Whether you grew up speaking a language other than English or not, you can become an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. If you are fluent in the first language of your students, you’ll be able to create more interesting and creative lessons.
Because you will be working with students who don’t know any English, you’ll have to work slowly with them. In addition, you should know about all cultural differences between the US and the home country of your students.
Along with helping your students to speak English, you’ll also teach them how to write in English. You can expect to have students with differing English-speaking abilities. When a new student comes to your classroom, assessing their English proficiency will be the first step in deciding just how you will teach them.
Resources for ESL Education Students
Your education classes and, particularly your English language teaching classes must be recognized by an agency that accredits such degree programs. Having accreditation means your institution is able to provide you with high-quality instruction and your instructors have also been recognized as being high-quality experts in the field.
Agencies that accredit English language teaching programs include the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP), and Check the various ESL degree programs you’re interested in and remove any without accreditation from your list of options. You can contact any universities and colleges that you’re unsure of their accreditation and ask the Education department for clarification.
Questions About Financial Aid
Once you have filled out your FAFSA, you’ll need to wait to find out how much money you’re likely to receive. Your Student Aid Report (SAR) gives your information to each college you selected. They use this information to put together a package of financial aid. You may see teaching education scholarships, work-study, grants, and student loans as options on your financial aid package.
The newest version of FAFSA, which you complete online, makes it easy for you to include your parents’ tax information. Just click a box and the form automatically imports the tax information with a few identifying pieces of information.
The FAFSA helps identify students who need financial assistance to go to school. It also allows you to obtain need-based grants for tuition and books. If your grants won’t cover everything you need, federal student loans and work-study can help.
Grants and scholarships are sometimes called free money, because you don’t have to pay back the funds after you finish your education. While that’s true in most cases, some grants (TEACH Grant) require you to meet certain requirements in order to keep them from being changed into a loan. These requirements are usually associated with your career after graduation. You may be required to teach a specific subject or work in a high-need area. Scholarships often require you to maintain a certain GPA or continue in a specific major. If you cannot do these things you may have to pay back a grant or lose a scholarship for the following semester. Always pay attention to the requirements to keep aid, not just earn it.
Work-study gives students the opportunity to do some work on campus. If they know what they plan to study, they may be able to find something applicable, but even if they don’t, it will give them the opportunity to add something to their resume before they even start looking for an internship. Students can send the money they make directly toward paying their student loans to lessen their post-education debt, or they can use it as pocket money if that will help them lessen the amount they must take out in loans in the first place.
Associations for Students
Why should you join an ESL education teachers’ association while you’re still a student? Because, you’ll learn valuable information that may not be printed in your textbooks. Information gained through an association will be as current as possible and you’ll be able to use it for your classes, internships, presentations, and as you seek a student teaching position.
Joining will keep you current in the best teaching approaches. The research you learn about will help you to complete your homework assignments, papers, and presentations. Best of all, you might have the chance to meet professional ESL educators and begin to network with them.
- National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE):
Established in 1975, NABE helps to provide support and influence for bilingual education and educators. NABE creates pedagogy, programs, policies, and research that help to advance bilingual education.
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE):
NCTE helps English educators to expand their voices using one of several venues (collaboration, shared goals, and the creation of personal connections) to help both teachers and students benefit from English instruction.
- American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL):
AAAL focuses on several issues related to learning a new language. This association is developing a knowledge base concerning language, users, and related material.
- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL):
This is the main professional association for bilingual educators, EFL and ESL teachers. If you are majoring in ESL and interested in helping English language learners (ELLs), you are welcome to join.
Student or Open Access Journals
Even though you’re a student, it’s a good idea to begin subscribing to open access and student journals. Even keeping up with your assigned reading will not do as good a job of highlighting the newest developments in ESL education. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the field will help you both while you are in school, with assignments and student teaching experiences, and after you graduate.
ESL Teacher Study Resources
Even when you’re a student, you need to be on the lookout for study resources for ESL teachers such as yourself. In your chosen specialization, you’ll have a double responsibility - along with teaching students in a specific subject, you also have to teach your students how to speak and write English, rather than their native language.
It’s a good idea for you to be looking for teaching- and ESL-related study resources so you can improve your skills even more. On top of all of that, you also have to choose professional development courses that teach you about the background (economic, cultural, and linguistic) of your students.
- Fundamentals of TESOL:
This course provides the practical knowledge and theory you need in language learning, language classroom practice, and teaching methodology. Contains six modules.
- TESOL Virtual Seminars:
These self-study seminars allow you to create a study course that meets your needs as an ESL educator. You’ll delve into the basics of grammar so you can more effectively teach your students.
- Developing an Online Teaching Program:
You may be assigned to develop and teach an online ESL course for upcoming classes of students. This program contains three courses and a 2-week capstone.
- Reading Rockets’ Professional Development Webcasts:
You can use these videos as an individual study plan or as the basis of staff development workshops. One webcast is on Academic Language and English Language Learners. Learn about activity ideas and strategies for effective teaching.
Mobile apps and technology can team up with education degree programs to allow you to bring together much of what you’ve already learned. Online learning and mobile learning allow you to continue attending class when you can’t be in the classroom. Desktop computers are popular with only 40% of the population of developed countries; in contrast, more than 90% of people in the same countries use a mobile phone.
This allows you to access and use mobile technology. Some of this may include distance education. Mobile apps are some of the most-used features in a smartphone.
You may be able to download some apps without paying a penny to do so, while other apps come with a small fee before you can use them. Not only are education apps popular with education majors—general apps that make it easier for you to ignore social media have become common, helping students focus and manage their time better.
This app allows you to turn a mundane lesson into a game or even a trivia quiz, so your students (or you) are more engaged with what you want them to learn.
