How to break into teacher training
Summary: Some tips on moving into teacher training
Maybe because it is the most obvious next step for an experienced and ambitious teacher who still wants to do something related to teaching rather than stepping into management, over the years I must have met 20 times as many teachers who wanted to be teacher trainers as people who ever managed to find a full time job doing it. That demand and the lack of a standard qualification for teacher trainers means that it can be very difficult to break into teacher training, and many of the teacher trainers I know relied somewhat on luck to do so. As such, none of the suggestions below are guaranteed to work- but all of them are guaranteed to improve your chances over sitting and waiting, or over taking one of the very dubious online qualifications for teacher trainers:
- Get a teaching job in a school that gives teacher training
Many of the teacher trainers I know got into the field this way, and a good proportion of them did so by getting a job teaching at the same school where they got their own initial training. As trainee numbers change a lot month by month and teacher trainers often have other commitments like giving workshops at national conferences, if you teaching in such a school long enough you are bound to get some relevant experience sooner or later, if only by having your classes observed by trainees. As well as volunteering for this, you can also make the fact that you are ready and willing to step up to giving a few input sessions etc. clear by: giving the trainees informal advice when they are planning their lessons in the teacher's room, pretending to be a student for trainees to practice their lessons or needs analysis on, or volunteering to talk to the trainees about getting a job and working in the places you know about. Most of the tips in "Be ready" below are also relevant to this.
- Persuade your school to set up a teacher training course
The business arguments for setting up a course like the CELTA are pretty compelling for schools. The trainees pay up front for a 4 week intensive course, and the demand is often greatest during periods that are slack for normal teaching like August. If you can give this little sales pitch to your school, or give the agent for a teaching qualification or teaching qualification franchise your boss's number and let them do the hard sell, you might find yourself with a teacher training job. This method (more or less) worked for me- twice! In order to be the one who is top of the candidate list for teacher training jobs when that opportunity comes, set up (or suggest your boss sets up) internal workshops in your school as soon as you can, contribute a lot during other teachers' workshops, give workshops yourself, or suggest good workshop topics. See "Be ready" below for more tips on this.
- Become a manager
Strangely, one of the best ways of getting the right experience to be a teacher trainer instead of an EFL manager is to start by taking a job as an EFL manager. A DoS job is often easier to find than a teacher trainer one, due to the fact every school needs one, and many of the things you will do in your role could be relevant to teacher training. To make sure that you get enough out of your management job to be able to get out of management, you will need a role where you can concentrate on the relevant things. The first point to keep in mind is to look for a position where there is someone above you who takes on most of the more commercial tasks such as marketing, e.g. a managing director, school manager or school principal. This should free you up to do the things you need on your CV: observations, advice for teachers, choosing and organising teaching materials, setting up and giving workshops, level checking (vital for making sure that trainee teachers don't have to deal with mixed level classes), and evaluation of and feedback to teachers.
- Take a step down and back
Most people who are searching for a teacher training job are looking for a step up in their career, and are therefore at the same time looking to move to well known schools full of DELTA and MA qualified teachers where they are treated like a professional. If teacher training is your main aim, this could actually be a mistake. In fact, if you want to be at the front of the queue for any teacher training opportunities or relevant experience that comes up, you need to make sure that in your school you are by far the best qualified person for the job- which can mean choosing a school where the other teachers are less so. For example, many Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in Japan get to do some teacher training just due to being the only native speaker in their school, and I know of a fair few people who have been able to use this experience to get into teacher training full time. Due to the low pay and sometimes difficult working or living conditions, the same thing can be true with volunteer jobs like VSO.
- Be at the right place at the right time
Here is where luck really comes in, but you can also give your luck a little help. Almost every teacher training course I know of needs to temporarily fill a teacher trainer post at least once every two years. This is especially true for schools in London and Europe in August, but is also true for other schools and other times due to maternity leave etc. Even if you are not in that school ready and waiting to step up to teacher training as suggested above, it is sometimes possible to get into those positions due to the teachers who already work there leaving in August too or not being sufficiently qualified for the job. The secret to taking advantage of this little crack of opportunity is to throw your net as wide as possible. For example, send your CV to every school with a teacher training course in Europe, letting them know that you are also interested in temporary positions, or even jobs that combine a few hours of teacher training with a mainly teaching role. I know people who have used this method to get themselves into temporary positions that in the end they never had to leave, or to get their first bit of teacher training experience and the connections to get other full time jobs after.
- Be ready
Finally, if you manage to find one of the opportunities above, you need to be the most obvious candidate to take it. As well as a fabulous array of teaching qualifications (e.g. the exact same qualification as you are going to be training people for, then a Diploma, then an MA with a teacher training component), try to get as much experience of observations, giving and attending workshops, and writing for beginner teachers as you can.