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Thinking About Teaching English as a Second Language?
Here's How To Get Started

There are probably all kinds of opportunities for you to get started teaching English as a Second Language, commonly referred to as ESL, right in your own hometown.

Of course, there are more opportunities for teaching English if you live in a big city then there are in a rural area. And of course areas on sea coast cities like New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Miami and other port towns will have more opportunities still.

But if you live somewhere in the heartland don't despair. Although there may not be language schools you may be able to take on private students.

Private students are a good idea anyway even if you live in the bigger coastal cities. Not only is it a good way to supplement your income but it's a great way to make new friends. Teaching English can be a great home based business.

Of course, if a taste for adventure is in your blood there are hundreds of places you can teach overseas. We'll talk about that later. But first let's look at...

How I Got Started Teaching English

I actually fell into the job unexpectedly. I went to Spain, in a pub met the dean of students at an American college in Seville who was looking for English teachers, went in the next day for an interview and was hired on the spot.

Because I didn't speak Spanish they gave me one class of advanced students. They also gave me one class of 12 year olds which was a study in misery and triumph. (Read the article) That year living in Seville and teaching ESL was one of the best years of my life.

I didn't get into teaching English again until many years later when living in Vancouver, Washington I got a job at a language company in nearby Portland, Oregon. I taught business English to executives from Mercedes-Benz of Germany as well as from HewletPackard. I did this for about 3 years.

Although the pay was good, teaching English one-on-one for 4 hours at a time was tiring.

Now I'm back in my hometown New Orleans and was teaching English beginner to advanced level at small private language school. And I loving it. We had students from all over the world.

But alas now the school is closed because of Hurricane Katrina and prospects for work are scarce. But I may be opening an ESL school with another teacher. So we will see how that all works out.

I made many friends through the school. (I've become very close with one student from Turkey who invited me to visit his country. I went and it was fabulous. That's just one of the perks of being an ESL teacher.)

English Teaching Qualifications?

And what were my qualifications for getting my first job? I spoke English and had a college degree. But the degree was not in teaching English but in filmmaking.

So you see I knew nothing about teaching English and not very much about teaching, really. I did have a background in theatre so I had experience being up in front of people. And I found some advanced grammar books at a local book store in Seville.

There were many things about the English language I did not know and I learned them in the process of teaching. I was always one lesson ahead of my students!

(So as a teacher you will definitely learn how to speak the language better and you'll find yourself having to bite your tongue each time a friend or someone in your family makes a mistake! Do I know everything about teaching English ? No, but I learn more day by day and I've been teaching for years.)

I got the job in Portland because of my experience in Spain. I got the job in New Orleans because of my experience in Portland and Spain.


Maybe I was chosen quicker because of my experience and I had a degree. But I really think a good working knowledge of the language (in other words just speaking English well) and a good attitude are the key for getting work. I think a college degree in any field helps, too.

Some Ideas To Get Started Teaching ESL In Your Own Town

1. Teach Privately--
If you want to teach privately you'll need to start with some materials. Here are some really great books for teaching English I recommend.

2. Volunteer--
If you've never taught before you might want to get some experience by volunteering. One good place to start is through Catholic Charities.

Just look in the phone book. They are always looking for volunteers and it doesn't matter what religion you are. Just look in the volunteer section of your Yellow Pages.

Call some numbers, tell them what you want to do. If they don't have something maybe they can direct you to an organization who does.

3. Place an ad--
You can take out a small classified ad in your local paper, maybe a weekly periodical might give you a better rate. You can put in the ad something like this: "English Lessons. Phone XXX-XXXX Email:XXX@XXX.com" You don't need anything fancy, just simple and straightforward.

4. Create a webpage--
If you really want to be ambitious you could create a single webpage through your ISP. Clearly and simply talking about your English class with your email and contact information.

I wouldn't list your price though. You want to engage your potential client first in a little communication.

5. Charge by the hour--
If you are just starting out I probably would start at $13 or $15 an hour. Of course if you are in a bigger city like New York, Miami or L.A. you could charge more.

