As English proficiency becomes more of a requirement than a perk at many companies operating on the Prague market, opportunities for qualified TEFL teachers are increasing exponentially.
However, “unlike the past where many language schools would hire anyone who was a native English teacher, they are now requiring that teachers have completed an internationally recognized and accredited TEFL certificate course with at least six hours of observed teaching practice,” says Cheryl Drabova of TEFL Worldwide.
“One could say that students now expect a bit more from their teachers in terms of knowledge. In the past, teachers could kind of learn on the job. Nowadays, students are expecting planned out and professional lessons from their teachers. This is a positive thing for the industry,” Drabova adds.
Technology has also helped to reshape ESL classrooms over the past decade. Today’s teachers now have a new set of tools readily available to them, from interactive whiteboards and multi-media language textbooks to Skype language courses, language learning apps and other e-learning platforms.
Such high-tech additions have had “a profound effect on how English is being taught in the 21st century,” says Christine Thompson, a lead trainer at Language and Training, which runs TEFL courses in Prague. “Motivated students have more autonomy and can study with increasing ease, convenience and independence, and as a result, teachers are expected to be more technologically savvy than in the past.”
Still, as Thompson points out, “for most learners, nothing can replace the opportunity to speak face-to-face with a teacher and have immediate feedback on your learning and the quality of your communication. It is a social discipline after all.”
Drabova agrees. “Technology is making the job easier for both teachers and students. It can make finding answers, vocabulary, and translations much easier,” she says. “But ultimately, those are just tools. Nothing replaces a good, knowledgeable teacher.”
While demand remains high, many teachers are finding themselves bogged down with more administrative work, says Thompson, “and may, in some cases, need to assume a higher course load in order to earn similar salaries to 10 years ago.”
Despite this, Drabova notes that companies will have a hard time finding untrained teachers willing to work for “peanuts” these days.
“It’s not hard to get a job if you have a TEFL certificate. It never really was,” says Drabova. There are a number of online jobs boards and resources, including Tefl.eu, where teachers can browse openings in Prague and other key cities around Europe as well as post their resumes.
“Most teachers tend to be in their 20s. However, some companies are really looking for people with more ‘life experience’ so this attracts people who have held down jobs for long times in the past and are just looking for a change of pace,” says Drabova. “We have a number of teachers who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, who are looking for a new experience and are adventurous enough to try it!”
With a fast-evolving global business market, there seems to be less emphasis placed on hiring British over American native speakers, or vice versa. “The preference overall is for experienced, qualified, native teachers,” says Thompson, adding that increased demand “trumps the dialect preference in most cases.”
Bottom line: “there is and always will be a demand for English teachers,” says Drabova. “That has remained consistent apart from about a one-and-a-half year period around the time of the recession, where many companies cut their budgets regarding language lessons,” resulting in cuts and hiring freezes at many language schools around Prague, too.
Things have since turned around, though, and the Prague TEFL community, by all accounts, is once again back to its pre-recession highs.
“It’s becoming an advantage to have done your TEFL course in Prague, as it demonstrates an ability and willingness to adapt to a new culture and commit to teaching English,” says Drabova. “I know companies that will always hire a locally trained graduate over someone who has done their certificate outside of Prague.”