perhaps you'd enjoy a class that was more communicative. Many TESL certification courses require limited teaching hours in a single classroom setting. If you are serious about teaching ESL as a career, it is a good idea to volunteer in other classrooms on your own time. Visit schools in your area, and approach the managers about job shadow opportunities. Just sitting in on a variety of classes can give you an idea of what type of teaching you will be naturally suited to.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure of your job during a probationary period. It can take up to three months to feel comfortable with your colleagues, students, and teaching materials. If you are also getting used to living and working in a foreign country, this period may be even longer. However, if you feel you've given your job a fair chance, and you still have more bad days than good, it may be time to reconsider your options. Instead of quitting teaching altogether, why not search for a classroom or school that is more suited to your personality.
If you are unsatisfied with a particular job posting, your students may also be unsatisfied with your teaching effort. Some teachers blame their unhappiness on the school, but find that changing schools does not fix the problem. If you are satisfied with the school you are at, consider requesting a class change. Tell your administrators why you think your personality and interests make you better suited for teaching a different level or specialty class.