Are you a newly certified EFL teacher ready to transform TEFL theory into practice? If so, congrats and welcome to the growing global workforce of EFL/ESL teachers! Now that you’re here, you might be ready for a teaching job, but maybe you’d like to wear your new EFL teacher title a little more modestly and get some practice under your belt first. If this option resonates with you, read on! We’ve got some advice for new teachers looking to build some experience before teaching professionally.
You may have been able to get some hands-on experience in your TEFL certification program but let’s face it, that might not be enough for you to feel confident for your first “real” class. Depending on where you are, there are plenty of informal volunteer teaching options available to you so that you can build up some experience before starting your first teaching job. Not only will volunteer teaching experience give you some quality teaching practice, it will be a great indicator to recruiters that you’re serious about teaching and teacher development.
A great place to start is by checking with your local multicultural center. If you’re in an English-speaking country, multicultural centers are usually found in medium to large cities (but small cities or large towns can have them too) that offer support and community to a city’s newly arrived foreigner population. You might find multicultural centres as part of a University campus or they may be independently run and located in another building in your city. Oftentimes, in English-speaking countries, these places offer English language classes and they look for certified English teachers that are interested in volunteering. Because this service is free for foreigners, the teachers are not paid and the classes are often fairly informal (no testing, etc.) with short-term courses. In a multicultural center, you’d really be putting your skills to the test because your students would likely speak a variety of different languages as their L1, which would provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the variety of errors and obstacles faced by speakers of different languages when learning English as their L2.
Your local public library is another great place to build your teaching resume. Many public libraries serving the local community host events and activities and sometimes, language classes. Especially if you live in a diverse city or town, it’s likely that your public library will host English classes or English conversation practice groups. Just talk to someone at your local library to ask if this is a program they offer and if not, one that they’d consider hosting with you as a volunteer teacher. You can suggest it as part of their regular community programs and they’ll do the advertising for you!
Because universities often have international students, some of whom may be looking for extra practice in English, an academic or university library is another great place to let it be known that you’re a certified teacher ready to take on students FOR FREE! Even if international students test at a high B2 level in English, they may be interested in taking lessons from a certified teacher who’s willing to offer some tutoring for free.
Google it! A simple Google search like “Where can I volunteer to teach English in (city name)?” will guide you in the right direction for volunteer options in your particular city or town. If you live in an English-speaking country, and especially in a diverse city in an English-speaking country, you’ll find there are loads of opportunities to teach English. You may also find that your city has interesting events or activities for newly arrived foreigners, some of whom may have a low level of English. Volunteering at these events will allow you to meet and network with people who may be looking to improve their English.
One last suggestion is to put yourself out there! Post on your social media channels and networks that you’re a certified teacher offering free lessons. Post on your personal profile and/or a teacher or community page and be specific when you let your network know that you’re ready to teach. Say what types of students you’re looking for (adults? kids? both?), which levels you’re interested in teaching (all levels? only low levels? higher levels?), and how long each lesson will be (45 minutes? One hour? 90 minutes?).
Taking the time and putting in the effort to get some experience teaching before you dive into a professional teaching role can provide you with so much confidence and understanding when it’s time to apply for a job. You can draw upon your volunteer teaching experience during your interview to confidently and appropriately answer questions about your teaching style, methodology, and that other thing called experience! Before you even interview for your first teaching job, you’ll be able to know your strengths and weaknesses, your favourite levels to teach, and you’ll be seen as the dedicated, hardworking teacher that you are!
Let us know, have you done any volunteer teaching, and in what capacity? What did volunteer teaching teach YOU?