ESL Teacher Job Description

Are you interested in becoming an ESL teacher? What is an ESL teacher job description, and why consider this teacher job?

First, let’s talk a little but about what this teaching job is all about. ESL, or English as a Second Language, is the field of education in which students learn English in addition to their native language. These students may be children or adults, and they may be refugees or immigrants who came from their country to an English-speaking nation.

An ESL teacher plays the role of assisting students with communication skills needed to thrive in an English-speaking area. ESL teachers work in schools, private companies and nonprofit organizations.

This career is critical to the success of students for opening doors to opportunities that advance their future goals.

What are the Qualifications for an ESL Teacher?

Qualifications for being an ESL teacher vary depending on the environment you’re teaching in. If you work in a school, it may be necessary to have a degree in education, or just a certification from your state. Check with your state or local district to see requirements.

If you plan to teach ESL in higher education, like a college or university, it would help to have a degree in a field like TESL/TESOL, with a master’s degree or Ph.D. preferred.

To determine the credentials you will need, it’s best to first decide in which setting you’d like to teach, then contact that organization to learn their requirements.

Some teachers want to travel to a different country to teach students whose native language is not English. Or you may want to teach English online to students who live in another country. This is referred to as English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Many of the requirements to teach EFL are the same as ESL.You can look online to see requirements for companies that hire people to teach English online, or you can look for organizations that assist teachers in traveling abroad by helping them secure travel visas, jobs and host family placements.

ESL Teacher Job Duties and Responsibilities

An ESL teacher’s job is to give students access to language skills needed to function in an English-speaking community. These skills include speaking, listening, writing, and reading.

The teacher achieves this goal through several pedagogical methods, such as direct instruction, paired learning, group work, projects, essays, games,  digital resources, audio resources, television shows and movies.

You might also be tasked with helping students understand cultural norms of the society in which they’re now living. This can include teaching students about typical food of their new home country, norms for clothing or etiquette, common laws and government regulations. This can be an extremely satisfying aspect to an ESL teacher’s position by seeing the direct impact of the assistance being given as the students navigate their new society.

If you work in a public school, you may have your own self-contained classroom of only English Language Learners (ELLs), or you may have a mixed class of ELL students and native English speakers.

Or, you may be asked to go to different schools in your district each day and perform push-in or pull-out instruction to small groups of ELLs in each class.

An ESL teacher is also responsible for assessing students’ learning achievements and maintaining data to deliver to supervisors and governing boards. This may be achieved through standardized tests and oral or written assessments.

What Makes a Good ESL Teacher?

A good ESL teacher needs an arsenal of skills to be successful. First, the degree or certification you acquire should prepare you with the instructional tools you need to convey knowledge to students.

You must be prepared to find a way to communicate with students who may have little to no knowledge of English at all. You might also need to be prepared to have students who have a very high knowledge of conversational English, but low abilities in reading and writing. A good ESL teacher will have the pedagogical knowledge to apply the correct instructional methods to each student at the level they need.

ELL (English Language Learner) students benefit from a teacher who is comfortable expressing themselves in more than just verbal ways. What makes a successful teacher in an ESL classroom is the ability to convey learning through body language, objects from real life (realia), photos, videos, audio recordings and environmental prints hung up around the classroom (such as posters and labels on common objects around the room).

Finally, good ESL teachers must find a way to keep students engaged and entertained so that they will want to keep learning. It is helpful for teachers to have a sense of humor and a friendly disposition so students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes while learning.

What Are The Challenges of ESL Teaching?

As noted, some challenges you will face as an ESL teacher include students who may not understand what you’re saying. It’s important to find a way to communicate in other ways. You can use simple words, gestures and flashcards to communicate basic directions and statements. Environmental print and realia will also help in this case.

Sometimes, another student in the class can act as a translator if they speak the same native language as each other. However, some states allow students’ native languages to be spoken in the classroom, and some states forbid it. These rules mostly apply to teachers in public schools, while private organizations and nonprofits have their own guidelines.

Another challenge ESL teachers might face is that students may come from traumatic home experiences, especially if they are refugees and immigrants from countries facing warfare or violence.

Some children may have had to leave parents behind to come live with other relatives, or they may be orphaned due to the turmoil they lived through.

Older students may have lost jobs, relatives or their own children. These students may have serious emotional trauma that they are dealing with that might prohibit them from being open to learning. An ESL teacher must be sensitive to these issues and provide whatever support their organization has available to help students work through these issues.

What Makes ESL Teaching Interesting/Meaningful?

The unique challenges of ESL teaching make it an incredibly rewarding field. To see students arrive at your classroom with various struggles and barriers and know that you will have a chance to help them overcome these obstacles is extremely fulfilling.

As you work with them, it is satisfying to see “light bulbs” go off in their mind each time they understand a new concept and can apply it to their life.

You can help open up more educational opportunities, or you might be assisting them with language skills needed to get a new or better job.

Your daily interaction with students can also be very exciting, as many students already have a strong interest in the language, so they will be very engaged in your instruction.

If you implement the tactics you learned in your degree or certification course, you’ll find that you and your students will be having lots of fun playing games, listening to music, acting out skits or producing creative projects that will keep you all entertained and learning.

ESL Teaching Job Interview Questions (and how to answer them)

When interviewing for a job as an ESL instructor, whether for a public K-12 district there are many common questions that you might be asked. Here are a few you can prepare yourself for and some ideas of how to answer them.

1. “Why do you want to teach English as a Second Language?”

The interviewer is seeing if you have a genuine interest in the field. Your students may be dealing with many difficult issues in their lives, including housing and job insecurity, family separation, and culture shock. The interviewer wants to see you’re not just doing this job for a paycheck. It’s best if your answer includes a heartfelt response, and it would be helpful for an employer to hear that you’re doing it because you care about people in your community.

2. “How would you describe your teaching style?”

The interviewer is likely wondering how you will deal with adversity in the classroom. Because of the language barrier, simple communication is sometimes nearly impossible to achieve.

The interviewer wants to know that your teaching style will include patience for when these barriers arise, and creativity to figure out how to communicate. You can mention that your instructional style might include interactive activities like drawing pictures, playing games and signaling to environmental print to help communicate.

3. “Tell us about your educational philosophy.”

If you’ve gone through a university degree in education, you will have studied many different approaches to pedagogy, child psychology and behavior management. These should have helped you to form an opinion on the reason why you teach.

You are most likely being asked what you believe about the value of your students as people. Why are you pursuing the field of education? What do you believe your role is in relation to your students? Are you merely a provider of knowledge, or do you believe you serve a higher purpose in your students’ lives?

To think about a response, consider why you believe education is so important, and what it can do for your students.

ESL Teaching – A Rewarding Teaching Job

Though an ESL teacher will face many difficult challenges, it will also likely be one of the most rewarding experiences of their life.

To see students arrive that first day without being able to produce even the most basic sentences, and then watch them evolve into people who can communicate complex emotions and thoughts is a joy.

The satisfaction of knowing you are helping people learn is a fulfillment that will stay with you for a lifetime.