The perfect CV and cover letter for a TEFL young learners teacher
Summary: What you need to include if you are applying to teach young learners
Almost as much as Business English teaching, teaching English as a foreign language to children is something that most people get into without having taken a specific specialist qualification. This can make writing your CV for a job teaching kids abroad or in summer school for foreign kids at home rather difficult, but gives a real advantage to those that do have relevant qualifications and/ or can use the two pages of their CV to show that they have exactly what it takes to do precisely the job that is advertised. Here are some tips to help you get the right qualifications and experience, and make the qualifications and experience you already have look just right to your prospective employer.
Education and qualifications
The perfect CV for a job teaching English as a foreign language to kids (meaning teaching children in their country or while they are visiting England or America for a summer school, rather than teaching kids who are living long term in an English speaking country) would usually include a professional qualification in teaching kids of the same age, for example a qualification for teaching in state schools in your own country such as a PGCE. This is because none of the common TEFL qualifications really teach enough about childhood development etc to make schools 100% reassured about leaving you in sole control of the children. As TEFL is not a state school subject, the (almost) perfect subject of your PGCE etc. would be TESL (teaching non-native English speakers in your own country's state school system), with foreign languages and English Language and/ or Literature (for native speaker kids) good second best choices.
While the kind of qualification above will usually be enough to get you a job teaching kids abroad, many people find the job of TEFL teacher very different even to TESL in state schools in your own country, due to factors like lack of motivation of the students, monolingual classes, few classroom hours per week and an emphasis on fun. Practical training on teaching English as a foreign language can therefore be useful for even the most experienced teachers from other fields. As 4 week certificates especially for teaching EFL to kids (e.g. the Cambridge CELTYL) are not widely known or widely available, the most common route is to take a 4 week qualification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (e.g. the Cambridge CELTA), which will also allow you to teach a wide range of students once you get abroad. Having trained people on this kind of course who were already qualified to teach children in state schools in their own countries, I would say everybody gained from it- and many people found that this kind of teaching is so different that it took several weeks before their previous training became an asset rather than a burden.
For people who have a certificate in teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults, if going home and getting a professional qualification in teaching kids is not an option, the most well known route is to the take the 2 week supplementary Cambridge Young Learner extension. Alternatively, you may find that there is training available specifically on teaching kids in the country you are in or want to go to.
To give the same information in another way, assuming there were two candidates equal in all other factors mentioned further down the page, this would be my personal preference when looking at the initial qualifications of someone looking for their first job as an EFL teacher for kids, in order of preference:
- A qualification in teaching English as a second language (TESL) to children and a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) to children. Despite the fact that the training of state school teachers is often above that of a even a Diploma level TEFL teacher, the role of a ESL teacher and EFL teacher are so different that in my experience teachers can gain a lot from extra training before teaching abroad.
- A qualification in teaching English as a second language to children and a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language to adults. Although this is not ideal, the basic principles of teaching English as a foreign language to adults and children is probably closer than the teaching of English as a foreign language and the teaching of English as a second language.
- Just a specific qualification in teaching English as a foreign language to children. As these courses can be as short as two weeks, they are simply a basic survival guide and don't go into much detail of why you are being asked to do the things you are trained to do, so additional qualifications are desirable.
- A TEFL certificate for adults and a qualification in teaching other subjects to kids.
- Just a qualification in TEFL for adults.
- Just a qualification in TESL for kids.
- Just a qualification in teaching other subjects for kids
Many people would not agree the order of these, and I must make a little disclaimer on the last few as they depend so much on experience and the conditions of the school. If the school provides no training or support at all, the TEFL for adults teacher could quickly find themselves overwhelmed with discipline problems etc, whereas the TESL for kids teacher or other kids' teachers would cope. However, in terms of learning to teach in a way suitable for most TEFL for kids situations abroad, in my experience people with any TEFL training tend to adapt quicker than those with lots of training and experience with other kinds of teaching. In the longer term, people who have been trained to teach other subjects can either find that training very useful as they learn to adapt it for the EFL classroom, or they can find it impossible to adapt their classroom routines to the new subject because they are too much in a routine- it really just depends on the person and the support they have available in their school.
In addition to any of the above, qualifications you might want to mention (in no particular order this time):
1. Masters or other high level TEFL qualification, preferably with an emphasis on kids
2. Masters or other high level qualification in education, preferably with a TEFL or TESL component
3. Qualifications in music or dance
4. Life savings and first aid certificates, even ones that are out of date
5. Certificates in coaching sports
6. Childcare and other care work qualifications
For people who already have specific job experience teaching English as a foreign language to children, the things you will want your CV to show are that you have relevant experience for the kind of class you will be teaching if you get the job and/ or that you have a wide range of experience that will allow you to cope with every kind of class.
