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I Passed My Proficiency Exam. Now I Can Teach English!

“Hey Ms. Katherine! Now that I’ve passed my proficiency exam, I’m officially a teacher like you! I’m capable of doing your job, right? Besides, how difficult can it be?”

Woah there! Just hold your horses for a minute. Why in the world would you believe that as a holder of a C2 level certificate in English, you’re ready to teach the language to others? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you aren’t, but just bear with me for a second.

Text by: Katherine Reilly

There’s a huge difference between being a fluent speaker with an excellent command of the language and administering the capacity to teach it. I know, I know, in the good old days, the ministry of education acknowledged C2 level certificates as the minimum prerequisite to obtaining a teacher’s permit. That in itself, offered the holders every legal right to exercise the profession. Admittedly, that was true. Hundreds, if not thousands of potential language teachers saw this as a genuine opportunity to pursue an esteemed career in ELT and some have to their credit lived up to the demands of the profession exhibiting a passionate, almost flawless commitment to their duties. These educators have not only proved themselves worthy of the title of English Language Teacher but have in some cases, surpassed educators who have been studying English Literature for years. May I even be so bold as to say that they even display an unconditional passion for language teaching, one which has assisted them in evolving even further by pursuing university studies that reflect their line of work.

What then is the purpose of voicing complaints? You might say that disproving yourself in such a fashion is counterproductive as regards your original claims. Not exactly. As mentioned earlier, only a portion of educators have deemed it necessary to evolve and perfect their skills. These are the individuals who acknowledge the responsibility of broadening their perception and knowledge of the field. Entering a classroom with the flawed mentality that you’ll be able to teach a class, without any training whatsoever, is not only considered irresponsible but unreliable in the eyes of a potential employer or client. To be more precise, a scholar, regardless of educational background, has a responsibility to evolve and adopt proved teaching methods that have been administered for decades now. ELT is in constant flux and this is reflected not only in teaching methods but also in the materials offered by major publishers of the market.

Unfortunately, there are many C2 level certificate holders with teaching permits, who have never fostered the idea of attending formal ELT training. Some have never even heard of, or even worse, ignored academic lectures on language teaching, book presentations as regards their functionality and would even go so far as to register students for specific language examinations, completely ignorant of the format and marking criteria. As an oral examiner, many a time I have witnessed candidates with little to no preparation – sometimes even the wrong one. Why should these candidates who have entrusted us with their education and their parents’ hard-earned money, be treated in such a fashion?

Of course, these concerns go both ways. The same can be said about a university graduate who has studied English Literature and assumes he can conquer the world. My oh my, is he in for a treat. Studying said language is vastly different to teaching it. Proper preparation before lesson is of the utmost importance. Adhering to the methodology of a coursebook is unquestionable, as publishers have meticulously compiled their resources and addressed the proper stimulation to ensure the student will acknowledge and assimilate the material at hand. Attending ELT seminars and training sessions to keep oneself in the loop is without a doubt the greatest responsibility of every ELT educator, be it a proficiency holder or a university graduate.

As regards those ambitious individuals who long to teach but deem themselves superior or even oblivious to any form of training? It’s this exact mindset which will hinder them from realizing their desires and in the long run will prove their downfall. Neither a degree nor a certificate will make you a teacher, rather the desire to surpass yourself and strive to embody the true nature of an educator; that of a constant accumulator and propagator of knowledge.''