Thursday, November 5, 2015

ESL Credentials

Someone asked me about what credentials are needed to teach English as a Second (or other) Language.
To answer the question, I'd have to know what your goals were in order to see how the certification fits the goals, 
Last person who asked me this question told me described her goal as "I want to live in Thailand and support myself teaching ESL while I volunteer to work with elephants," but I have heard people study ESL teaching for other reason, too. 
Education can help you by enabling you to do something or by giving you fancy papers that enable you to get jobs or ideally both, but they are not always the same, so . . . 
1) teach folks you know ESL. Literacy Volunteers had a good training program in 2008 when I took it and probably still does. Short, simple, good, --four evenings of training for 35$ plus a commitment on your part to be a volunteer tutor. I'd recommend it highly if it's still the same. 
2) Teach ESL while living abroad (okay, you need to remember you don't actually "travel" all the time while doing this. Often you just live abroad, hang out, commute back and forth through crazy foreign traffic, and deal with culture shock. There are pros and cons.) 
The requirements vary by country. To learn them hang out online in forums in the target country and read things like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and its competitors (Rough Trade? I think that's the name. --BTW, here's a start on the Lonely Planet youtube channel, have fun:
Some places the qualifications are "foreign" and at times offensive. i.e. no ESL training required, advanced degrees preferred, the higher degree the better, but field unimportant --i.e. PhD in Chemistry or Theology often trumps an MS in TESOL, white faces often preferred but not always -- the  part on ESL recruiting is often dead on true and Asian faces don't do much better. ) Some places no certifications are necessary. 
Do your research. 
Sometimes they want a certificate such as the Oxford. Some times and places you want to shake them and say "But you should value this! It is useful and your requirements are absurd!" and you will be 100% dead on correct but it just won't matter because it's not your country or culture and they make the decisions. (a friend of mine was quite upset when her ESL employer in Kunming China hired a French speaking Caucasian with a thick accent over her native speaking Chinese American friend. OTOH, she learned to accept such things and now has a PhD in anthropology from Cornell with most of the research done in the field in China.) Alas!
3) Teach at for profit places in the USA (Boston has several, I've worked at these. In New York State licensing requirements discourage them from starting here.) These general require a relevant MA or MS or a certificate like you have. However, they will usually keep a good teacher with a certificate over a mediocre one with an MS in TESOL. 
My experience is most of the not-for-profits want the same credentials in Boston. 
4) teach at a college ESL in the USA --MA or MS in TESOL pretty much required. Sometimes a relevant PhD. 
5) teach in public schools. Check each state's requirements. They vary widely. 
Generally a certificate like yours is officially not useful (I think) but if it comes with knowledge then it can be useful. 
i.e. for example, let's say you become a certified Massachusetts history teacher licensed to teach in that field. Suddenly the states decrees that they want all teachers to have a knowledge of  ESL and pass a test on it or take additional training. If you pass the test, bingo! you don't need to take the training. You get to move to the top of the qualified teacher list while the others need to be trained and sit at the bottom. Double bonus if you can speak Spanish! 
This really happened two years ago BTW. My understanding is a few years ago the push was for Special Ed qualifications for all Massachusetts public school teachers. Last year it was ESL. 
Again do research. 

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