Number one for English language teachers

USA: ESL in California

Maytal Erez shares her wisdom on encouraging immigrants to persevere with their studies.

I taught ESL in California, USA for about one year. After I posted a few flyers in the Mexican supermarkets a lot of South and Central Americans called me. After a few lessons, I realized that the main thing I needed to teach was not English, but rather self confidence and basic studying skills. I had a 50-year-old student, who had been sent to work on a farm since the age of 5, and had been working ever since. He had never studied, and felt very insecure about his ability to learn. His wife told me, that he was worried I would not want to teach him because of his bad memory! I constantly encouraged him, and told him he was doing very well. My top priority was to be very patient. I kept reminding myself that what I had planned to teach, was for HIM and not for me. It would take a few weeks to complete one lesson.

The South Americans who have immigrated to the USA are the main market for ESL classes. They have left their home to live in a place where there is enough money to live on. They usually do not have studying skills, and work long hours at hard jobs. By the end of the day, they are not very motivated to study English. Therefore, the lessons must be exciting in order to have a chance!

The South American US immigrants don't need English classes, don't want to pay for English classes, and are scared of them. Let me explain. Due to the large number of immigrants from South America to the USA, it is very easy for them to spend their whole lives there, without speaking any English! There are Spanish speakers in every shop, government agency and bank. Knowing that, it seems they are willing to give up on English lessons, without feeling guilty. They don't NEED English.

As most people know, spending money is a very complicated thing. Guilt is a common feeling, I would say, when taking out one's wallet! And coming from a culture where most people spend their whole lives working and not studying, you can see that it is hard to spend money. They don't WANT to pay for English.

But, after all they do take classes! Keep in mind that they are being very brave. In order to encourage them to continue their studies (and not just start), let them discover this: Knowing English is beneficial to them for many reasons: better paying jobs and job advancements could be available to an immigrant who knows English. Also, the immigrant's children are in English speaking schools, and come home with homework in that language. So the parents who can understand their children's homework, can help create a better future for the children and themselves (those with high paying jobs, have the chance to support their parents in their old age!!)

I had a few Japanese students as well. They did have good studying skills, and seemed to need challenging lessons. They got bored easily, maybe because I had gotten used to teaching at a slow pace with the South Americans.

I asked at a few private schools, about teaching there, but all required university degrees. I do not have a university. degree, but I do have a TEFL certificate (from ITC school in Barcelona, which I recommend). I was confident in my teaching skills, so I put up a few flyers. I received a lot of calls, and was able to charge $20 for 40-minute private lessons. What I'm saying is that there is plenty of work in California.

Also, UC Berkeley Extension (in Berkeley, CA) offers many different types of short classes on teaching ESL. The classes last a few weeks, or months and are inexpensive. I assume that all major Universities offer these classes in their extension schools (anyone can attend, you don't need to be accepted).

So, to those who want to move to the USA and teach ESL, my recommendation is: dive in! Good luck and remember to be as patient as possible with your students. Teach them at their pace, not yours!!

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