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English/Language Arts Teacher Education

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What to Expect

In some ways, a program in teaching English as a second language (TESL) can be more difficult if you already have some experience in the field.

So says Gordon Reisdorf. He spent a year teaching English in Korea, then taught three more years at a language school before deciding to take a certificate in English-language teaching to adults (CELTA).

"You may have to unlearn some of the things you have done, which is what I had to do," he says. "There were some things I had to change. On the other hand, my experience gave me the confidence to perform in the classroom, which others may have lacked."

He says even though the CELTA course is relatively short, it would be a mistake to think that it is easy. "The ones that fail probably go into the course thinking it's really not that difficult. They are not prepared for the work it requires. You really have to make everything else secondary and get back to your normal life after it's over."

He says the program gradually changed from a focus on learning skills to a focus on practical experience. "By the end, there weren't too many lessons; it was mostly classroom experience."

Reisdorf says one of the things he liked best about the program was absorbing information from the program's instructors. "The courses are really designed for people who don't have any teaching experience, but I liked the fact that our instructors had lots of experience and were able to share with us some of the knowledge they had gained."

Choose a TESL program that is delivered by well-experienced staff, he suggests.

How to Prepare

Reisdorf says high school students should focus on their English courses. He points out that most TESL programs don't take students unless they have an undergraduate degree in something. If teaching is a student's goal, he suggests pursuing an education degree first.

"I suggest high school students try tutoring, which I did, to see if they have the knack and patience to teach someone something, whether it's English, math or whatever. Tutoring and teaching are very different, but I think if you enjoy tutoring then teaching is a natural progression."

He also suggests traveling to gain exposure to other cultures.