There are quite a few TESOL certification programs to choose from. Many programs offer certificates online, which can be completed in the comfort of your own home. Preparing to become a teacher requires a lot of reading as you explore new ideas and think about the English language in an entirely new way, and this can certainly be done at home. We all have our favorite place to comfortably curl up to read and study. However, you should ask yourself, does an online class alone really prepare you for the realities and challenges of the physical classroom in which you hope to one day be teaching? Does simply reading about potential classroom scenarios realistically prepare you for your first day of teaching?
Oxford Seminars’ certification course includes both an in-class and an online component. While the online component of the course must be completed to get certified, without the all-important in-class component, you are left with only part of the story. To be clear, you can’t really unpack the extensive course material and see how it will apply to an actual classroom without a teacher and classmates. And, although the online portion provides crucial information that will benefit and inform you in your future classroom, it is no substitute for the interactions you will have with your experienced instructor and other prospective teachers who are learning this new craft with you.
The in-class portion gives you the chance to get up in front of a class and see how it feels to deliver a meticulously planned lesson. Without the physical classroom, you only have imagined scenarios and aren’t really able to feel out the mechanics of planning and delivering a lesson. This aspect is an incredibly valuable experience that you will truly be grateful for once you finally have your own classroom full of students eagerly awaiting your instruction.
In learning to teach English, you are learning to think about your language in an entirely different way. Just how different this is will quickly become apparent as each practice lesson you deliver in class forces you to slowly unpack the language and break it down in ways you probably haven’t considered before in order to make it teachable. Most of us don’t think about the minutia of English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and how we learned it. Naturally, we take it for granted, that is, until we attempt to teach someone else, especially someone for whom English is not their first language. This is when something that you assumed was so simple reveals its astonishing complexity. You realize that there is so much to consider when you break down language in this way. You can’t learn this material by simply thinking about it, you need to actually do it. The importance of the feedback you will get throughout the course, both from other students and from your experienced instructor, cannot be overstated. This is the single most valuable feature of Oxford Seminars’ TESOL/TESL/TEFL program, and there is no substitute.
The in-class portion of the course covers a wide variety of important concepts, which will be necessary for you to become a successful teacher. The topics are covered in depth, and you are given the chance to ask questions and share concerns with a professional teacher. As I stated above, most of us don’t really consider grammar since it’s not usually a requirement for our jobs or our lives. But, when prospective teachers are asked about their biggest concerns entering an ESL classroom, the answer is invariably associated with worries about teaching grammar. This is one of the many key topics that are covered in the in-class component of our program. Yes, you could go online and study up on your grammar, but this is only half the battle. To succeed as a grammar teacher, you have to practice talking about it. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, and the in-class portion of the program provides you with this opportunity.
The in-class portion also covers a host of other essential topics. Your instructor will share experiences from years of teaching abroad, covering critical areas such as lesson planning and classroom management, as well as theoretical considerations like Second Language Acquisition and Multiple Intelligence Theory, all of which are essential topics that will both inform and enrich your experience as a teacher. The complexities of these topics are illuminated by in-depth discussions with and contributions from your classmates, together with your instructor, that creates a vibrant and dynamic learning environment that you likely won’t get from an online course alone.
I have been teaching the in-class component of the Oxford Seminars’ TESOL/TESL/TEFL certification course for the last two years. These classes have been filled with people of all ages and all walks of life, each person bringing their unique experiences in life and with language to our discussions about learning, teaching, and living abroad. The students in my Oxford Seminars’ courses have so far been an accurate demographic reflection of the actual teachers I have met and taught with in schools overseas and here in the U.S. over the last ten years. I have worked with teachers who were just out of college and working overseas to pay off their student loans. I have taught alongside people, like myself, who were looking at teaching as a career change. Others were teaching English as a way to travel and experience life abroad, while others were people who had retired and wanted new experiences. Whoever you are, and whatever your experiences, your contributions to my classroom are not only valued, they are essential.
Written by Kevin McLaren
Kevin McLaren taught English overseas for 2 years in Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. He has been teaching ESL for 10 years. Kevin has a Master’s in Education. He currently teaches English at Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, Washington.