What exactly are employers looking for in an ESL teacher? We asked our star trainer Rory, who has spent years teaching English in Madrid and has been head teacher of academies here in the capital, to give us an insider look at what employers are really looking for in an English teacher.
Having been at the heart of the teaching world in Madrid, how do you see it as a career or job?
Teaching English in Madrid is a massive industry and shows no signs of slowing down. There are over 300 academies offering classes for kids, teenagers and adults and teachers can be based in schools, academies or offices. Due to this non-exhaustible list of teaching options, the industry welcomes candidates from all walks of life and with all types of experience so as a career it can be pretty much anything you want it to be!
You only started teaching in your late 20s and with lots of experience outside the world of English teaching. How did you find looking for jobs with your background?
I always got really great feedback in interviews because of my age and my experience. There are jobs for all types of candidates and I interviewed hundreds of people with all different backgrounds. You never find two TEFL teachers that are the same. In terms of age, the great things about the teaching English as a Foreign Language of teaching English it that it is arguably the least ageist industry you can find, being a bit older and more experienced in other fields, will often work in your favor.
What are your Top Tips for what to say in an interview?
When you are interviewed for a job, you MUST say that you are dynamic, ready for new challenges and willing to try out new ideas in the classroom. These are the key elements that set outstanding teachers apart from those that just show up and do the job. My most impressive candidates were those that came to the interview (and work in general) looking the part with a folder full of innovative and practiced materials.
Here are Rory’s top Do’s and Don’ts for being the best ESL teacher candidate around:
Do: Always be prepared!
It is essential that teachers are adaptable. It’s very common to turn up to classes and to find new students, students with different levels or for only one of six students to turn up. You need to have go-to games and exercises that can help you manage your time and can apply to any number of students. Teaching English is a super interesting job for that reason – no two days are the same!
Don’t: Let your personal life affect your work
As with all jobs, it’s important to always be professional at work. When we arrive to class it’s time to put the “mask” on. Your students are coming for a service, whether it’s paid by them or their company, and because of this, it’s essential that we do a bit of acting and keep a smile on our face and energy in the classroom, even if we’re feeling a bit under the weather or fed up. Rapport is really important to maintain with students, therefore keep grinning and carry on.
Do: Be organized
Teaching is a lot more than merely arriving to class and teaching a couple of grammar rules. You’ll often have to make sure your attendance sheets are up to date, most academies will want a record of what you have covered in class, as well as end of term exams and reports and homework given and corrected weekly for your most enthused students. For these reasons, pre-planning is key and will go a long way to keeping you stress-free when you’re juggling different groups, varying levels and a mix of learning objectives.
Don’t: Be unreliable
Even if you’re not interested in teaching or education in the long-run, treat being an English teacher as part of your professional growth and history. You should be keen to impress and go the extra mile to work well with your peers and students. You should arrive on-time well-prepared and fit to work. Coming in hung-over, straight from a night out, or not showing up at all leaves a terrible impression and is not fair on your students, nor your employers. If you take a job and a timetable of classes you should treat it like a serious commitment.
Do you have any other tips for English teachers to be more employable? Let us know on Facebook in the comments.