ESL career myths and misconceptions

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you will soon encounter many myths and misconceptions associated with your ESL career. Here is a sample of six of those myths and misconceptions.

1. An ESL career ends in the classroom. As a qualified ESL teacher, your initial career path will be that of a conventional classroom teacher: if you wish, you may remain a classroom teacher for the rest of your life; however, as a qualified and experienced ESL teacher you can follow other career paths that lead to occupations such as an ESL author, an ESL teacher trainer, a TEFL university lecturer/researcher, a professional ESL blogger, or a director of studies.

2. You have to speak the local language if you hope to get an ESL post abroad. On the contrary, a lot of foreign ESL employers prefer it if you don’t speak the local language; they do insist that you are a native English speaker.

3. Teaching ESL abroad is dangerous. You might think that a career teaching ESL abroad is simply not worth it because it’s too dangerous: don’t be dissuaded by scaremongers and those that are simply jealous of your opportunity to travel and see the world. Some countries may be more dangerous than others, but if you don’t do irrational or impulsive things that could put you in a dangerous situation then teaching abroad is probably no more dangerous than teaching in your own country.

4. ESL teachers get exploited by their employers. If you work without a contract, you may well get exploited. If you don’t have a TEFL qualification, you may also get exploited. The way not to get exploited is by getting a TEFL qualification and only working for those educational institutions that provide bona fide contracts of employment.

5. Non-white native English speakers find it hard to get ESL posts. Although racism and xenophobia are present to some degree in every country, a person’s ethnic background does not limit the individual’s opportunity to get an ESL post, for example, one need only think of the thousands of African and Asian American native English speakers who find work abroad every year; indeed, it could be that African Americans are even more favoured for ESL posts in Africa.

6. ESL teachers are second rate teachers. This is one of those misconceptions that are completely unfounded:  TEFL qualified teachers have been trained to teach English as a second language, and this is exactly what they do. They are trained both in the theory and practice of TEFL, and throughout their teaching careers, they continue to keep abreast of the latest developments in TEFL education theory and practice as part of their professional career development.

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