“What’s the very cheapest way I can become a teacher, I really just want to live in Thailand so I can get drunk on cheap beer every day”
O.K. it’s not an exact quote, but it’s definitely not far off the sentiments I see swirling around the internets about ESL teaching.
So, imagine this:
You walk into a foreign language classroom which you’ve paid not an insignificant amount of money for. You’re in your home country but the teacher is from a country where the language you are studying is native. ‘How awesome!’ you think. You settle into your seat and the class begins introducing themselves. You ask the teacher how long they’ve been teaching.
‘This is my first day’ says your teacher
‘Did you just finish your studies?’ you ask, assuming you would not be paying a large sum of money for a teacher who is neither educated in the subject matter nor experienced.
‘Well I did a certification online, but yeah, I just finished that the other day.’
If you wouldn’t be pissed off and demand a refund at that point you need to rethink what’s going on here.
If you’ve ever skied, does that make you qualified to become a ski instructor?
If you’ve ever ridden a horse, does that make you qualified to become a riding instructor?
If you’ve ever taken a photograph, does that make you qualified to become a photography teacher?
Just because you are a native speaker of a specific language, you are not qualified to teach said language.
Read that again.
Just because you are a native speaker of a language, does not make you qualified to teach that language.
I don’t care that you’ve been doing it since forever, you’ve also been eating food all those years, but I don’t see yourself claiming to be a food critic.
And getting an online cert which you saved a whole load of money on by buying it through Groupon, also does not qualify you. At all.
You are doing a disservice to so many parties if you think this is o.k. If your long term goal is to get drunk in Thailand then wait tables, save up your money, go on a holiday, get pissed, and go back home. Don’t think that just because someone offers you a job you have any business in the front of a classroom teaching kids English. That person offering you the job is a crook too, and they’re also looking to save money. And volunteering doesn’t make it any better, in fact it makes it worse. Emily & Aaron do a great job of guiding you to understand how and when and where your volunteer hours will actually do the good you want them to do.
Imagine you did take a position in a classroom, how are you going to handle that role? You took a certification course on a computer, from the comfort of your bed, in your pajamas. Have you ever stood at the front of a classroom? How are you going to react when 19 sets of eyes are staring you down? Did you do a teeth check? And what are you going to do when 17 of those 19 little learners start acting up? Have you studied and practiced an effective classroom management approach? I’d imagine it didn’t take much to manage your computer from your fluffy goose down bed. Oh look, one’s crying.
Now let’s talk about the activities, what’re you going to start the class off with? Have you practiced explaining that activity to a group of kids who have never spoken much less heard English before?
Point here is this, if the certification course you are taking, no matter how cheap or convenient it is, does not put you into a real life classroom, it is a pile of rubbish. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
Want to go live in Thailand and teach English? Do that! I lived in Vietnam, amongst other places and have taught ESL for a number of years. There is nothing wrong with pursuing this career path, it has endless opportunities of employment and chances to live abroad, immerse yourself in cultures, meet awesome locals and expats. I highly, highly recommend this way of life. Not only will it open doors to countries but it is truly a career path with so many opportunities for growth. So, how do you do it without screwing over the kids you’ve come to teach?
Well first, you need to finish your undergraduate degree. You can argue about the value of that, but you’re just wasting your breath.
Then, once you’ve finished with your degree you need to get a legitimate certificate on a course which puts you in the classroom. The two most widely lauded certificates in the ESL industry are the CELTA and the Trinity Cert.
If you successfully complete one of these four-week training programs (or better yet, complete one with a pass A! – I’ll tell you how) you’ll have your pick of some of the best jobs in the industry. And with those better jobs come better pay checks, and we all know what that translate to: more cheap beer.
And remember, Groupon is for cheap massages.
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