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May 22, 2020 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Teachers of English in countries where English is not the first language: did you take a course for it and do you think it was worth it?

Some context: I would be teaching English to speakers of Spanish or Portuguese in Latin America, probably Chile. I'm already in Chile and speak decent Spanish, so navigating my way around finding jobs in schools should be less of a challenge than if I were still in the States. I do NOT have a teaching background at all, so I think some kind of certification is a good idea.

I'm contemplating a couple of schools recommended on the TEFL subreddit:
  • International TEFL Academy, which is $1100 for 11 weeks online and includes a "real" classroom component and job search "support for life"
  • Bridge TEFL, far less expensive, similar number of hours, but no classroom component
CELTA requires in-person classroom time and therefore is not an option right now.

I'm leaning toward ITA since it will be a nice way for me to dip a toe in and figure out if this is at all for me. I'm leery of the job search support component just because I don't feel like that has ever been worth much in any school where I actually got a degree.

Info on recent experiences especially sought.
posted by Sheydem-tants to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have a CELTA and have worked abroad in several countries. My thoughts:
1. Look for specific jobs and see what they require
2. When jobs require a certificate- usually significant in-person experience is part of that
3. A lot of this is just saying you have it
4. A BA or higher degree is sometimes enough of a credential
5. You could try online work to dip your toe in
6. 20-25 contact hours weekly is common and this is a LOT because classes are often 30-50min
7. There is not a lot of money in this, but a bit more working 1-on-1/independently which is hard to start but doesn't require the rigmarole
posted by maya at 3:38 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and manage and train teachers in TESOL today. To answer your questions (without experience in Chile and having done my CELTA way back in 2005):

- I’ve never heard of either of the options you mention, and without a certain amount of classroom teaching most schools which pay enough to live on will not employ you; I have never hired any new teacher without at least the classroom experience of a certificate course (and ideally they have much, much more experience; it’s just too risky commercially to employ someone without this given how many non-local people treat teaching English as a vacation and simply...stop showing up for work!). However, “most schools” is not all and there’s no reason you can’t have a go at one of the courses, especially if you have some other source of income. Get as much classroom experience as you can; perhaps you could tutor one-on-one while you’re doing the online component to give what you’re learning a test drive.

- Courses like the CELTA/Trinity CertTesol are useful because they do accurately reflect the quite frantic workload and pace of teaching in this industry - and either your students met your lesson aims or they didn’t. It is absolutely possible to fail these courses and people seem astonished that it is possible to demonstrate learning and assess that it has taken place in the short duration of an observed lesson. There’s much less didactic experience than you might expect in a TESOL classroom - instead, for better or worse, much classroom time is students (without your direct involvement other than informed observation) interacting with each other in pairs and groups using and practicing new language. If your course isn’t training you to manage this and feedback that emerges from these interactions, it’s not worth your time.

- The other value of a good course is that it shows you how to adapt a curriculum chosen by people who do not teach your particular cohort of students to those students so they a) actually learn the language and b) are happy enough to keep learning with your organization. Much of the frustration of my first years of teaching came from quite slavish following of the syllabus/pacing guide and not understanding that the book didn't offer enough time for reviewing what we’d covered or enough opportunities to extend or stretch material to challenge good students. The critical eye you bring to the curriculum is what students are paying for - they could absolutely buy the book on their own, but don’t; they want your interpretation and guidance.

- All that said: Covid-19 has changed everything. My organization has gone from zero students online and the possibility of letting many of our teachers go to 65% of our pre-Covid-19 enrolment in online lessons, and happy with them, mostly, in about ten weeks. I would absolutely expect an online CELTA within the year using blended or even 100% online lesson delivery to students if someone isn’t offering one already. The fact that you are already there (presumably able to work legally?) may be enough for a school to take a chance on you now that international labor mobility is so much more limited.

Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 5:34 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]

You can definitely do an online CELTA. They arrange the practicum locally for you. If you are going to invest any time and money in a cert, get the name brand. The knock-offs will not open as many doors.
posted by Gotanda at 9:05 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]

Many years ago I took the CELTA course. I wound up never using it, because I had no teaching background and did not feel confident that I could hold the attention of a class, let alone teach them something useful, even after completing the course. I strongly recommend getting teaching experience, somehow, prior to taking a course like this.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 12:13 PM on May 23

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