If you are experienced $22-25-30 or even $50 an hour or even more would be appropriate. But again I wouldn't list the price in your advertisement or webpage. Anyway, you might want to experiment to see what works better for you.

6. Put up flyers--
Another thing you could do is put up flyers at local colleges and schools and other bulletin boards around town. Do it up nice on your computer, nothing handwritten.

It doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles. Nice, clean and simple is all it needs to be. Printing it on goldenrod colored paper stock has been proven to catch the eye.

7. Get some business cards--
Printing up some business cards is a must for getting your message out. Again, nice, clean and simple is the way to go. You can print your own cards with some inexpensive business card software that you can often get when you buy business cardstock.

Or you can also get 250 free business cards from vistaprint.com

Just put your name in a nice unfancy font. Underneath put "Teacher" then underneath that put "English as a Second Language". At the bottom put your phone number and your email address and your webpage address if you have one.

That's all there is to it. Clean and simple.

8. Find a school--
Another thing you can do is get out your Yellow Pages again and look under language schools. Call them up and see if they have any job openings in their ESL program. Even if they don't, tell them you want to send them your resume.

Tell them you are willing to do some substitute teaching and would like to come in to talk with them.

Also, check colleges and universities and ask about their ESL programs. You might be able to find work if you have a college degree. Sometimes, any kind of degree will work for teaching ESL. Some places, though, may require ESL Certification.

Anyway, a nice resume is a good thing to have.

9. Join Toastmasters--
What if you've never had any classroom or teaching experience? Well, as I said before volunteering is a good way to start. But...

... here's something that will help you along really quickly. Not only is this good for being comfortable in front of people but it also helps with one-on-one situations.

That's Toastmasters International. There are hundreds of clubs all over the United States. These clubs are designed to help people learn the art of public speaking.

A club only costs a few bucks to join, usually meets once a week, is very supportive and a lot of fun. It's a great way to meet new people, learn a new skill, boost your self-confidence and in many ways improve your station in life.

I belonged to a club for two and a half years and received tremendous value from it. I use skills that I learned in Toastmasters everyday when I teach and also in my personal life. I highly recommend finding a club near you and joining.

If You Need a Jumpstart...

I've found a great resource for you: How to Teach in Japan Handbook. Even if you are not thinking of teaching in Japan this ebook is full of great, useful information whether you are a freelancer or teach at a school. And it's especially valuable for the freelancer.

As you may know I am very picky about who I link with and the resources I recommend. And I highly recommend this valuable ebook.

Do You Need to Get Certified for Teaching English ?

You could get certified for teaching English. If you don't have a college degree getting certified could be helpful. Some schools in the US and overseas require it. I have taught English at three different places without certification.

Being Certified does not mean one is a better teacher. Being a good ESL teacher is all about communicating with the class, being enthusiastic(not overly and annoying so, though. One can be quietly enthusiastic.), keeping the students interested by providing variety.

However, more and more schools are requiring some type of ESL certification so for more info on that you can check out ICAL online English teaching certification.

Above all I believe it's important to be entertaining, giving students opportunities to talk everyday, having respect for the students and having impeccable integrity.

(Imagine that, being a teacher and not having to go back to school to get some kind of qualification certificate. You've lived your subject your whole life. You live and breathe your subject on a daily basis.

Before it was invisible like water to a fish because you were swimming around in English. Now as an ESL teacher you get to see that water and what it's made up of.)

You could actually start your own "adventure in teaching English" today...

Well, to be realistic maybe in a few days. Get a few books that I recommend, put an ad in the paper and take on some private students. Then to get some classroom experience you could find some volunteer work and teach a class.

You could contact a local college or language school in your city and see if they are looking for substitute teachers. However, there are some schools that require certification for teaching English. I've provided some resources for that. There are even places overseas you can go to get ESL certification. What a great excuse for a trip!


And I know someone personally who makes living teaching in Japan! To get more information on how he does it click here .


Click Here to read about the perks of teaching English as a Second Language.

I love teaching English. I have been fortunate enough to happen upon really good opportunities that have been extremely rewarding. If you keep yourself open and are willing to be flexible some good opportunities should come your way too.