If you are entering the world of TEFL as a mature person, you may be wondering about your career prospects, especially if you are no longer in your twenties.
Nowadays, when ‘old’ is probably considered as anything approaching forty, such thoughts are not totally irrational. Fortunately, a lot of the negative perceptions that employers in other professions have of mature employees, do not really apply in the world of TEFL. The mature trainee and novice ESL teacher are valued for what they can bring to the profession. Mature people are generally more punctual, dedicated, confident, and honest than their younger colleagues. They are less motivated by money and position, and they often make good long-term teachers.
As a mature ESL teacher, you have a lot to contribute to TEFL. For instance, because of your age, you will be more mature and patient than your younger colleague(s); your students will respect you more and be less likely to misbehave; and lastly, if you are coming from another profession such as, say, business or engineering, you will have a wealth of experience and knowledge which can be employed in ‘English for Specific Purposes’ (ESP) teaching. Armed with these positive attributes, you should confidently embark on your new career as an ESL teacher.
Don’t let age your age bother you – it isn’t really a problem in TEFL; however, getting the ESL teaching post also depends on both how you perceive yourself and how you present yourself at the job interview. If possible, try to visit the educational institution that you are applying to before applying for the post. If you can convincingly present yourself as someone who is serious about starting a new career in TEFL, you should have no problems. However, if you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your race, sex, age, or disability, then in the UK you can always take your case to ACAS http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) This applies to all forms of employment.
Finally, if you are thinking of going to teach abroad, don’t fret! Although you should check with the relevant embassy on any legal restrictions applicable to foreign ESL teachers, age shouldn’t be a major concern. Most countries hire teachers up to the age of 60: some countries have no age restrictions. In Egypt, Mexico and Croatia age is not an issue, and in France it is common place to find schools where two-thirds of the staff is over 50.
Don’t let your age dishearten you: this is not a real issue in TEFL. Just be optimistic and make realistic applications that are based on sound research: that way, you won’t be disappointed.