Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Is a Career in Teaching English as Easy as ABC?
by Evelyn Robinson
The standard process of becoming what many refer to as a typical ‘English teacher’ is a long and arduous one. With no breaks from education and extra time spent re-sitting exams, the typical procedure takes, all in all, an extra six years on top of your compulsory academic life. Only then can the job hunt begin…
The Standard Route
This additional six years consists of: two more years of relative specialisation post sixteen academic completion, a further three years of completing a Bachelors Degree in the subject and a final year doting to extensive teacher training. The entirety of this commitment however, does not guarantee you a job at the end of the long and merciless road. Educational institutes are far keener to take you on board as a young promising, fee paying pupil, than they are to spend money employing you as a member of staff. Consider the staff to pupil ratio throughout your academic career – outside the schooling habitat the world of employment is a lot more cut throat.
English unfortunately, opposed to the sciences and even the humanities, is comparable to the arts; horribly oversubscribed. The linguistic abilities of the modern generation seem to be fast developing and ever more challenging and rigorously monitored making the market for teaching the material ever more competitive. Even after a suitable placement can be found for a potential teaching candidate, their practice is continually monitored at the beginning of their career to ensure high standards are consistently met in accordance with their achieved qualifications.
Looking for Work
Finding this suitable placement is a tricky process and no easy challenge to even the most qualified of applicants: excelling as a student by no means indicates that you will excel as a teacher. Towards the end of the training process, many institutions offer practical advice and guidance as to where to begin the hunt. Many issue their graduates with reputable recruitment sites that offer a variety of online jobs that can be applied for. In today’s day and age, online applications are by far the most common type of application which discouragingly suggests that both agencies and individual job postings are able to be all the more rigorous due to the ease at which they can administer the initial recruitment process. Beneficial to potential employees however, is the simple way in which many of these applications can be viewed and subsequently reviewed and completed. It also gives the candidate additional time to reflect and adjust their responses to questions and requested information. The interrogatives administered by many agencies and for individual posts are also similar, allowing job contenders to develop a framework that is suitable, to an extent, for most roles and can therefore be used repeatedly.
Universities recommend a number of job sites such as: TES, Schools Recruitment, FE jobs and Capita Education Resourcing. These are just a handful among the numerous sites out there with the sole aim of recruiting teachers. There is a substantial amount of assistance, especially online, that can help find English teachers work; the downside of this is that it gets in the way of jobs being advertised directly and thus limits your chances in many situations. If the agencies become saturated (whereby the most popular ones do), applicants find themselves swimming in a sea of menacing competitors that aren’t afraid to bear their teeth.
One market that currently appears devoid of such saturation, is teaching English abroad - this is potentially due to teachers leaving the country to find work. It is highly ironic that the most convenient method of job searching, using the internet from the comfort of your own home, can lead to a far than convenient job post sometimes requiring the candidate to move continent. The World Wide Web truly does live up to its name, allowing even the humble English teacher access to exciting opportunities across the globe.
Teaching English internationally as a second language has a completely different agenda to a language taught to natives. Whereas teaching English as a core subject (along with Mathematics and Science) is highly creative and dominated by subjectivity surrounding things like poetry and Shakespeare, English as a second language, is taught in a precise and pedantic, formal manner, concentrating much more on structure and grammar than the content as is required mainly in a core subject course. In addition, if you find the job hunt for teaching English to natives too disheartening, you not only have the contradictory syllabus and different teaching styles to contend with for this alternative role but you may also not be qualified. There are a multitude of acronyms that extend way beyond ‘teacher training’ that apply to numerous teaching standards and methods that qualify you to work in a variety of environments. A breakdown of the commonly recognised qualifications are as follows: TEFL - teaching English as a foreign language, TESOL - teaching English to speakers of other languages, TESL – teaching English as a second language and CELTA – certificate in English language teaching to adults. CELTA is one of the most commonly recognised qualifications for teaching English internationally and is often considered a minimum requirement for most roles.
The aforementioned qualifications highlight the point that the job market for teaching English is a lot more complex than it first appears. The consequential perplexity involved in simply being able to apply for jobs rather than actually getting them, means that prior research into available job roles and requirements for these positions is among one of the most important things to be considered before you even begin to study towards becoming an English teacher let alone seeking employment as one.
Research is also a vital component upon deciding any impending career though many overlook this when considering something supposedly as straightforward such as teaching. As pointed out above, this is a common misconception and a disastrous mistake to be made by any potential job seeker. Even if you do a lot of research and decide on your intended teaching role beforehand and obtain the correct qualifications there are still opportunities for things to go wrong. This is mostly the case when teaching abroad in other countries. Online job sites advertising such roles often fail to provide specifics such as facilities present in provided accommodation. For example, the popular teaching destination of Korea (which is widely advertised on the internet) often doesn’t have housing provided to teachers that possesses in house washing machines which is something many English and American people consider a necessity. Problems such as this are often down to overlooked cultural differences; things that we may consider a regularity in our everyday lives may be completely different in other countries. Different areas in the world have different customs, eating habits, wear different clothes or may be dominated by a particular religion. Although employees would be undertaking a teaching occupation primarily, their occupation does not alter the land they are living in and candidates must ultimately abide by native customs which could come as a great culture shock and lead to all kinds of complications if they are not prepared for every eventuality.
There are also hidden bits of information that your standard teaching recruitment site won’t mention about overseas positions, such as the difference between a private and public sector school. Whereas public sector schools pay less, their income is more stable and you know what you’re getting before entering the classroom, whereas a private school can be touch and go depending on the area. There have been reports of less reputable schools refusing to pay teachers and being late with payments, this is down to the schools being privately established and therefore regulated differently.
English teaching is a time tested reliable source of income that is highly regarded in society, it is however not as straightforward as many think is and the route to finding a suitable job can vary heavily; it is not however to be dismissed, as once settled it can be an enjoyable and exciting practice that could potentially lead you across the world on a life changing adventure that ironically teaches you much more than simply how to teach.