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  1. #1
    SqueakyJeep is offline Newbie
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    Default Should I teach at all?

    Hello. This is more of a question regarding the actual activity of teaching abroad rather than specific certificates and methods and such.


    About 10 years ago I started to self-learn Russian. I did that for about a year and stopped. Now about a year ago I spent a month in Eastern Europe bouncing around various cities in Poland and Ukraine. There only about 35% of people speak any English. Less in Ukraine. My slim 1 year of self study of Slavic languages greatly helped me navigate and operate in those countries.


    I really want to go back for an indefinite period of time. While in Ukraine, I met an American guy who teaches English and he recommended this website. Although my main goal is to learn a Slavic language, I can't think of any better way to stay there and not drain my bank account than to have a job. A TEFL job seems suitable since I am a native American English speaker (with a very clear accent). While I was in Poland and Ukraine I had the opportunity to casually correct the speech of the people I met (they asked me to, I'm not that rude).


    I have a university degree in mechanical engineering and am a few years out of school. I do not have a job at this time and currently live with my over-controlling parents. So of course I am desperate to eject from that situation.


    I am confident in my ability to correct spoken and written sentences, along with pronunciation. But I am not very confident in the exacting rules and terminology of English. Of course in school I studied prepositions, adverbs, proper nouns, and other elementary grammar. I can correct people, and give a casual elementary explanation, but I can't point to a specific grammar rule.


    I have researched various certificates and one that stands out the CELTA, which has a local teaching center in my city. There are also TEFL course at local colleges that are spread out over a semester instead of jam packed in 4 weeks. I don't know which one I should take. The local university courses are $1000 less and spread out. I hear the CELTA course is akin to the Navy SEALS 'Hell Week' in terms of intensiveness, which I think is extremely detrimental to retaining knowledge. But are local university courses widely accredited?
    I have heard of other teaching English opportunities that are less grammar orientated and focus a lot more on speaking. I think it's called the "Callahan" method or something starting with a "C". I saw some banners advertising for those kinds of schools while I was there. But I have read online that it is totally looked down upon as an ineffective method, as you are just yelling phrases at students.


    My ultimate goal is to learn a Slavic language and become familiar with the culture. In Poland, the kids I partied with considered me an honorary native Pole due to my heritage lol. Since that is my ultimate goal, I am not sure if teaching English is for me, especially plopping down $2500 on an intensive class with no refunds upon failure.


    I know that there are less intense courses, but they may less accepted too. What should I do? The CELTA course in my city is 4 or 5 months away and the local university's TEFL courses are in less than a week! I do think I would enjoy teaching, but I am not super passionate about it. I don't know if a career in it is for me though. I overhear tons of people talking about how their brother or sister are teaching English abroad, not sure what qualifications they have, but they don't seem to have a problem.


    One of the most important things I would like answered about the CELTA and teaching English abroad in general is:

    How important is the grammar? Are we to expected to train the students to write at journalist levels or something? Are we expected ourselves to be at perfect, front page of New York Times grammatically correct levels? I'd prefer to not be so exacting and intense. While in Ukraine I hanged out with a Ukrainian I met, who was a part time English tutor to children... and needless to say she was very sloppy in her own English speaking ability, yet still was an English tutor. I'm just wondering how good is good? I'm extremely far from a professional writer and my knowledge of grammar rules is lacking. I guess an analogy of my expected English teaching ability would be compare it Jesse Pinkman's meth cooking ability on the show Breaking Bad. He knows how to cook good meth, but doesn't know the ins and outs like the professional chemist Walter White.

    I don't really care about being a teacher in a prestigious tier one school abroad. I would be extremely happy just to be teaching children in a cheap suburban school in a small city/town. The only living standards I require are high speed internet, my own private room where my privacy and personal space will be respected (not possible while living with parents), and a motorcycle. :)

    I know CELTA is considered a a high quality certification, but I know it is not necessary. Is the grammar part really that hard? 'I' before 'C' except after 'E' is about the only actual grammar rule I can remember, along with making contractions. But as as you can tell from this long winded post I am making, the I am quite adept as a native English speaker/writer. Much more so than a lot of the casual internet postings I read written by modern young urban Americans.
    Last edited by SqueakyJeep; 08-Jan-2014 at 06:46.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    Some native speakers without any formal teaching qualifications find teaching jobs, and a few of them turn out to be reasonably good teachers. However, unless they are simply going to have informal conversation classes with one or two people at a time, most people with no qualification give a pretty poor service. Even the month-long CELTA and Trinity course, the only ones really recognised in Europe, claim only to be beginning qualifications.

    95% or more of the trainees I worked with when I was a teacher trainer were pretty useless as teachers at the start of the course.

    Many non-CELTA/Trinity courses are actually quite good - and some are appalling!. There is unfortunately no way of being sure. The fact remains that many reputable schools will accept you as a beginning teacher only if you have a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL. If you wish to work for yourself, then it is possible to find students who don't worry about formal qualifications. Whether you work this way and give value for money is for you and your conscience to decide.

    How important is the grammar?
    Whether or not teachers should teach grammar formally to people who wish to learn to communicate in the language is something about which there is no general agreement.. However, even if you are a fan of communicative approaches with no formal grammar, you will find that many of your learners are use to having grammar explained, and will demand answers to questions about grammar. Even if you decide not to teach grammar formally, you will find that you need a sound knowledge of grammar in order to be able to present structures meaningfully.

