Are you a Certified ESL Teacher?

What does being a certified ESL teacher really mean? It’s become a blanket phrase that just about any teacher can claim – or can they?

Recently, I was approached by a friend who asked if I would help her cousin secure an ESL teaching position. She had been teaching overseas for several years and upon returning had had no luck in finding work. Of course I offered to help in any way I could – so we were connected via email. My first question was if she was TESL Ontario certified (I included a link to the Accreditation part of their website). She responded that yes, she was certified. I verified, “TESL Ontario?” Again came the affirmative response.

Emails flew back and forth about job information, class details, wages, etc. Then she sent her resume to me to forward to my manager.  I glanced at it. And that’s when I saw that she had a certificate from Oxford Seminars. And nothing else. Nothing against shorter training programs – I myself did a one week training program with Global TESOL when I first started. However, the better jobs require higher qualifications (like any other field).

As a LINC instructor, I cannot recommend her for a position to my manager unless I know that she’s qualified (well, I guess I could, but why would I?) – so when I asked about her qualifications I was only trying to make sure. Turns out she had no idea what certifications were needed – or why.  I had to inform her of this oversight and listed off some smaller private schools that might have work available. That was the last email.

I know I’m not alone when I wonder about the confusion of courses versus qualifications in our field. And I’m not alone when I feel anger at those who claim they can do my job with no training at all. But I’m preaching to the choir here.

I guess I have often felt that I don’t get much from my membership at TESL Ontario. Until recently (I think the benefits weren’t as apparent to me before). That certificate (and ongoing membership) sets me apart from those with less education or experience. And several schools and programs require that certification in order to be considered for a position there. Apparently the development of the certification was quite a process. You can read a brief history of it here.

I know the industry as a whole has issues with international and local certification equivalencies (and other issues), and I don’t know when or if they will ever be addressed, but I’m often relieved that my education and experience (and certification) are pre-requisites for many teaching roles (like my current one at LINC). It also offers motivation to continue to educate yourself in the field. Though I’m unsure if a Masters degree is in my near future, I am thrilled with the Post TESL Certificate Training (PTCT) and am excited to begin my journey onward and upward.

Have you tried any of the courses yet (do you plan to)? Which ones? What did you think?


Don’t forget to Use Your Mellyn!

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