2009 ESL Teacher News

This is our 2009 fall summary of ESL Teaching News.

We expect a few more teaching positions for Canadian ESL teachers during 2010.

The major influencing factors are the continuing economic recovery, more stable currencies and reduced effects of the H1N1 flu virus.

The high 2009 Canadian dollar and Swine Flu motivated many international students to stay at home or choose non-North America destinations.

All Canadian ESL schools experienced a decrease of students compared to last year. We have already witnessed a number of ESL school bankruptcies and expect more over the winter months. Many ESL schools have slashed teacher salaries, increased student-teacher ratios, fired senior staff and replaced them with unqualified or minimum qualified new staff, stopped supplying books and other cost reduction service cuts.

During 2009 we continued to see English students from Spain. Many utilized the special overseas study scholarship available to Spanish students. The rise of the Euro against both the Canadian and USA dollars has motivated some Europeans to try North American Schools and the new lower costs via the currency exchanges.

With small increases of the Brazilian Real, Korean Won, Mexican Peso and Chinese RMB we expect to see more students next summer.

More students means more teaching jobs in Canada and the USA. If you can get a job and be paid fairly for your qualificationa and experience.

We recommend teaching in a stable economy with established professional teaching pay - Europe and Japan still look the best.

Being a new ESL teacher is difficult

Most North American ESL schools are marketing organizations. They like to sell their school as the best (in everything) to the international students. The schools like to present themselves as established, well organized, professional, with highly qualified and experienced teachers, proven curriculums, lots of resources, a history of happy students.

If you want to teach ESL in the competitive private school industry then you have to realize that as an ESL teacher you are part of a packaged commodity. Remember that most ESL schools pay for advertising, marketing, salesmen, agents, flashy brochures and have to travel to expensive international student education fairs to recruit students. ESL schools pay from 25 to 50% to get ESL students in the door.

For most ESL teachers to get a job in North America you have to have a combination of personal qualities, education and teaching experience. The ESL schools that try to cover 10 levels, 45 electives, activities, and self-directed programs are usually stretched because of budget restrictions. Many schools are on low-margin, high-volume operations programs and cannot afford to make hiring mistakes.

To be a successful career ESL teacher you can look at the stages most teachers go through. The start can be wonderful or ugly. It depends on your preparation. Many successful career ESL teachers tutored while they finished their university and teacher education programs. As a tutor you can really learn how to help a student. You can see their struggles and provide the solutions. The next step is the classroom. The leap from one student to 15 is major and requires all the theory and methodology necessary to operate as a classroom professional. You have to do this in person. Get the practicum supervision and corrections necessary to teach ESL professionally.

Experience can be gained in North America as a community volunteer, operating your own classes, team teaching classes, teacher observations, or tutoring. Traveling internationally where experience is not required can be exciting and educational - however one has to consider the dramatic life-style changes and risks which accompany these opportunities.

After 2 years of mistakes and corrections, continuing education, workshops, professional exchanges, brainstorming, team teaching, collaboration, students calling you wonderful, others not so happy - then many of the higher paying professional organizations consider you job-ready. Career ESL teaching in North America is not easy and not available overnight with most professional organizations.

New ESL teachers should take an internet tour of teacher white, grey and black lists, personal webpages and blogs to see good, bad and ugly teaching experiences.

May the force be with you.

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