    Are we to expected to train the students to write at journalist levels or something?
    What you teach your learners and how you teach it depends on their needs. If they wish to pass some internationally recognised examination such as those offered by Cambridge or TOEFL, then for the higher levels, they will need to have a sound understanding of reasonably formal English.

    I don't really care about being a teacher in a prestigious tier one school abroad. I would be extremely happy just to be teaching children in a cheap suburban school in a small city/town.
    If you are teaching children, whose future may depend on their English language skills. you have even more of a responsibility to make sure that you know what to teach and how to teach it. Note, too, that teaching children is usually far more demanding than teaching adults. CELTA, and many of the other courses on offer are designed to train people to teach adults, and are not very useful for people who wish to teach children. There is also the point that many state schools will not employ teachers without a state-recognised teaching qualification; the month-long courses, including CELTA, are not state-recognised.

    It seems to me that your main interest is in finding an escape from life with your parents rather than in teaching. You may be able to find teaching work - some untrained people do - and you may even be successful. However, I think this is unlikely. Most people who wish to learn English prefer to be taught by people who have a real interest in, and some real knowledge of, both teaching and English.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    Quote Originally Posted by SqueakyJeep View Post
    I know that there are less intense courses, but they may less accepted too. What should I do? The CELTA course in my city is 4 or 5 months away and the local university's TEFL courses are in less than a week! I do think I would enjoy teaching, but I am not super passionate about it. I don't know if a career in it is for me though. I overhear tons of people talking about how their brother or sister are teaching English abroad, not sure what qualifications they have, but they don't seem to have a problem.
    The CELTA is the most recognised basic training course around. Others may be enough, but this is the one that is most asked for in job adverts and that opens the most doors.

    Quote Originally Posted by SqueakyJeep View Post
    How important is the grammar? Are we to expected to train the students to write at journalist levels or something? Are we expected ourselves to be at perfect, front page of New York Times grammatically correct levels? I'd prefer to not be so exacting and intense.
    You could be, but the majority of ESL teaching is not at this level, and those who are teaching at this level are generally very experienced teachers.

  4. #4
    SqueakyJeep is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    A few more questions.

    What is a usual TEFL job like in the field? How long is your average day? Is it a usual 8 hour day and you have several groups of people come in at different times? Or is it like a university class where the professor normally only teaches 3 or so hour long classes throughout the day and just spends the rest of his time in an office? How many students are normally assigned to you? Do people tag-team with a speaker of the student's native language?


    I'm used to taking engineering and math classes, where there is usually only 1 correct answer to a question. Is the CELTA the same way? I've looked at some practice problems on this forum and it seems like some of the questions could have multiple correct answers with regards on how to order and word a sentence correctly and still have the same meaning.

    Why does the CELTA have to be so hard and intensive? Isn't the purpose of the program to groom you into becoming a successful teacher? Just because something is intense with long hours does not mean it is quality material. Do the CELTA organizers think that the more intense and stressful a program is, the better a trainee will learn? I think most people learn best when they are not losing sleep and getting stressed out. I don't look at a program and say "Wow, those trainees are mentally bruised, stressed out the to max, and can barely remember the content taught to them a week ago due to the intense long hours and immediate new material with no refresher.... must be a great quality program which will produce quality professionals."
    Last edited by SqueakyJeep; 08-Jan-2014 at 18:09.

  5. #5
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    There is no such thing a a 'usua'l TEFL job. Many beginning teachers find that they may have to be prepared to teach whenever required between 07.30 and 21.00, and often have to travel across town from lesson to lesson. In most countries you teach on your own, but you may be teamed with a local teacher in some countries.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  6. #6
    Esgaleth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    Quote Originally Posted by SqueakyJeep View Post
    Why does the CELTA have to be so hard and intensive? Isn't the purpose of the program to groom you into becoming a successful teacher? Just because something is intense with long hours does not mean it is quality material. Do the CELTA organizers think that the more intense and stressful a program is, the better a trainee will learn? I think most people learn best when they are not losing sleep and getting stressed out.
    What makes you think CELTA is really stressful? It might be called intensive because they have to cover an awful lot of everything but you are not supposed to take an exam on every point touched upon in class. As for the 'long hours' you mentioned, 120-135 minutes is a fairly average class duration, and there are generally two daily classes with some free time in between for self-study. If your timing is still something to master, you will feel uncomfortable but is it not typical of any high school? These four weeks can be very enjoyable provided one is keen enough on teaching to appreciate it.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Should I teach at all?

    Quote Originally Posted by SqueakyJeep View Post
    What is a usual TEFL job like in the field? How long is your average day? Is it a usual 8 hour day and you have several groups of people come in at different times? Or is it like a university class where the professor normally only teaches 3 or so hour long classes throughout the day and just spends the rest of his time in an office? How many students are normally assigned to you? Do people tag-team with a speaker of the student's native language?
    One problem with ESL teaching can be split timetables. Because many learners want lessons outside work, a lot of schools have evening classes, so you could start in the afternoon and finish mid-evening. It's very unlikely to be like a university class- teachers are often paid by the hour, so they get paid for classes taught. Numbers vary, often with the economic conditions. A nice size would be around 12, but many places can be bigger than that. In some countries classes can be huge. Tag-teaching with a local teacher happens in some educational systems, but in most private language schools, you will be the only teacher.

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