The age, background, and motivation of the students in your ESL classroom will vary greatly depending on where you are teaching and the school or institute you work for. You could have a class full of university students, hotel workers or even high flying business executives. Alternatively, you might work in a government school teaching a class of children aged anywhere from five to sixteen. Each of these groups has its own characteristics, and different teachers have their own preferences. Just remember that by completing a reputable TEFL certification course before you head off abroad, you will learn all the skills required to deliver effective and enjoyable lessons to almost any group of learners.
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A large percentage of teachers working in ESL classrooms overseas will find their classes are full of adults of various ages and backgrounds. This is particularly true across Europe and Latin America as few countries in these regions allow foreign teachers to work in public schools. Subsequently, most teachers work for private language centers that either conduct classes on their own premises or send teachers to work with company employees directly onsite. The students in your classroom could come from many different walks of life such as employees of cross-border businesses, workers in the tourism and hospitality industries, university students planning to study overseas, or individuals who simply want to have a better understanding of English language media such as music, books, movies and television. When working with adult students it is worth remembering that the vast majority will have work or study commitments during the week so you should be prepared to work evenings and at weekends.
Unlike much of Europe and Latin America, Asia has a huge market for teaching ESL to young learners. In countries such as South Korea and Japan, there are government programs in place that recruit large numbers of foreign teachers to work within the public school system (other countries including Spain, France, and Chile have similar programs on a smaller scale). Summer jobs working with young learners in English language camps are another area that is popular in many parts of the world. In some countries it is also common for parents to send their children for extra language instruction on top of what they receive during school hours. Many thousands of teachers work in private language academies in countries such as China and South Korea where the majority of lessons are conducted in the late afternoon and early evening. As well as general English instruction, many students also attend these lessons looking for help in passing the English language college entrance examination known as TOEFL.
As well as working in a government-run school or a private language academy, many teachers across the world turn to tutoring private students to top up their income. If you decide to branch out into private lessons you can choose to limit your services to certain groups or you can mix things up across all ages and backgrounds. Just remember that the rules and regulations regarding private lessons vary from country to country so it is wise to do your research before you get started. Your main employer might also have some concerns if you decide to poach their students for private lessons away from the school.