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JackieJ



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 8
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:42 pm    Post subject: Teaching ESL Reply with quote

Hello everyone;

I have acquired my TESL certificate and am looking for an ESL position in Toronto. The problem I encounter is that I do not have sufficient ESL teaching exeprience to be able to answer all the intricate interview questions, for example on teaching methods or coopreative learning et. I do however, have experience in teaching social studies, but in a more traditional way: teacher centered, rather than the contemporary methods of teaching. Therefore, even this previuos experience does not arm me with sufficient examples desirable for today's classroom. Apart from this, I have done my practicum in an ESL language school and am also currently working as an instructor for adult upgrading, that does encompass some ESL besides other subjects, but is not the same as the ESL language classroom.
I would appretiate any advice on how to prepare for the interview questions. I have many samples, but not adeqaute answers, so I do not know how to go about this.
Thanks in advance;

Jackie
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Jackie, and welcome to the forums!Smile

I think you'd be surprised at how teacher-centered a lot of supposedly communicative teaching still is, when it is reduced down to the (un)stated lesson plan aims: "The students WILL practise this form (Present Progressive, for example)", or "I will set a discussion question and the students will simply and effortlessly discuss it for half an hour", and so on. That is, there isn't usually much sophistication or detail at a genuine discourse level (speaking in terms of Discourse of Conversation Analysis), and not much at even the potentially very rich lexicogrammatical level (see the functional grammars and learner dictionaries from COBUILD especially), so not that many so-called "communicative" teachers are actually doing that much to teach what I would call true conversation or other discourse skills (or, when they are actually teaching, they aren't really conversing or demonstrating conversation in a realistic way, and when they are conversing, they most usually aren't really teaching much if anything and have left whatever plan behind for a while...obviously, a lot of this paradox is due to the subject matter being the medium of instruction (which is also a paradox, albeit one more often commented on)).

That's not to say of course that a teacher can go in and simply lecture, or use lecture-based discourse patterns too much (e.g. the IRF cycle: teacher Initiates an exchange with, typically, a question; student Responds; teacher provides Feedback to that response), but there is surely a lot to be said for a teacher who is used to planning shall we say more "rhetorical" lessons anticipating the possible shape of conversation (on such-and-such a topic), and accordingly drawing up more detailed plans (flowcharts of possible conversational paths, perhaps) than some less-experienced teachers might, plus as the native speaker you will need to get into the driving seat a bit still in order to show the learner drivers how to drive and navigate the trickier routes. The thing to make sure of though is that most of what you say is stuff that could in principle be replicated by the sudent if they were to take the A and/or more active role in a conversation or dialogue (an so to go full-circle back to my opening proposition, when one looks at "communicative" classroom transcipts one often finds teachers using a voice and manner of talking that would only be of any use to any other aspiring "teachers", rather than committed and genuine conversationalists, say). So the best advice I can ultimately offer is as a professional teacher to always prepare a script of sorts (and in parts your plan will sometimes need to be as detailed as an actual script, because it's fine-grained language teaching we're on about here!) that certainly the more conversational side of you would be happy to use, in fact relish using! (Which would be the complete antithesis of, heaven forbid, anything like 'OK class, <stifles yawn> open your books to page 32 and <yawns again> look at the photo' [not that I think you necessarily use that sort of language, Jackie!]. Something more like, 'Hey, have you seen this (picture)?!').

Anyway, I've waffled on at length before about my search for, and thoughts on, a pedagogy for teaching conversation skills better - try searching for terms like 'Dogme' with me as author.Wink Dogme was founded by a guy (a language teacher) called Scott Thornbury (again, try searching for 'Thornbur*' (* is a wildcard allowing -y and -y's endings in one search), and you might want to try also searching for (if not buying) his and Slade's Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy, which covers the basics of Conversation Analysis well (Slade is an expert on this, and Systemic-Functional Grammar etc), as well as more progressive but ultimately empirically-based, rather than too hand-wavy fuzzy-light, pedagogy.
http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521814263

And to find my and other's thoughts (critical or supportive) of commonplace/"recommended" methodologies such as PPP etc, do a search for words like 'PPP', 'methodolog*', 'SLA', 'task' (TBL, TBLT) etc; then there is stuff like CLIL, for which the following isn't a bad place to start: http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=9439


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1311
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jobs are super scarce in Canada in the ESL field. You have to really research the school you are applying for because they all have different 'methods" they use to teach so that they are unique and can offer something" different, special and provide the best teaching" for the students.

It is good to get to know one of the staff members and figure out with them what the interviewers are wanting you to say. Take the secretary to coffee or meet her/him at her coffee spot and start up a conversation and get her/him to lead you to a sympathetic teacher who will prime you.

Read all of the school's promotional material and find a way to say it in your own words.

Get the interviewer to talk as much as possible and agree with their positions. Of course, if you don't you can't work there but they are usually quite reasonable.

Once you have the job you can sit in on colleague's classes until you are familiar with the mood, tone, and unstated rules of the school.

Don't bring up your doubts, pet theories of profs on how to teach which go against the school's ideals during the interview. Be super positive.

