Looking for a job where you can travel the world while getting paid, or stay home and have the world come to you? Teaching ESL, or English as a Second Language, may be for you.

TESL Coordinator Irene McKay of Toronto’s George Brown College, says she recommends ESL to anyone who loves to interact with people and learn about other cultures. But there are a few things she’d like potential teachers to know.

“The job is physically challenging and demanding,” McKay said. “If you’re teaching five to six hours a day it takes a lot out of you, and you have to be well prepared to keep your students motivated and stimulated.”


She also advises potential candidates that courses such as George Brown’s are tough. You need to master grammar to be able to teach it, and don’t expect to stand up and lecture your class of 25 adults — today’s ESL classes are interactive, with group activities and games to plan.

“You have to be open, flexible and empathetic,” McKay said.

In Vancouver, veteran teacher trainer Tillat Khalid of Global Village says teaching English also requires dedication.

“You can’t just waltz into a classroom and wing it talking about last night’s hockey game,” said Khalid, who warns against expensive quickie ESL courses that may not get you a job. “And you can’t finish work and go home and forget about it.”

You won’t get rich teaching ESL, either, she notes. Private language schools pay about $25 an hour and may only offer a few hours’ work, and there’s no job security.

Both McKay and Khalid agree that teachers with a specialty are in demand, whether it’s teaching English to snowboarders in Whistler or to nurses and construction project managers in Toronto. Private tutoring is another option.

Despite the downside, neither woman can imagine a profession more gratifying.

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