Why Teach ESL? – Your Guide to Understanding the Importance of Teaching English as a Second Language
Our world is getting smaller and smaller. Not in size, obviously, but in terms of availability and opportunity, in terms of travel and connections. With the continued technological advancements and the ease with which countries throughout the world trade, interact, and rely upon each other, the need to communicate clearly and efficiently is essential. So too, then, are ESL teachers.
English is the number one most spoken language in the world. Mandarin is second and Spanish a distant third. ESL teachers, therefore, are needed not only in English-speaking countries, they are needed worldwide. So do we even need to ask, why is teaching ESL important? This global need for English language skills is one of the key benefits of becoming an ESL teacher, and why teaching English is so important: it connects the world and allows countries to share and spread ideas.
And what is the main purpose of ESL? The main purpose of an ESL teacher is to help provide non-native English speakers the opportunity to acquire fluency in the English language, both in the written and spoken word. They work with people from all over the world, often in a school or private tutoring setting, and are a bridge for many non-native speakers to a new life or opportunity. Teaching ESL is important because ESL teachers not only help bridge the language barrier, they often become cultural mentors to their students as they help them navigate the many cultural differences and nuances of a new country. ESL teachers have a direct impact on the lives and future lives of their students.
Why teach ESL? It’s is a common question among the teaching community. There are several benefits to becoming an ESL teacher, both internally and externally. Below are just a few reasons why teaching English as a second language is not only a viable option, but a good one. For the teacher as well as the student.
Why Teach English as a Second Language? – Becoming an ESL Teacher Opens Doors of Opportunity for Everyone
As an ESL teacher, you can travel. Be it throughout the country – especially in urban and coastal city settings – or overseas, ESL teachers are in demand as more and more people are traveling, relocating, and immigrating. Major coastal and boarder cities are cultural hubs for many people immigrating to the United States, but rural schools and middle America cities and states are also seeing an increase in non-native speaking students. And as their population increases, so too does the need for more ESL certified teachers.
Domestically, ESL teachers of all age groups are needed to help transition non-native speakers into an English-speaking society. Typically, these teaching positions are most available in middle and high schools, but there are also a growing number of teaching positions at the university level.
Internationally, ESL teachers are in even higher demand. As universities around the globe prepare their students for future job opportunities and success, English as a second language has become a core subject in their curriculum. Native English speakers who are TESOL certified (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) are therefore in high demand.
But if that isn’t enough, if opportunity and job security are not what is driving you to consider ESL teaching and you are finding yourself asking the question, “Why become an ESL teacher?”, perhaps the greatest reasons of them all is this: as an ESL teacher, you are able to make a difference. You are able to bridge the language gap and open doors of opportunities for those hoping to connect with the world. You are able to help families and students transition from one country to the next, to find new opportunities of living and success, and play an intricate role in the sharing of ideas. The importance of teaching English as a second language cannot be overstated. ESL teachers play a key role in connecting the world and opening doors of opportunity. And they can do so from almost anywhere in the world.
Why Become an ESL Teacher? The Many Benefits of ESL Certification
To become an ESL Teacher, you must:
- Select from bachelor’s degree programs in ESL available in your area and complete the four-year program
- Complete a student teaching internship in an ESL setting
- Pass your state’s test for teacher licensure with an ESL endorsement
- Apply for a teaching license.
Can You Teach Without an ESL or Teaching Degree?
If you are a native English speaker, there are opportunities to teach English as a second language without holding a teaching or ESL degree. Some companies don’t even require a bachelors degree at all.
However, not only are some of these companies unreliable (for you or those whom you will be teaching), they may not always pay the best. In addition, if ever you are competing against someone who has their bachelor’s degree or is ESL certified, you will find it difficult to prove yourself more qualified, landing you less desired positions in less than desired places.
What are the Benefits of ESL Certification?
One of the benefits of ESL certification is opportunity. As already mentioned, the more qualified you are the more desirable you become. But even more than that, being ESL certified will make you a better teacher which will allow you to not only be more helpful to your students, it will gain you a further and deeper respect by your students and peers, thus allowing you more opportunities to impact those you teach. Being ESL certified is not essential to obtaining an ESL teaching job, but it certainly helps.
Do you Need a Master’s Degree to Teach ESL?
The simple answer is no. However, earning a master’s in education degree can lead to a higher salary, better job prospects, and new career opportunities. With so many online options, finding a master’s degree in ESL is easy and more affordable.
You do not need a master’s degree to teach ESL, but just like earning your ESL teaching certificate sets you apart from those without, so too does earning a master’s degree set you apart even more. Earning a master’s also makes you a better teacher, which in turn makes you more valuable to your school or company, which can not only pave the way for future advancement and job opportunities, it allows you to make a greater impact in your classroom. Which is probably why you became a teacher in the first place.
A Lot of Job Options Are Among the Many Benefits of ESL Certification
For many, teaching ESL means teaching in an elementary or secondary school setting. There are, however, a variety of teaching options for ESL teachers. Options such as:
- ESL Department Director: Districts with a significant number of ESL students and classes often need someone to oversee the department. This leadership position not only offers higher pay, it provides you an opportunity to work with a variety of teachers and students from all ages. Often, this position requires a master’s degree.
- College or University teacher: College is a unique time for students to travel the world and experience other cultures. According to migrationpolicy.org, there are over 1 million international students enrolled in U.S. institutions. Many of these students are in need of either ESL classes or one-on-one tutoring (which is also another avenue to earn a few extra dollars).
- ESL Professors: Being an ESL teacher does not simply mean teaching students and adults how to speak, read, and write English. It can also mean teaching teachers how to teach ESL. This option often requires a good deal of experience as well as earning your doctoral degree, but it is an option and perhaps something to continually look forward to or consider, further on in your teaching career.
- ESL Tutoring: Whether you are a full-time ESL teacher or not, there are numerous options for ESL teachers to tutor children and adults. These sessions can be a great way to earn a few extra dollars as well as invest in your community. Many non-native speakers are outside the school system, as they are working moms and dads who send their children to school. These parents often need a few extra hours a week, learning basic English, allowing them to navigate and thrive within their community.
Is ESL Rewarding?
Absolutely! You will find that a career teaching ESL is rewarding for both you and those you teach. As an ESL teacher, you have an opportunity – and direct responsibility – to provide your students with the basic linguistic tools they need for a better future. The English skills they develop could very well help move them on to college, a career and the American dream. As far as personal rewards for yourself, teaching ESL will also give you the ability to travel, experience new lands, and explore beautiful cultures.
What are the Strengths of an ESL teacher?
The strengths of an ESL teacher are many, most of which can be found in any quality teacher, such as patience, a love of kids and learning, and creativity (to name a few). A few ESL specific strengths include curiosity and adaptability. As an ESL teacher, it is crucial to care about and invest in the lives and cultures of those you teach. Finding ways to connect their culture to classroom content and real-life situations not only deeply benefits them as individuals, it makes your lessons all the more engaging. A quality ESL teacher not only understands this, but embraces it.
Another strength of an ESL teacher is compassion. In a time where conversations around immigration are fraught with tension – when the narrative is often divisive – having compassion for the stories and journeys of the individuals you teach is essential. The students in your classroom may not have arrived there under the best of circumstances. Having a mindset of acceptance, of kindness and curiosity is of the utmost importance.
If you are interested in becoming a teacher, if you have thoughts of traveling and learning more about the world, consider becoming certified in ESL. Not only are there plenty of opportunities, it has never been a better and easier time to become an ESL teacher.