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Transferable skills

November 16, 2006

Hello again,

Many English language teachers see their work as short-term. ELT is the ideal means of working your way as you experience new countries and explore different cultures. But what happens when you have satisfied your wanderlust and want to come home and carve out a career? It seems to me ...

...that training and experience in ELT provide people with a range of excellent transferable skills.

First take general “people skills”. As a teacher you have learnt to be a good listener, to interact and cooperate with peers and people from different backgrounds, to be able instruct, counsel and support, to be aware of non-verbal communications and to respect different cultural perspectives. Teachers also have good communications skills that allow them to explain clearly, check for understanding and to analyse written material and condense it concisely. Teaching also involves supervisory and leadership skills: in the classroom you have motivate and give constructive feedback. You also have to control groups so that individuals neither dominate nor feel neglected.

Mind skills are another range of competencies that teachers develop: you can analyse complex information; you have creative approaches to problems (yes, we all have to improvise when the photo-copier goes down); you also have take decisions, weighing up the options and going for the most appropriate choice. Additionally, teachers have good organisation skills and are methodical.

Practical skills are also acquired through teaching: writing skills, often use of technology, sometimes foreign languages. Finally, teachers are flexible and adapt readily to new situations and tolerate change well (never mind if five new students enter the class unexpectedly, you can cope).

This is a very general summary of the transferable skills that most teachers develop; you may have many more. In today’s fast-paced work environment, it seems to me that EL teachers have enormous value in many felds with the range of competence they acquire through teaching.

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