After spending the past two years in London and focusing on teaching online, now that Europe seems to be opening up and that I am moving to Berlin, I’ve decided to look for a teaching job face-to-face. I guess I’ve missed the classroom at least a little bit.
My first impressions – yet to be confirmed or debunked – point to high doses of ‘native-speakerism’. A brief search online shows 10/10 language schools in Berlin require native speakers to teach whatever language it is they teach.
In spite of the ongoing discussion in the ELT world around ‘native-speakerism’, Berlin seems unaware of it.
While I am still to find out how strict recruiters are, learning that being a native speaker is a requirement for employment does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and here are my reasons:
Geography (where someone was born) does not determine whether someone is or isn’t a good teacher.
Being a native speaker of a language does not qualify anybody to teach it.
I don’t know about the laws in Germany, but doesn’t this requirement hinder fair and equal employment opportunities?
I actually find it funny that in Canada, where English is one of the official languages, there is no such requirement for someone to be able to teach English, but in Germany, where English is used as a foreign language, there seems to be.
Again, these are my first impressions based on my online job search experience. I will update you when I find out more.
If you have faced ‘native-speakerism’ anywhere and would like to share, please do so.
There is a recent and very interesting post about this topic here if you would like to learn how other people have been dealing with the same issue in Europe.
And here is a more in-depth discussion by the same author.
Finally, here is another take from a different author.
***This post was originally written in August, 2021. My reality has since changed, but I find this to be an interesting and important discussion.***
There are always two sides of every coin and it wouldn’t be any different in regards to the Cambridge CELTA course. Is it worth it or would you be better off without?
I think it is worth it. My opinion is based on my experience as a CELTee and as DOS – hence involved in the hiring and training of new teachers.
My CELTee experience
The CELTA course is the first step for anyone wishing to start a career as an ESL/EFL teacher. But it is not entirely true in many countries around the world – although I will focus only on the reality of Brazil.
In 2011 I had been teaching full-time for 7 years, I had worked as an academic coordinator and I had a side gig as an assistant writer of course materials. So, no, it was not my first rodeo and I had plenty of experience under my belt.
My first reason to take the CELTA was to be able to teach in other countries such as Canada, where I was in the process of immigrating to. So, to me, regardless of my years of experience, CELTA was a necessary step that I did not take for granted. And, still, the experience turned out to be much more than I’d ever expected.
I enjoyed learning that there are other ways of doing things. I enjoyed learning the proper terminology for things I had already been doing. I enjoyed the discussion and the reflection the course afforded me. I made great friends with my fellow CELTees and found inspiration in my course tutors.
Most of all, however, I learned to vary the types of activities and interactions, to provide different types of correction and feedback, and not to be teacher-centred. I learned to analyze my own performance and find opportunities for improvement every single time.
Yeah, perhaps as I already had experience as a teacher, I was able to take things a step further, to try different things, to push the bar. So I’d say the course, to me, was very beneficial – not in spite of my previous experience, but because of it.
My CELTA certificate with a pass with grade A certainly made it easier for me to land my first teaching job in Toronto less than a month upon arrival. But even if I had not left Brazil, the experience would have been just as valuable. Knowledge is (always) power, no matter what nay-sayers might claim.
My experience hiring and training teachers
In Canada – at least where I worked – things work a bit different from Brazil. The hiring process, for one, holds very few similarities. Résumés are screened and promising candidates are called in for an interview (before COVID-19). This interview might include a test or the planning of a lesson, or both. Successful candidates are then hired, onboarded and off they go.
There is no training on methodology, for example. And this is because candidates are expected to hold a CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL, TESOL, or TEFL certificate. These are teacher training programs. In Canada, TESOL and CELTA are the most common ones. CertTESOL and TEFL are more common in Europe. You can read more about this here.
So, yeah, if you are thinking about teaching in Canada, Europe, Australia, etc, you will need a teaching certificate.
What I’ve noticed, however, is that although TESOL does prepare novice teachers for the classroom, the CELTA is more complete and seems to be more demanding. For the employer, it is preferable to have teachers whose knowledge is more in-depth rather than those whose knowledge barely scratches the surface.
But what about the other side of the coin?
If you live and work in a place where a teaching certificate is not mandatory, you might choose to do other courses that may be as instructional as (or even more than) a CELTA, for example. However, if where you live or want to live does require certification, well, in that case there isn’t much of a choice.
Given the choice between programs, I’d go for the CELTA, but I am biased. I found the experience extremely rewarding and it afforded me the opportunity to easily find a teaching position in Toronto.