This app is a mobile, electronic grade book that helps you to centralize all your planning into one device. Grade assignments or plan lessons.
Quickly send out parent consent forms with a tap of your tablet or smartphone. Parents e-sign the form and return it to you.
Created for students in several degree programs, Forest allows you to “grow” a forest when you stay on-task with your work. If you get distracted, your trees begin to die.
From your mobile device, keep your school assignments and projects moving from your email to your professors’ inboxes. This app allows you to collaborate, access your work anywhere, and finish it on time.
Save lectures or internet pages for your assignments. Create an account, then save material offline. This makes it easier to share readings with students, who will benefit from the ease of reading.
Your ESL education degree program should include a student teaching component that allows you to practice your teaching and combine that with what you have been learning in your classrooms. When you get to this point of your program, you should be ready to step into a 1-8 or K-12 classroom and begin teaching students.
Student teaching usually lasts for almost a full semester—about 15 weeks. During your student teaching component, you’ll be supervised by a certified ESL teacher, who will make suggestions and guide your efforts.
During this time, you’ll be able to create and teach from the lesson plans provided by the ESL teacher; slowly begin to teach more classes per day; work on administrative duties, such as attendance reports; begin grading “your” students under supervision; take on additional duties, such as small-group tutoring, recess, or cafeteria duty; help develop tests, give them, and grade and correct the answers; sit down with school administration and other ESL teachers to talk about the district’s education system overall, and more.
Student teaching is designed to give fledgling teachers an introduction to teaching. This component also helps you to develop your professionalism.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Teaching Licensing Options
After graduation, you have more studying and tests to take. In order to be allowed to teach in your state, you must be certified by your state. Once you have passed your exam, it’s time to apply for your teaching certification.
Every few years, you’ll have to show proof that you have taken a required number of education contact hours, called CEUs. This varies from state to state and depends on your level of licensure. Your state or individual school district will provide you with the certification and licensure requirements so you can take the correct courses.
For anyone in the US to become a teacher, they have to hold a bachelor’s degree at the least, though more and more states now require their teaching candidates to hold a master’s degree, or be in the process of earning one.
In New Mexico, for example, teaching candidates are required to meet state criteria. Beginning with the first year of teaching, a teacher holds a Level I license; they must teach for three years before they can apply for a Level II license. ESL teachers can earn an English as a Second Language (ESL) certification. This certification is added to other certifications by completing between 24 and 36 semester hours of TESOL coursework.
Temp Agencies & Working Abroad
If you have trouble finding a position right out of school, you could instead become a substitute teacher. Go to the school district in your community and find out what the process entails. You’ll have to have your bachelor’s degree. Once you show proof of your degree and have completed a background check, your name will be put on the substitute list. You may also be required to earn a substitute teaching license, but requirements vary from state to state.
You’ll likely be put on a list so that schools know you’re available for short-term assignments (if a teacher is ill, for instance). If you choose that option, you’ll be teaching different grade levels, at different schools, covering different subject areas.
If you prefer to have a long-term substitute assignment, you can let the office that contacts subs know this. This way, you’ll be in one classroom at one school as a long-term sub. With the additional option of being hired by more than one district, you’re more likely to work full-time rather than intermittently.
Resources for ESL Education Professionals
Joining a professional ESL teacher association will benefit your career because of what you learn and who you’ll be interacting with. Aside from these two benefits, you’ll also be able to stay current with new practices and developments in the field of ESL education.
Researchers are learning more and more about how children learn language. Activities such as talking with fellow students during recess or lunch allow new English learners to assimilate everything they are learning from you.
Researchers of ESL education may also belong to associations; they will present their research and findings at industry conferences, so you and your fellow educators can learn what is happening in your field. And, when you return to your classroom, you’ll be able to put this new knowledge into practice in your classroom.
No matter what association you join, you’ll gain high-value knowledge that you’ll be able to make use of right away. While the professional focus of each group may differ, you and your students are sure to benefit.
- TESOL International Association
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- National Association for Bilingual Education
- Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC):
Members must already be members of NCTE
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
- American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL)
Reading professional journals may not be the most exciting thing you do outside your classroom, but the benefits you may just be worth it. Hopefully, you were able to begin reading these journals as a college student. However, you don’t need to limit your professional reading to only journals. Professional newspapers also provide useful information, and the material may be more condensed if you’re short on time.
These newspapers also announce grant opportunities. If you find yourself writing grant applications for additional funding that your school district is unable to provide, the newspaper option may give you a more tangible benefit.
- Journal of Teacher Education:
Offered by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
- Journal of Teacher Education:
Offered by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
- On-Campus with Women:
Offered by the Association of American Colleges & Universities
- Language Learning & Technology:
Offered by the Center for Language & Technology and the Foreign Language Resource Center
Industry Conferences for ESL Educators
Attendance at industry conferences can help you, not just with attendance and knowledge gained, but also with being able to get together with other professionals who feel the same passion you do and earning approved CEUs in a shorter amount of time.
Even if a speaker’s talk isn’t what you had anticipated, you can still benefit from other panel discussions and discussion with the other attendees. And, if you are a new teacher, attendance at and participating conference events may help you to feel more confident in your knowledge and abilities. You’ll learn of new instructional methods and how to use new technologies, as well as research that you can delve deeply into when you return home.
- Innovations in Education:
This conference allows teachers to learn about new ideas and teaching strategies.
- Education Equity Conference:
At this conference, you’ll learn along with academics, other educators, civic change-makers, and program leaders about providing equity in education.
- Conference on Educational Leadership:
Learn about use of leadership in the classroom.
- Education for the Soul:
This conference features expert speakers who share their thoughts and insights about educational leaders who manage their emotional well-being so that they can provide the best outcomes for their students.