Teacher in classroom with students working

How to Become an English Teacher and Improve Your Professional Practice

Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

There’s nothing quite like watching your students succeed. When they pass their exams, get promotions at work or start studying abroad, it fills you with a sense of pride.

If you’re looking to get into this amazing career, in this post I’ll explain how to become an English teacher of ESL students, with information about getting qualified, finding experience and improving your professional practice!


What Does an English Teacher Do?

In relation to ESL, an English teacher focuses on teaching non-native speakers English, working on improving their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

They might be responsible for a whole class or multiple classes of students which they teach as a group, or they may be responsible for tutoring individual students.

Some English teachers may work in a school or other establishment, whereas some may run their own tutoring service.

As part of their role, teachers may be required to plan lessons, prepare resources, set and grade homework and more, as well as any other additional responsibilities required by their place of work.

How to Become an English Teacher

1. Get a TEFL/TESOL Certificate

If you’re planning on being an ESL teacher, you might want to get a TEFL or TESOL certificate. That way, you’ll learn the basics of teaching English, like classroom management and lesson planning, as well as more specific skills related to teaching second-language students.

While it is possible to teach English without a TEFL certificate, it’s not advisable. This is because these courses are about much more than just getting a piece of paper. As well as giving you the certification you need to get a good job, they also expand your skill set as a teacher.

Read our post on TEFL and TESOL teacher training to find out what you’ll learn and to get some recommendations for course providers.

2. Get Teaching Experience

When you first start out, you might be nervous and unsure of yourself. However, as time goes on, you’ll build the experience and confidence to handle any challenge that comes your way. C

To get the most out of your experience, spend some time teaching different age groups, skill levels and subjects. You don’t have to do this by switching between full-time contracts every year.

You can take ESL summer jobs between semesters, or you can tutor English to grade school students over the summer—a great option for ESL and traditional English teachers!

If you’re a kindergarten teacher, try teaching business English to adults during the holidays. If you’re a high school teacher, try teaching TOEIC or IELTS exam preparation. If you’re used to teaching academic subjects, challenge yourself by trying your hand at teaching specialist classes, like public speaking, business investment and trading, or even creative writing.

By going out of your comfort zone, you’ll familiarize yourself with lots of different student types and teaching methods. Then, you’ll be ready for anything.

3. Download English Teaching Apps

There is a wide range of apps for English teachers, which help them to plan lessons, manage classes, communicate with students, run games and find new teaching materials.

With these applications, you can make your classes much more fun and interactive. This, in turn, will make them more effective. The more interested and engaged your students are, the more likely they are to learn.

You could, for example, try a language learning platform like FluentU. Through FluentU, you are able to assign your students authentic English videos which they can watch with interactive, dual language subtitles.

They can also review words they don’t know with the flashcard feature, making it a useful resource to either set independent tasks, or to use in class as part of your lesson plans.

4. Collect Teaching Resources

The internet is packed with resources for teachers. There are websites that provide free lesson plans, worksheets and cue cards, as well as interactive online games. This means that you don’t have to spend hours every week making, printing and cutting your own materials for your lessons. The hard work has been done for you!

English teaching resources aren’t just limited to lesson plans and activities. They also help you to become a better teacher by developing your skills and giving you access to the latest developments in the industry.

One of the best resources for this is English Teaching Professional. It’s a magazine that provides in-depth articles on teaching, testing and tips. It’s written by teachers for teachers, allowing people around the world to share their classroom experiences, exchange advice and develop themselves.

As well as websites and magazines, there are also ESL podcasts you can use to better yourself as a teacher. Dedicate some time outside of class to spend on resources like these, and you can develop yourself as a teaching professional.

5. Sharpen Your Improvisation Skills

When you’re teaching, things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes, activities will run for much longer than you expected, forcing you to ditch other things you’d planned for the class. Other times, worksheets or games you’d spent hours preparing could fall flat and you may have to abandon them completely.

You can’t be too regimented when it comes to teaching. Planning is key, but you also need to be prepared to throw it all out the window if the situation calls for it. You need to be able to come up with an alternative game or activity at a moment’s notice, pulling things out of the bag off the top of your head.

If you’re a new teacher, don’t worry. This comes with experience.

If you spend enough time teaching different types of lessons, you’ll build up a huge memory bank of activities. To do that, make sure you force yourself to keep trying new things in the classroom. If you stick to the same format or subject matter too much, you won’t grow as a teacher and you’ll find it very difficult to deviate from your lesson plans.


Now you know the key steps for how to become an English teacher, you can make your goal a reality!

Happy teaching!

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