In the end, how much you learn always depends on how much you put in.
You can find more information about the CELTA course here.
The Cambridge Delta is a modular diploma which can be taken in or out of sequence, at any time, at any place.
Module 1 (M1) comprises an extensive knowledge test. Module 2 (M2) consists of 4 papers, teaching 4 lessons and writing post-lesson reflections, 3 professional development plans, plus an experimental teaching practice. Module 3 (M3) focuses on a specialism and candidates must turn in a rather comprehensive paper on the topic of their choosing.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from taking M2.
1. Practice makes a difference
Delta M2 assesses candidates’ (deltees’, if you will) lessons: research, planning, delivery and reflection. I haven’t taught groups in 6 years.
As the DOS in a large school, my busy days did not allow me to be in the classroom as a teacher – even though I would observe classes frequently and work on professional development with the teachers I oversaw.
Besides, for the last 3 years – since leaving the school – I have been teaching one-to-one lessons almost exclusively. So you can imagine how ‘classroom-rusty’ I must have been.
Had I had the opportunity to teach a group while taking M2, my observed lessons would probably have felt less challenging. As it was, I didn’t have the opportunity to test my ideas, theories and lesson plans before being assessed on them. There was no ‘trial and error’.
Practice may or may not make it perfect, but it does make a difference.
2. Let your voice be heard
Each lesson to be taught involves a background essay (or paper) which covers your reasons for teaching a particular topic – be it system or skill.
When I first heard the word ‘essay’, I conjured up images of super-formal writing pieces in which one should appear to be as detached and impersonal as possible. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is imperative that the candidate show their voice, share their experience in this essay. Therefore, the first person should be used, i.e.: I tend to agree with; in my experience; that is why I have chosen; etc.
Cambridge wants to ‘hear’ what you have to say, not just what so-and-so do (ok, here I really mean all the authors and reference material that you will have to cite – by the way, be prepared to read a lot and add many in-text citations). Make sure your voice seeps through your words.
3. Stay curious
As in any course, how much you will take from it depends entirely on you. The amount of reading that needs to be done is gargantuan, so it is easy to want to stay on the surface. Yeah, doing so might work and get you a pass. But, really, wouldn’t it be nice to also learn something while going through the whole thing?
I managed to get merit and distinction on my lesson plans/background essays by asking the questions for which I really wanted the answers. Stay curious.
4. Simple does it
My M2 was 100% online, which meant lessons were delivered and observed/assessed online as well. I am sure at this point we are all aware of the limitations – and of the advantages – of teaching groups online.
Well, it turns out that the more gimmicky the lesson is, the less of your teaching skills you are showcasing, the less of the students you are listening to. Don’t hide yourself behind 43 slides: students can’t really see you and you sure can’t see them.
The more ‘external’ apps, pages, tools you use, the more transition time you need. This means you will also have less time to do all you have planned for in the lesson. This also could mean you might lose your students’ attention.
In true ‘more-is-less’ fashion, know that simple does it.
5. The student is the reason for it all
Well, it’s not that I didn’t know it before, it’s just that I took it for granted. Every single thing that happens in the classroom is because of the student. Why you choose to teach a certain lexical set, skill, grammar point is because of your students.
It also should be reflected in the classroom. It is imperative to be responsive to students’ contributions, especially when they link to what you have taught, are teaching or will teach. Failing to do so may be the difference between pass and fail or merit and distinction.
In real life we, as teachers, sometimes choose not to address a comment a student makes because it might take our lesson a different route. Well, for Delta it is definitely not the best policy.
Until very recently, I was not too keen on repetition. Any kind of repetition. And that was probably due to my own lack of connection with what was being discussed in the ELT community.
I had bigger fish to fry, in a sense. I was the DOS of a large language school in Toronto, I had to manage 20 academic staff members, over 150 teachers and 3 thousand students spread across 5 campuses. Saying that my plate was full was an understatement and, even though I longed to be more involved in the academic part of the academic department, a large component of my workload was to handle the business side of the learning.
It wasn’t until I left my job with the school and began – again – my own journey of self-discovery as a teacher, as an ELT professional – not just as a manager – that I was able to start learning again. And one of the things that I have learned is that task repetition IS effective.
Hear me out.
Whenever surveyed, learners of English tend to name speaking as their biggest hurdle in achieving so-called fluency – or even some level of independence when communicating English. But why is that so? Why is it that speaking remains as one of the most elusive skills to attain?
