Teaching in Canada: what to expect

Before we get started, please note that this blog reflects my personal experience and may not reflect the current world situation – pandemic.

There are basically two types of (adult) learners in a country such as Canada: those who need the language in order to live there (English as a Second Language – ESL) and those who travel for an immersive experience in language learning (international students). We will talk about the latter in this article.

Language schools abound in Canada, especially in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. This means there is constant demand for qualified ESL teachers.

Language schools abound in Canada, especially in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. This means there is constant demand for qualified ESL teachers, which is a quite positive prospect if you are considering a move to the “True North”.

Not every school works the same; however, these are the important aspects to keep in mind:

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com
  • The students – international students have different reasons for coming to Canada to study English: some wish to start college or university, some need to brush up their skills, others want to experience life abroad and so forth. Your students may be young adults or even much more mature. At times, younger and older learners may even share the same classroom, the same groups.
  • The nationality mix – variety is the spice of life and it is particularly true in the international language school setting. Some schools receive student from as many as 80 different countries around the world.
  • Cultural diversity – sometimes cultural beliefs clash and teachers need to manage a lot more than the pace and flow of a class. Being culturally sensitive is paramount to the successful ESL teacher.
  • The class cycle – in countries like Brazil, English classes are usually held twice a week for 90 minutes at a time. Surely it varies, but it is safe to say it is pretty much the norm. In Canada, classes may last up to 4.5 hours five times a week. The implication is that the teacher who would have to prepare for 3 hours of class per week (with the same group – and has different groups simultaneously), now has to prepare for over 22 hours per week. Yep, this is quite intensive!
  • The curriculum – as students have more class time per week, they also burn through textbooks and materials at a much faster pace. In certain schools, a textbook would be covered from beginning to end in 4 months.
  • The courses – main classes, that is, the core courses – usually go from General English, Test Preparation and Business English to English for Academic Purposes, which is a highly sought after course often part of a program called ‘University Pathways’.
  • Vacations – in Canada, employees have the right to take 10 vacation days per calendar year. This number does not include weekends and holidays. So if you are thinking about living in Canada, you’d better brace yourself for the much less generous vacation time.
  • Sick days – it varies from employer to employer, but some schools offer up to 5 paid sick days per year. Unlike countries such as Brazil where you need to prove to your employer that you were sick and required to stay at home (with a doctor’s note), in Canada you don’t have to. However, you likely won’t be paid for a sixth or seventh day off due to illness.
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

This, of course, is a brief overview of what it is like to work as an ESL teacher in a language school in Toronto. Feel free to contact me if you would like any details on the subject.

Coming up:

Being a non-native English teacher in an English-speaking country.

Looking for a job? A good place to start is checking which schools are members of Languages Canada and contacting them directly. You can find this list here.

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