Specific things you might want to mention to show that you have taught exactly the same kind of class as the job advertisement mentions include:
1. Class sizes
3. Language levels
4. EFL textbooks used
5. EFL supplementary materials used
6. Use or not of the students' first language (L1) in the classroom
7. Types of school (language school, state school, international school etc.)
8. Use of materials and technology and/ or teaching with minimal resources
9. Difficult classes and kids taught, such as special needs kids, mixed level classes, dyslexic kids, blind or deaf kids, kids who can't read and write in the own language, hyperactive kids, gifted children etc.
10. Teaching kids who don't have the same alphabet as English
11. Types of classroom, e.g. having coped with fixed desks
12. Teaching returnee kids with very high English levels
13. Teaching other subjects through English
14. Combing the English syllabus with that of other classes in the school
15. Use of music, movement, crafts etc.
16. Team teaching and other interactions with the other teachers
17. Additional responsibilities such as writing a syllabus or course materials, dinner time duties, helping with clubs, or boarding school bedtime etc. duties.
18. Kids EFL exam classes taught, e.g. Jido Eiken in Japan, the Saxoncourt Young Learner tests in some parts of Latin America, or the Cambridge YL tests (Starters, Movers, Flyers) in various parts of the world.
If you know exactly what kind of class you will teach in the job you are applying for, as well as mentioning having taught the relevant things above you could state if one of these things is what you specialise in, or even what percentage of your last job or entire job experience was with exactly those ages of students etc, e.g. "Throughout my career, most of my classes have needed help with the roman alphabet" or "In my last job, I had very mixed levels in every class".
If you are not sure about exactly what class you will teach in the job you are applying for or you know that there are a range of classes, you will need to put similar information to that above, but emphasising the range of class sizes etc, e.g. "Have taught all ages from 2 to 18".
For teachers who have experience of or training for teaching English as a foreign language to adults but haven't taught kids before, relevant things you can mention on your CV include:
- The use of games, music, drama etc. in adult classes
- Teaching low levels
- Teaching students whose first language has a different alphabet to English
- Experience of working with or being around kids in other contexts, e.g. babysitting
- Any other kind of volunteer work or care work, e.g. looking after elderly relatives
For people who have a teaching qualification or experience in subjects other than TEFL, you could mention:
1. Teaching relevant subjects like foreign languages, literacy, grammar, creative writing etc.
2. Correcting written work
3. Use materials that are also relevant to teaching English as a foreign language like story books, songs or craft materials
4. Teaching children who have English as a second language
5. Dealing with parents or other teachers who have English as a second language
6. Dealing with people from other cultures, e.g. multiethnic classes
For people who this would be their first teaching job of any description, as well as any experience you have of any of the things above, you could mention:
- Any jobs or other experience of working with people, e.g. sales or customer service, and how it could be relevant to teaching
- Any jobs or other experience of using the English language, e.g. writing a company newsletter
- Any jobs or other experience where you had to stand up in front of people, e.g. giving presentations at university
- Any jobs or other experience of doing creative stuff like crafts, music, dance or drama
- Any responsibility you have been given in your jobs or elsewhere (to show people are right to entrust their children to you)
Although how much and what you should write about hobbies can depend a lot on the culture of the person reading (something that is also true for some of the points above), hobbies are more likely to be relevant for teaching kids than for teaching adults. Hobbies you might want to mention include:
- Playing in, organising and training sports teams
- Playing musical instruments
- Performing in plays etc.
- Voluntary work
- Anything that involves responsibility for looking after someone or something, even if it is only animals
- Arts and crafts
Additional information/ cover letter/ interview
Other things you could mention, space and time permitting, include:
- The reasons for wanting to teach that age/ nationality/ type of school
- How you are particularly suited by personality etc. to teaching that kind of age/ class size etc.
- Your ability in and interest in the language(s) of the students you will be teaching
- Your own experience of learning languages as a child, and what you learnt from it
- Your experience of education as a child, and what you learnt from it
- Your experience of learning and teaching other things such as car maintenance or how to ride a bike, and how it could be relevant to teaching English to kids
- What you have learnt from being a parent or other relative of children of the age you would be teaching, or of children more generally
With all the information above, it is probably worth mentioning here that as in any kind of job the CV should be one or two pages and the cover letter only one, so feel free to skip the bike riding experiences if you have more relevant stuff in there already.