Dress carefully. It really does matter so sit outside the school and check out the dress of the other teachers one morning.


Last edited by Sally Olsen on Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, good advice, Sally! Especially the "Don't bring up your doubts, pet theories of profs on how to teach which go against the school's ideals during the interview. Be super positive." (I guess the only reason I was bringing my pet theories up on this forum was that I think a more genuinely communicative methodology can help one to be super-positive, think on one's feet etc). It must be a lot easier though for women to "Take the secretary to coffee or meet her at her coffee spot and start up a conversation and get her to lead you to a sympathetic teacher who will prime you". (Men loitering around would probably be asked to leave the building if they weren't already employed there LOL).

About the only thing I'd add is maybe consider joining the Job/International forums here on Dave's (separate registration is required) if you want to glean detailed information on potential employers, their methods etc.
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1311
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The schools have usually some misgivings about former teachers and don't want to be trapped in the same situation again so it is good to find out what these situations were so you can throw in some statements to reassure them that you won't make the same mistakes. They won't tell you these in an interview but if you have a contact inside, you can find these out and bring them in casually in your answers to questions. "Of course, I would never...." or "I always ....." "I am such a great team player and want to help others be their best and would never try to steal their students or turn their students against them." and so on.

Each school is so different and changes with new teachers so it is difficult to advise you on specifics. This is where you have to do your homework.

Fluffy, the secretary could be male. There are other possibilities as well - the janitor of the school, relatives of the administration. But I would imagine that another teacher would have the best insight into what really goes on and you will have made a friend before you start work.
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alawton



Joined: 27 Jul 2009
Posts: 45
Location: Austin, TX

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:51 am    Post subject: Advice Reply with quote

Your experience is not enough? I volunteered at a local church teaching Spanish and Vietnamese students English in Dallas to get my foot in the door. I then used that experience to get a job teaching community college adult ed classes. From there, after getting a Master's, I got a couple of gigs teaching community college ESL classes. Being in the Master's program got me the contacts to get teaching positions. My point is that in this field, you should be able to volunteer for a bit to get the experience that you need. There are plenty of opportunities. You use that to move on to paying positions. It is not a bad thing. If you like what you are doing, stay with it and you will get the job you want. I hope this helps.

Andrew Lawton
http://drewseslfluencylessons.com
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it would be even harder for a male potential teacher to ask a male secretary out to lunch (especially if the secretary wasn't good looking, darling! LOL!). As for almost alluding to a school's past problems, surely by assuring the school that you would never do such and such a thing you'd set all sorts of alarm bells ringing ("Don't worry, I'd never rob the safe, or try to burn the place down, or kidnap any students, or cause an international incident..."), especially if such problems weren't common knowledge and therefore came seemingly right out of the blue. (A lot would depend though on what the exact context was in a particular interview...I guess if the interviewer started joking about stuff like that then it would be fine for the interviewee to join in a little!).
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1311
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I overdid the advice. You are right, Fluffy. Don't bring up problems even if you think you can do better. But it doesn't hurt to know the history of the school and its staff to help avoid problems when you are hired. Of course, you try and get all points of view as well.

But if you meet some of the staff beforehand and like them it is more likely you will like your job.
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JackieJ



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 8
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for your posts. As I am fairly new to this city, I do not have many acquaintances and it seems hard to "get to know" someone from the inside. I am hoping though, that I will get a call from the school where I did my practicum. I do know some teachers there, so do you consider it as appropriate to visit them, or call them, and inquire about interview practices et? I have already asked my practicum teacher and she advised me to send my resume to both directors (as I have), and that they are not hiring right now, but maybe towards the springtime. Do you think I should be more pushy and agressive, or just wait?

Do you also think that I should say I have expereince in teaching ESL (the
tutoring or instructing I am doing currently is not equivilant to ESL teaching), or say I do not have substantial ESL experience, or do not have ESL exeprience? This is the tricky part as even though I have teaching exepreince and could give possible answers to some interview questions regarding personality or communication, I do not feel I have that much experience to talk fluently about the instructional methods or specific grammar points. I do feel worried and this is causing me additional anxiety.
Thank you again, I appreciate your replies.

Jackie
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it would definitely be A-OK to drop in to see the teachers you still know there (I'm not sure I'd hassle the directors themselves though, if you've already submitted your resume and been told they aren't quite hiring just yet). Perhaps mention in passing to those teachers that you're looking for a bit of extra work (be vague about the exact place(s) and hours you're "already working" and the hours you're thus looking for to supplement that), and see if they know of any openings. That way, your networking will be hopefully be less obvious or pressured, because it won't seem like you are asking for anybody to give you or magic up the details of completely FT job right off the bat (even though you may in fact be getting sdesparate for exactly that!). Gotta play it cool, in my experience, and usually be prepared to draw a blank.