I’ve spent quite some time trying to find a possible answer to the question and, honestly, there might be tens or hundreds of different possibilities. However, what struck me was the fact that we, as teachers, might not be creating enough opportunities for our learners to use language in a ‘language-using situation’ as opposed to ‘language-learning situations’ (Bygate, 1987).
What it means is that although there are plenty of speaking opportunities in the classroom, most of this speaking is geared towards learning the language rather than using the language in a way that resembles the real-world. Granted, task repetition is generally not a feature of real life – after all, how many second chances do we get? But what if we could, at least, give learners purpose?
I’ve come across the teaching-speaking cycle (Got and Burns, 2012) and have had the chance to test it. It is, indeed, quite helpful in getting learners to test using the language, to notice the gap between what they can do and what they need to do, and to build on it to improve their own performances during task repetition.
My initial fears that repeating a task would be boring were unfounded and performance as a whole did improve from the first to the second run of the task. Not only did learners’ output become more accurate, it also became more complex and more fluent.
What I am saying is that, yes, I get it, it is not always possible to work on speaking as a stand-alone skill, but sometimes we can step outside of our comfort zone and try something new. If you do find yourself at this place, I strongly recommend giving this framework a go. It is fun, it is student-centred and it is empowering (for the students).
Bygate, M. (1987) Speaking. Oxford University Press.
Goh, C.C.M. and Burns, A. (2012) Teaching speaking: a holistic approach. Cambridge University Press.
There is much discussion around how to deliver feedback. Some talk about the sandwich approach, others believe in going straight to the point, and a few dress cruelty up as honesty and have lots of fun making mean comments on other people’s work or performance.
When somebody is receiving feedback, they likely feel vulnerable, unsure of how well they performed. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and some people might believe themselves above feedback and beyond reproach.
Assuming you are giving feedback to the former, not the latter, it is a good idea to keep that person’s feelings in mind. Being empathetic is always a good policy in my books. But it doesn’t mean there’s poetic license to flout the truth. I guess good feedback lies in the intersection of honesty and empathy.
For any kind of feedback to be effective, it has to be clear. When things need improving, well, there is no sugarcoating that: they need to be improved. On the other hand, it is also important to acknowledge the positive points and offer support and encouragement.
As someone who appreciates receiving feedback, I can say that clarity is essential. Always make sure to pinpoint exactly what needs improvement, how it can be achieved and why it is needed.
Giving feedback doesn’t necessarily require a magic formula. It just needs three ingredients:
The title might sound a bit conceited; however, I promise the content you are about to read is not. I have recently received my Delta Module One (M1) test results and thought the journey that led me to it might be worth sharing.
When I first started the 14-week online course, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Yes, I expected Delta to be difficult. I expected to have to put in the work. But I really did not start on the right foot: I hadn’t done my research.
I knew M1 was a knowledge test and I knew there were two papers. And, yet, for some reason, I didn’t see the preparation course as a test prep course – at least not at first. The amount of content we were expected to cover weekly was overwhelming, especially since I didn’t have time to properly digest it, bounce ideas off anyone, or even test my assumptions. It was quite a lonely process.
Two weeks in, we started having live test prep sessions. That’s when I began to fully grasp the magnitude of it all. That’s when I realized that passing the test was not a given. Still, I seemed to not have woken up to the fact that I should be preparing for the test, not simply acquiring knowledge. And, honestly, there was no way I would be able to absorb the sheer amount of information I was being presented with in meager three months.
I also fell off the wagon when a trip kind of set me back two weeks – my doing, honestly, and very irresponsible of me. Suddenly I found myself having to study twice as hard simply to cover the content – let alone make sense of any of it.
I must have seemed very out of my depth to my peers at times. And I was. I was having trouble finding my tone in the test prep and the first two mock tests resulted in disappointing performances. I felt like a fraud and began to prepare myself for having to retake the test in the following year.
Okay, I am sort of a drama queen. But halfway through the course I really was convinced it would be a mighty accomplishment to simply meet the 50% mark in order to pass the exam and be able to forget how stressful prepping for it had been.
That’s when I realized I might be doing it all wrong – or partly wrong. The first thing I did was to begin a “lexical notebook” of sorts with the terminology I would be quizzed on in Paper 1 tasks 1 and 2. In order to accomplish this, I strongly recommend reading The New A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury even before the start of the course.
Another mighty read is About Language, also by Scott Thornbury. It offers an overview of English as a language taught all over the world and how we, as teachers, approach it. Of course there is a lot more to read and these two books only scratch the surface of it. But they are, indeed, essential.
