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5 Transferrable Skills from Teaching English Abroad
When you take the CELTA, you may think that you’re learning how to be a good English teacher — or how to explain grammar or have energy in front of a class when you stayed up half the night working on an assignment. And yes, all that is true. But on the CELTA, and as you develop as a teacher, you’re also picking up valuable transferrable skills. These hidden talents can be a great boost as you search for new jobs. As you continue your career, whether you’re moving from one teaching job to another or changing professions entirely, seize the opportunity to showcase all those transferrable skills you’ve learned from teaching English abroad!
As a teacher, you pick up so many leadership skills. Your classroom is a team, and you’re the one responsible for managing it. From day one, you’re recognizing needs and making plans to respond to them. You develop a knack for giving constructive feedback while still motivating your students to push ahead. You have to make judgments on when to guide the group and when to step back and let them take control. And you do this all without supervision.
Not only that, but you’re also the primary team-builder in your classroom. As teachers become more focused on communicative methodologies and developing learner autonomy, the power balance in the classroom shifts. As the leader of the democracy, you learn how to cultivate interpersonal relationships and how to match students to accomplish their goals – no easy task!
It might seem a given that an English teacher would have good communication skills, but it’s worthwhile to illustrate to an interviewer what that means practically. You are constantly listening to your students, both to their stated goals and the subtext – for example, what it really means to help a student who says they want to ‘speak fluently.’ If you are in tune with your students, their success and motivation will skyrocket.
And of course, you will have experienced the reverse role. Potential employers are always interested in how their staff will take feedback. CELTA-qualified teachers will have extensive experience in both receiving feedback and giving it to their peers. This only increases when you join the workforce, where teacher observations are a regular occurrence. It can put an employer at ease to know that his employee is accustomed to handling feedback with grace and open-mindedness.
A useful skill in any industry is flexibility and a level-headedness in dealing with changes big and small. As a professional in a constantly evolving industry, you have to implement new research and methodologies as they emerge. All the internal training sessions, external conferences, and ideas from your personal development network shows that you are able to adapt to new ideas and policies, dealing with macro changes that can have a foundational effect on your work.
In a more pragmatic way, having to deal with challenges in the classroom and make on-the-spot decisions demonstrates that you can keep your cool when faced with hiccups in the plan. The speakers aren’t working on a day you’ve planned a listening lesson? Here’s Plan B. A one-to-one student suddenly changes their goals – and your whole curriculum? No problem. Your director of studies asks you to fill in for a sick colleague? Easy. Being able to play dodge ball with life’s unexpected problems is a bonus in any job.
Recruiters want to know that new hires are flexible with decisions out of their control, yes, but they also want to make sure that they can figure out how to fix problems on their own. Of course this happens every day in the classroom, when students take your lesson down a different path or an unexpected problem emerges (technical difficulties plague us all).
But problem solving isn’t just about making split-second decisions. Teachers have the chance to reflect on their lessons, what worked and what didn’t, and make changes for the next time they teach that lesson – or even those students. Being reflective is a skill that not everyone has these days, and mindfulness is a buzzword that can give your application a boost.
Want to really show off to a recruiter? Tell them how you’ve gone above and beyond in your career. Whether it’s stepping up to run new programs at your school or presenting at an external conference, you can show potential employers that you take your work seriously by describing how you’ve advanced your career through professional development.
Teachers are a special group of people – they put in extra at their jobs not because they feel obliged to, but because they want to. That sort of drive will catch the attention of anyone looking to expand their team!
What other skills have you picked up from teaching English abroad? Are there any others that you would add to our list?
Amy snagged a CELTA from Teaching House New York in 2013 and since then has taught on three continents (and counting). Having a CELTA has made her dream of moving abroad possible, and currently she is slow-traveling through Europe. She loves getting to know students, wandering around cities, and trying to find the world’s best donut. You can check out her travel adventures and mishaps at The Wayfarer’s Book.