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Do I Need Experience to Teach English Abroad?

If you are wondering whether or not you need teaching experience to succeed as an ESL teacher; here’s a quick answer: you don’t. Just speaking English, however, is normally not enough. English schools won’t just hire the first English speaker they come across.

If you’re interested in teaching English abroad, you must demonstrate to them that you will be able to handle yourself in the classroom, and in a new country.

Besides teaching experience, there are a number of different ways to show you have what it takes. Here are some tips on how you can secure a job and be a success in the classroom:

Reference Previous Experience with Children

Any experience you have with children is going to make you a better candidate and help you succeed as a teacher. Whether that is tutoring, babysitting or coaching experience, it all shows that you’re capable of working successfully with the most difficult type of student – children.

However old your students are, teaching ESL is as much about entertaining and managing the classroom as it is about teaching. In other words, if you’ve been successful with children in one context, it’s likely you can be successful with them in others.


Highlight Managerial Experience in the Classroom

Without effective control of the classroom, your students will struggle to learn. For that reason, any managerial or supervisorial experience can immediately make you a better teacher and a better candidate.

The skills that make a good manager are also essential for a good teacher. You need to strike a balance between formality and informality; you need to earn respect, and you need to be able to motivate effectively. If you can manage a classroom well, you are halfway to becoming an effective teacher.


Express Interest in Teaching English as a Second Language

Another area that you can emphasize during the job search is any deeper knowledge of or interest in English that you have. The major asset that you have as a candidate is that you are a native speaker. Anything you can do to embellish your native speaker status will make it even more impressive to employers.

If you’ve studied English or linguistics, have writing experience, or just love literature, make sure to emphasize that during interviews. Bringing enthusiasm for teaching the English language to the classroom can increase your students’ motivation and interest. Showing this enthusiasm to potential employers will also improve your chances of securing a good job.


Discuss Desire to Teach English Abroad

Schools are obviously worried about how you will perform inside the classroom, but they also want to know that you are ready for living and working abroad. They are investing time and money into hiring you and getting you a visa, so demonstrating to them that you are ready for the challenge will definitely be a plus.

Mentioning that you have worked or studied abroad before is the most obvious way to demonstrate that. Even just having visited the country in question shows that you have some insight into the potential challenges that await you.

Considering whether you have the right characteristics to succeed as an ESL teacher abroad should also be high on your list of considerations before you depart to your destination.


Showcase TESOL/TESL/TEFL Certifications

If you are still struggling to work out how you will find a teaching position, the one thing that every person can do is to invest in a TESOL/TESL/TEFL certification.

This is the clearest way to show that you’re serious about teaching abroad. On top of that, it will help you to understand English more deeply and will give you an introduction to ESL teaching theory. That knowledge can be crucial in an interview situation, and invaluable when you first enter the classroom.

Finding a Job Teaching English Abroad

Demonstrating that you have a genuine interest in English, that you have experience with children or that you have experience managing others will all put you in good stead.

Want to learn more about teaching English abroad? Download our course guide, or talk to an instructor at a free information session near you.

Written by Robin Garnham

Robin Garnham


Robin Garnham originally planned to spend a year teaching in Spain to improve his Spanish, but has now been teaching for five years. He currently teaches ESL in Oakland, California and is an Oxford Seminars instructor in San Jose, California.

One Comment

    • January 28, 2018


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