Apart from all the knowledge I needed to acquire if I wanted to pass the test, I also needed test-taking strategies. And this is, I think, what really made the difference when it came to writing the test.
Cambridge seems to be very particular regarding what they expect from a teacher at the Delta level. In order to be successful, thus, it is imperative to understand what those requirements are and how to meet them. Check all available test reports – apparently they don’t go beyond 2015, but there may be other ways of getting more recent ones (ask your tech savvy friend) – and take note of how candidates phrased their answers.
Take mock tests. Do and redo them. As a teacher, I would probably avoid having my students do the same exam practice task over and over again. As a student, that’s exactly what I did: I redid the mock tests a couple of times, at least. This helped me feel confident in phrasing my answers the way Cambridge expected. It also helped me recall terminology and recognize patterns.
Last, but not least, do your own analysis of textbooks. One of the tasks is to take a look at a chapter of a textbook and analyze purpose of the task, author’s assumptions, application to the student, reasons, and the relationship between tasks considering the level of the students. This is one of the tasks that holds most marks in Paper 2.
Finally, as in any test, the Module 1 knowledge test will focus on a fraction of all the ELT content you are required to know. So there is definitely an amount of luck involved in the sense that the test might ask the questions to which you know the answers. The more answers you have, the better your chances to perform well.
I hope this helps. And feel free to drop me a line if you think I might be able to help you in any way.
As you may know, teaching a foreign language is no small feat. It involves deeper knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, phonology, discourse and functions. It also involves methodology, training, practice, experience and vocation – though teaching anything also requires these.
Now imagine teaching a language that is foreign to you in a country where that very language is the official one. Yep, I guess you get my drift.
So this has been my reality for the past 8 years. And this blog is about what it felt like to me in particular. It may feel differently to different people.
Language Proficiency and Certifications
As part of teacher knowledge, it is probably a good idea to have a proficient level of English if you are teaching English, regardless of your place of birth. While you might not need to prove it, it is always easier to make a point if you have evidence to back it up.
Another box to check is the ‘certification’ one. Again, this has nothing to do with which language one speaks: everyone is required to have a TESL certificate to be able to teach ESL in Canada.
Preconceptions and Misconceptions
Native-speakerism is alive and well, sadly. It is the (mis)conception that native speakers of a language make better teachers. You can read more about it here.
It would be naive to think that such “ideology” would have no place in Canada, although I must admit it is a very inclusive country. Still, regardless of my qualifications, certifications and experience, I ended up feeling that there was that extra bit to prove.
Fortunately, there were only two instances where my knowledge or ability as a teacher was questioned by students. The first was right when I first started and it had more to do with the fact that the student didn’t want to do any work than my ability to deliver. I did go to my DOS when I felt something wasn’t going well and had his support 100% through the process.
The second one was quite interesting. It was a more mature student from my home country. We had been having classes for a week and she was quite happy with it all until she learnt that we were both from the same place. She requested to change classes to a “native teacher” immediately and explained to me it was nothing personal. The funny thing was that a couple of other students took offence and were quick to let me know what they really thought about that other student.
Being a good teacher has nothing to do with the place where you were born. I’ve previously discussed whether being a native speaker has any bearing on being a good teacher here.
My fellow teachers, for the most part, were welcoming and tended to take it for granted that I was exactly where I should be. That, of course, apart from the couple of times that the second question they’d ask me – after “how are you” – was “where are you from?”. I’ve also discussed the impact of this seemingly innocuous question here.
Accents and names
People sometimes equate accent to knowledge (or lack thereof) and this is extremely unfair – to say the least. First off, everybody has an accent: Australians do, Neo Zealanders do, South Africans do, Canadians do, the Welsh do, the Irish and the Scottish do, North Americans do and so do the English (and all others who speak English as L1).
Accents indicate identity. Accents make you unique. Accents have nothing to do with knowledge.
Now, incorrect pronunciation may be a different story; however, not every slip means lack of knowledge or lack of proficiency. Newsflash: native speakers may mispronounce words too. Nobody is infallible.
Even more appalling is the way that teachers with anglicized names may be preferred over others. Hundreds of years have passed and little have we learnt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Canada is a country that welcomes and incentivizes immigration; it is a place where speaking a second language is almost a given. This means the workplace is made up of people of different backgrounds.
Canadians and new Canadians share the workplace in pretty much any industry that there is. There are plenty of Canadian trained teachers as well as internationally trained teachers. Nationality is not (or should not be) a determining factor in the hiring process. And I can say for a fact that where I used to work, teachers were hired based on their training, experience and knowledge regardless of their place of birth.
