This post is addressed to unexperienced teacher colleagues or to colleagues who the first time would like to teach English to non-native speakers. They might even have some qualifications, but without job search and classroom experience they might end up disappointed after a job interview. So let me give you some food for thought about why being a good English speaker is not enough to be a good teacher candidate?
Teaching certificates – not only a piece of paper
The first thing you might be asked in an interview if you have ever attended a teacher training. The most common ones in Europe are: CELTA, TrinityCERT, ACELS and TEFL, but there are many others offered to teacher candidates all over the world. They all teach the basic knowledge to enter a classroom, however, due to their time limits they might not provide enough information. That you need one of these is beyond any doubt. Which one depends on many factors you need to consider:
•Where would you like to teach? If the European Union is your destination, you need a certificate that discusses the different European levels (A1-C2). This is unimportant in Asian schools.
•What basic requirements do they ask for? Being a native English speaker? (If not, check that they require a proficiency level of English). A university degree? Or even being an ENS (Educated Native Speaker)? Question any course that does not require a high level of language knowledge and education from you.
•Do they offer classroom observation and include demo lessons? These are essential parts of a teacher training. I would seriously doubt any exclusively online courses, since talking about a lesson and actually conducting it are two completely different things.
•Do they prepare you for adult teaching or (also) for YL teaching? Do you have any preferences what age to teach?
•Do they prepare you for exam preparation? If not, they will leave you lots of homework in future since most courses prepare for an exam.
•How long are they? How many hours a day do they require your presence or cooperation? Intensive courses are extremely exhausting, however, you can do them in one month, maybe in the summer and start working in the coming autumn.
•Where can you attend a course and what costs do you need to face up to? There are huge differences between prices for the same course in different cities, not mentioning rent, travel fees and cost of food.
•Do they offer reference letters or possible vacancies for the best candidates?
Mind that it often doesn’t matter what grade you obtained at the end of the course. I remember my CELTA tutor saying that he would never hire a Pass A CELTA teacher since they tend to be rigid and meticulously precise which is nerve-racking in colleagues.
Prepare for tough questions about grammar
It’s still fashionable to refuse grammar teaching and to hope that students will learn a second language the way they did with their mother tongue. All this derives from the classical debate between grammar-translation methodology and audiolinguism. It’s essential to be exposed to high level natural English and grammar should not be the main focus in lessons. However, adult students analyse language and will ask for explanations, schemes, comparisons. So being able to talk about grammar is a must for language teachers, even if they follow the communicative methodology.
Teaching Young Learners asks for a very subtile way of teaching grammar. The teacher cannot use technical language to explain a structure. But using fun names for grammar categories, playing games like the one where students represent one part of speech and standing in a line visualize which part of speech can stand at what position, etc. makes it necessary for the teacher to understand grammar rules.
So it would be ideal to grab a grammar book written either for students or for teachers and start studying grammar. It will help a lot later on, when interviewers or students start asking tricky questions.