What TESOL Certificates Don't Teach You: Teacher Training Through Hands-On Experience

TESOL Certificates are usually month long courses in teaching English to speakers of other languages. The duration of any typical TESOL course generally ranges from 60-120 hours. There are various certifications which have different names, but all relate to English language teacher training such as; TESOL, TEFL, CELTA, amongst others.

There are definitely advantages to undertaking one of these courses, however there are also pitfalls, most of which relate to the fact that there is more focus on theory rather than practical experience.

Following the thread of this topic, we will be looking at what skills are actually necessary to become a successful and knowledgeable teacher, as well as the best ways for you to acquire these skills.

Too Much Theory

A theoretical foundation is necessary to ensure that one has appropriate teaching methodologies at their disposal. However, excessive focus on the different theories of language teaching, as encountered on a TESOL certificate, may leave one confused and unsure which approach to implement. In addition to this, in most cases the theories that are taught are outdated and redundant, which leaves one unprepared for the classroom. Teaching is a very practical and intuitive activity, which is best learnt through direct interaction with students; it is a trial and error process of constant adaptation.

Work Experience

There is a limitation to how well a 120 hour certificate (only 6 of which are actually in-classroom teaching experience) can train you for teaching a class. What environment you teach in and who you are teaching will determine the approach you have to take; this is a gradual learning experience and takes time; there is no one size fits all approach. There is also no substitute to hands-on experience when learning how to become a teacher.

Cultural Factors

During the course of a TESOL certification program, the environment one finds themselves in for the majority of their training is often in an isolated conference room with the lecturer and other students. There is little to or no exposure in dealing with the cultural differences and language barriers one will inevitably face in a foreign language teaching environment. Learning how to communicate and comfortably interact with speakers of other languages is crucial to becoming a successful teacher.

Alternatives to a TESOL Certificate

Real life teaching experience, correct theoretical implementation, and cultural exposure are fundamental components of being a well-rounded foreign language educator. If not through TESOL certificates, then you may ask how exactly you can get these necessary skills. An alternative approach to teacher training certificates is through direct work experience. This can be through signing up and participating in a volunteer program for teaching English which not only gives you all of the above, but also gives you the opportunity to contribute to helping underdeveloped communities. This is also a great way to boost your resume and shows that you have both the hands-on work experience as well the intercultural people skills necessary to be a good teacher.

Volunteering to teach English abroad can be a highly enriching and rewarding experience that benefits both you and the community that you will be working with. You will also have the opportunity to explore and understand a totally different culture than your own. Check out our volunteer program in Vietnam and Japan.