Because fluency is most easily attained if instruction begins at a young age, elementary education teachers of English as a second language play a vital role in the learning process. Elementary education is the base upon which students build in middle and high/secondary schools, so a good elementary education English teacher will instill and cultivate proper study skills as well as provide interesting and interactive activities to captivate curious young children with characteristically short attention spans. These teachers must use narrative vignettes, dialogues, tests and other materials to create a comprehensive learning experience. Educational computer programs or interactive websites may also be used as tools to aid students in the language learning process.
A big factor which influences the experience of teaching English as a second language is whether the teacher chooses to instruct within the United States or in non-English speaking countries abroad. Still, some similarities exist. Regardless of location, elementary education English teachers will typically be dealing with students ages five to ten, give or take a year.
Teaching ESL in the United States
In the United States, the teaching of English as a second language at an elementary education level falls under the ESL program. ESL is not part of the normal public school curriculum, rather a supplementary, comprehensive English course for students trying to attain a grasp of the language to better function in American society.
Elementary education ESL teachers are always employed by either the public school system or a private school. Teachers of ESL must be certified to teach in that state (view a full list of state certification requirements), as well as having completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition, linguistic master’s degrees, such as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), are gaining popularity as a way to specialize and become certified to teach English. According to PayScale, elementary school ESL teachers earn a median salary of $45,198.
TESOL in Non-English Speaking Countries
Teaching English as a second language outside of the United States is known as either TESOL, TEFL or TESL, with TESOL often used as an umbrella term. The specific responsibilities of these teachers differ from nation to nation, program to program. Regardless, the common primary duty is to facilitate the academic and social study of the English language in an environment will little regular exposure to it. TESOL teachers usually work five days a week, Monday through Friday, for seven to eight hours a day, either during normal class hours or after school. They instruct at either a public or private school, or are part of a government initiative or commercial education company.
The requirements to become a TESOL teacher at an elementary school level also vary by nation and program. The degrees demanded differ, with more stringent programs asking for a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics, TESOL or educational linguistics, and more liberal ones accepting any major from an accredited university (even in these cases, a premium is often put on education or English majors). Certification in either TESOL, TEFL or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is preferred, if not a must, and some courses additionally require a teaching license in elementary education. Necessary experience also differs, with some organizations asking for up to four years in a teaching English as a second language program, along with general elementary school experience, and others accepting candidates with no prior background. Competence in the host country’s native language is often not required. Some courses stipulate that the candidate be a native English speaker and even a passport holder of an anglophone nation, such as the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom.
The salary and benefits of a TESOL teacher at an elementary education level abroad also vary according to nation and program. Compensation is paid in the national currency, varies according to status of employment (full-time / part-time), and may take the form of either an hourly wage or salary. Benefits may include yearly vacation days, free furnished housing (dormitory, hotel or private lodgings) or adequate housing allowance, free or partially-reimbursed round-trip airfare, full or partial medical insurance coverage, and bonuses. Schools may also aid candidates in the process of obtaining a work visa. Besides monetary or material compensation, teaching abroad also offers instructors an opportunity to travel and experience different cultures.
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