The fact that you've already got a TESL cert with practicum (I'm assuming it is one of the good/recommended ones, equivalent to a CELTA or whatever with the 120 hours or so with qualified tutors, and 6-8 hours of observed teaching practice) should count for quite a bit, so you may not need to make up any volunteering and/or private tutoring experience or whatever; then again, that you're expressing nervousness about being potentially quite unprepared for interview questions may be indicating that your cert was lacking in some respects (but aren't they all - education is an industry don't you know, with so-called "minimum" standards LOL!Wink). I guess the only thing you can really do is look back through whatever grammar you learnt (before, during, or after the course) and identify what seemed difficult for you yourself if not the other trainees to learn and/or be taught (though what is badly taught may not always in fact be so difficult to teach, provided one gives it some thought and tries to get away from threadbare ways of teaching it!), because chances are that is what you could be asked about. (I know it may be tempting to say that everything was and still seems difficult, but surely there are some things that are harder than others). For example, Present Perfect is a right old fave, a real chesnut (though IMHO that is partly due to it often being so badly demonstrated by trainers in input sessions!):
http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=66094
http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?p=721052#721052
( http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?p=840139#840139 )
(( http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=41541#41541 ))
(Etc etc!)

There are some areas however that are very complex/interlocking and thus quite resistant to direct teaching (especially when using badly-designed stuff, obviously), for example the articles, and determiners and the English noun system generally, so it wouldn't be a cop out to be vague about them and just defer to "plenty of input and time" or whatever being necessary for students to really master them in any true/overall/sophisticated sense.

One day I probably ought to make a list of all my (and a few others'!) grammar-related posts and put them into some sort of order that would constitute a grammar course of a sort (which although it would be harder going in many parts than an "Idiot's" guide, would at least hopefully convey a better idea of the teaching issues and options involved). Unfortunately I've been a bit too preoccupied with Chinese the past year or so to have gotten around to starting let alone competing such a project, so there's nothing really concrete that I can immediately direct you to (though I would suggest searching for 'glossar*' at least with me as author), but if you (or anybody else) thought it sounded like a good idea and really wanted me to, I could start working on it ASAP. Very Happy


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sally Olsen



Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1311
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Go for it Fluffy. If social media can change so much in Egypt, etc. surely we can conquer Grammar: The Primer.

Meaning no disrepect, and please , please, please don't take this the wrong way or be insulted.........

Could you resist using brackets for extra ideas that come to you? Short, simple sentences for those of us who are struggling with the grammar ideas would be ideal.
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JackieJ



Joined: 02 Mar 2009
Posts: 8
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Fluffyhamster for your input. I still am not sure if it wise to say I have no ESL teaching experience, or some?
As for the practicum of 120 hours, it was very helpful, but I do think new teachers need more experience.
The reason why I am worried is that the competetion in Toronto is huge and I just want (need) to stand out. I have prepared lesson plans (reviewed and evaluated) and can use those as examples of my work.

I guess I would also have to post in the job forums to gain other useful ideas.

Thanks again.

Jackie
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, no offence taken, Sally! I've become more aware of my overuse of brackets as the years have rolled on, and have made efforts on other sites to reduce my use of them...not sure though that I'll be totally up for or have quite the time for editing or rewriting my old Dave's stuff that much though, although that would admittedly be better than just pasting in a load of old post or thread URLs! Hmm...but I should sure try, eh! Would keep me busy... Idea Wink Very Happy

Last edited by fluffyhamster on Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be honest Jackie, the experience I gained with in my case UK employers straight or relatively soon after completing the CELTA wasn't of much value to me professionally, even though it may have satisfied employers further down the line that I was halfway-employable. I found that I only really started developing when I left the UK and went to places, namely China and then Japan, where there were fewer native speakers around to tell me what to do, and where I was thus finally allowed to think for myself and able to simply "get on with it". That is, remaining within the rough vicinity of where you trained can have the effect of putting you into a holding pattern developmentally, where you are scared to develop in the "wrong" (i.e. "unapproved") ways, despite it being vitally important that each teacher finds their own voice and thus style(s). So the effect of a lot of the training and mentoring available in the West is that the most it can often do is show you how you yourself (in your private opinion) probably wouldn't personally want to always teach, but not a whole lot (obviously) about what you would actually like to do instead! But it wouldn't of course be wise to say anything like that to your current circle of potential employers, who will expect you to be grateful for whatever they might throw your way, because you will stand to gain so much from it in terms of experience if not recompense (and who knows, you may well do! There are still some good schools around in the West, even though they may still unavoidably "institutionalize" you a bit in the process of employing and "guiding" you in their way of doing things).

Anyway, I don't think it would hurt to invent a bit of volunteering and/or private tutoring experience, and it shouldn't be too hard in the meantime to offer a few free online lessons or something like that, in order to find a few willing students to at least chat/IM with and in the process impart a tip or two to. You could also check out teacher and/or student forums like these here on Dave's (not all teachers are natives, so they may well have queries, not all of them too complex) and try posting polished answers (for getting some sort of feedback), or at least in your mind forumulating rough answers, to grammar questons, requests for activity ideas, study advice etc. All that being said, having a few years of thinking and genuinely reflective experience under one's belt does help, sort of making it all a bit of a Catch-22!
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