In the end, in spite of the hurdles, in spite of my grappling with an impostor syndrome (anyone else?), in spite of working extra hard, the message I want to convey is that it is possible to be successful as an ESL teacher in an English-speaking country regardless of your place of birth. Just don’t give up and don’t give in.
Melissa has been working in ELT for nearly 20 years and holds an IELTS, a CPE, a CELTA and a Delta M1.
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 qualifiedESL 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:
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.
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.
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.
While I can’t talk about the requirements to teach in every corner of the world, I can talk about what’s needed to teach ESL in Canada.
When I first landed in Canada, 8 years ago, I got a job teaching ESL right away. Honestly, when I started my job search, I didn’t really know whether my training and certifications would be enough to land me a job teaching, let alone the need to completely revamp my resume.
After spending 3 years as a teacher in that school, I took the role of Director of Studies, which helped me better understand what the requirements for teaching ESL in Canada were.
Requirements to teach ESL in Canada
The first thing you need is the right to work. Although I know it might deflate some of you, it is extremely unlikely that any language school in Canada should extend a job offer to someone who doesn’t yet have the right to work.
There are different types of work permits and, if you are interested in learning more about them, your best bet is either to consult with a registered immigration consultant or to check the Immigration Canada website.
I know there are many consultants out there, so choosing one might seem a bit daunting. If it helps, my friends Carol and Leo from Dreamies do an excellent job. Check them out.
One of the requirements to be able to teach ESL in Canada is to hold a Bachelor’s Degree. And it doesn’t matter whether you graduated in Political Science, Applied Linguistics or Engineering: it’s all good.
Now, the catch is that, if your diploma was issued by an institution outside of Canada, you need to make sure to provide a Canadian Equivalency Report to your employer.
One of the places where you can get it done is the World Education Services (WES). They offer a quick check for free – to make sure your University and your program qualify. Some language schools in Canada may accept that as proof of equivalency but others may not.
TESL Canada and Languages Canada are two associations that seek to promote excellence in teaching and service in the field of Language Teaching in Canada. Both organizations uphold similar requirements for ESL teachers: completion of a recognized TESL training program which must be:
externally validated by a reputable examination body (usually a university or recognized examination board)
contain at least 10 hours of supervised teaching practice (ie teaching practice where a qualified and standardized assessor observes the trainee teacher teaching real students and gives feedback on his or her performance)
and 10 hours of observation of professional teachers
at least 100 hours of ELT/TESOL instruction
Examples: CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL, Certificates issued by Canadian Universities or Colleges, TESOL, TEFL
Now that you know the requirements to land a job teaching ESL in Canada, is it something you would consider?
What it’s like to teach ESL in Canada: places of employment, teaching schedules, classroom, students, materials and more.
When I first started teaching English as a foreign language in the early 2000s, it never occurred to me it could take me to different places in the world. Now I know it is not only possible, it is quite common.
Teaching abroad means different things to different people. My take on it is based on my personal experience as someone who has been living and teaching abroad for the past 8 years.
Where is abroad?
While we all agree that abroad is any country other than your own, for the purpose of this article, abroad will be used to refer to either of the following:
countries whose first language is not English
countries whose first language is English
The reason for the distinction is that requirements, workload, students, cultures do differ from country to country and, while it might seem obvious, it is not.
Teaching in Asia, Europe (except the UK and Malta) and Latin America
English is taught as a foreign language (EFL) in countries where English is not an official language. This means students’ contact with the target language might be restricted to a few of hours a week within the classroom setting.
Usually, English is an extra-curricular activity and learners might frequent classes before or after work, for example. Evening and weekend classes are quite popular among adult students. Practice, like I said, may be restricted to the classroom only, which might not rate high on the motivation scale.
Another thing to consider is that learners likely belong to the same cultural group and to share the same mother tongue. In such contexts, translation or the use of the students’ L1 is not uncommon.
Teaching in English-speaking countries
In English speaking countries, English is taught to speakers of other languages as a second language (ESL) rather than a foreign one. This means the language spoken outside of the classroom is English.
The learner profile may also vary in these countries: from immigrants to international students. And this translates into a multicultural classroom with speakers of different languages whose common denominator is English. In this context, translation or the use of the students’ L1 is less common and, likely, impractical.
On the flip side, practice is constant and it may be highly motivating, as students can put their learning to the test simply by doing everyday activities, such as grocery shopping, asking and giving instructions, taking public transport, watching TV and so forth.
Now that we know where abroad is and who the students are, we can discuss the minimum requirements for anyone who’d like to teach abroad.