Teaching English as a tool for enhancing employability and career opportunities

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Written By Berry Mathew

Over the years, a large number of people have entered the world of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), each of them approaching it in their own individual way. Some have taught English as a way of earning money during their gap year abroad, while others have made a full-time career out of it, but many have used their TEFL experience as a stepping stone towards a different  profession. 

This is possible with the wide range of skills that you develop while teaching English as a foreign language, known as transferable skills. These are skills that you acquire  for one specific job but they can also be applied to another field.

Let’s see what skills are required to teach English as a foreign language:

  • Striving for personal and professional development. Learning something new everyday  is quite common in a TEFL environment – that’s the beauty of working in contact with people from all over the world. This can do wonders in terms of personal development. However,  attending training courses can help you develop professional skills and allow you to further your career.  In this day and age, there are other skills that teachers need to master, like digital skills –  from setting up online classes to using platforms to deliver their lessons.
    • Getting to know your learners and their needs. To allow each student the chance to achieve their full potential, it is necessary to understand their language strengths and weaknesses, as well as their goals.  Many teachers arrange a one-to-one conversation with each student to identify their learning objectives. This would be a great opportunity to manage the learner’s expectations, to make sure they are realistic and achievable and to avoid disappointment.
    • Planning effective lessons. A fun lesson doesn’t always mean an effective lesson. While it is important to select  activities that your students enjoy, it is equally important to plan a lesson in which there is a clear learning outcome. This is because the engagement levels rise when the learners notice the progress they’re making in their language skills. 
    • Bringing variety in the lessons. There can be too much of a good thing: even your students’ favourite activities can become boring if they are overused. To keep your learners engaged in the lesson, try alternating different kinds of activities. It is important to read the room and understand when the class needs a mingling and communicative task and when a calm and quieter activity is more beneficial.
    • Thinking on your feet. This is probably the most useful skill to have in a classroom environment, where life can be unpredictable. When you think on your feet, you’re able to deal successfully with most challenges that are thrown at you. However, this does not mean that you should be able to answer every single question your students ask you. It is OK not to know every answer. If this happens, tell your students that you will get back to them with the answers and make sure that you keep your promise. They will respect you for it and appreciate your honesty.

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TEFL beyond the traditional classroom

Working in the education industry can present teachers with some daily challenges, from lack of resources to excessive admin workload. These are some of the reasons why an increasing number of educators, although not ready to abandon their teaching role, are planning to leave the classroom behind and embrace a new way of teaching.

This is possible with a combination of factors like a strong set of transferable skills and global connectivity. With remote learning at everyone’s fingertips, teaching English online has become easier than ever. Not only does it allow you to manage your workload around your personal commitments, but it also helps gain a better quality of life. In addition, it can open doors to an exciting freelance career, where you can make full use of all your skills. With online teaching you can decide where to teach – from the comfort of your own home or while travelling – and when. Are you a night owl? Think about students from the other side of the world! 

Starting your online teaching career is not difficult, but there are two factors that can have a significant impact on its success: your equipment and your professional qualifications. 

It goes without saying that for online teaching you need some sort of technical equipment, which you probably already have. To test the water, your current PC/with an in-built camera and microphone should be all you need to get you started. After a while, and if you decide to make online teaching a more permanent source of income, you could treat your laptop to a screen extender, beneficial for your health and classroom engagement.

What’s the difference between a fun teacher and an effective one? The fun teacher asks their learners to spend their time doing games that involve the use of the language but don’t affect their progress. An effective teacher delivers engaging lessons by fostering a learning environment where the learner’s needs are taken into account while guiding their students through tasks that help their language skills progress. 

Whether you want to start your freelance teaching career or are ready to join a school – online or not – you will need to become an effective teacher: one that employers want to hire and students want to be taught by. An accredited 120-hour TEFL course delivered by a reputable course provider is the ideal starting point for your TEFL career. 

If you are completely new to teaching, this course will give you the tools to start teaching with confidence from the first day in the classroom. If you already have teaching experience but you aren’t familiar with TEFL, this course will help you understand what teaching an international audience entails. Either way, a TEFL course shows commitment and a professional attitude towards the industry, something that employers and students alike really appreciate. If you want to find out more about TEFL courses available, take a look at this TESOL certification guide by The TEFL Org and you can get what you are looking for.

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To TEFL and beyond

Everyone has innate talents and everyone learns skills along the way. The skills that you learn while teaching English as a foreign language – the ability to plan effectively, to think on your feet, to manage people’s expectations – can have a major impact in your professional life, whether you decide to stick to the TEFL world or not.