Technology post-CELTA (1): technology for finding work in English language teaching

Get on Twitter!

You want a job? Get yourself on Twitter!

For many people, taking a CELTA course is the start of their career in English language teaching (ELT, aka TEFL). Post-CELTA, one of the first ways you are probably going to use technology for is to help you find that all important first job as an English teacher.

Here's a few tips, which come from many years of coming into contact — often thanks to technology — with many, many people looking for TEFL jobs.

  • What is your email?
    If you have an email address that sounds unprofessional, ditch it — and make that the first thing you do. Ideally, you want your own name. What you don't want is something like [email protected] (and I've seen far worse). The problem is this: do you want to run the risk of putting them off you?
  • Do you look like a mad axeman/woman?
    While you're at it, get yourself a decent, professional-looking profile picture, use the same one on social media if you're there publicly, and attach it to your CV. Note that "professional-looking" is virtually impossible to achieve with a webcam (or a selfie-stick!), and you want it without dark glasses, the Eiffel Tower, your boy-/girlfriend or your cat (etc.). Your photo is the first impression you make — and you don't get a chance to make a second.
  • What's you digital footprint?
    You might also want to actually try searching online for yourself and see what you (and a potential employer) can find. What have you tweeted about? Do you have a public blog? Start restricting who can see what if necessary!
  • Is your CV perfect?
    Then you want to make sure your CV is up-to-date and typo-free, and includes your nice new profile picture, in a version that you can send to potential employers — best as a .pdf document
  • Are you on LinkedIn?
    Even if you're not really much into social media, get yourself on LinkedIn, with your updated CV and — two vital things — your location and your profile picture. Your location is important because LinkedIn will find you and send you job offers based on that. Not all of them will be in ELT so if you do have other qualifications and experience, you want to decide whether or not to highlight them. And LinkedIn is for professionals — you really are expected to appear without your cat!
  • Is your CV online elsewhere?
    There are lots of other places you can have an online CV which it can be interesting to provide a link to in the resumé you're sending to employers. I have mine on about.me, which is a site I can recommend (though if I were actually looking for work, I'd spend some time and effort to tailor it to the kind of job I was looking for). There are lots of others but note that you can be a bit too clever and fancy with some of them. I've seen some which probably didn't in fact impress any Director of Studies (DoS) who ever looked at them. (Perhaps it should be said that the average DoS in the average language school isn't… Well, let's just say that they are not usually a technological whiz kid.)
  • ELT jobs sites
    You then want to actually start looking for jobs, with TEFL.com probably being the best, most scam-free site for TEFL jobs (and do beware of scams — which would include any job that requires you to pay to obtain it). Some of the big school chains (such as Bell, EF, International House) have their own recruitment sites which are well worth checking out. Some of them will require you to register — worth doing if you're seeking work.

First coffee, then breakfast, then Twitter, THEN class!

You're looking for work? First Twitter, then coffee, then the paper!

  • Get on Twitter
    If you're not on Twitter, you maybe want to be, at least until you find a job: you can be "private" and you don't actually need to "tweet" — but follow TEFL.com on Twitter (and other ELT jobs sites) and you can access the jobs before they're immediately snapped up.
  • And for your next job…
    Once you've got your first job — and are maybe looking for your next (!) — in your next interview it's good to be able to talk about something your learners have done with technology. I'd suggest that's more important than being able to say what you can do with technology, and some interesting project work your learners have done will probably be a plus against your name with any forward-thinking DoS.

Coming up in this "Technology post-CELTA" series

Why teachers need to be on social media

G Plus CommunityFor our 1,500-member post-CELTA support group, which has been using a private Yahoo Group since it was first set up in August 2004, we're gradually moving on to private G+ communities (logo, right), which has generated a number of concerns about privacy.

A G+ Community (very like a Facebook group if you aren't familiar with G+) can be either public or private, a choice you have to make on set-up and cannot then change. Privacy issues ought to be among the first concern of teachers considering using technology and, with a private Community, what is posted there stays there, and is shared only with members of the community — so that "Private" is the choice I've made for all the Communities I run, no matter who the community has been for, teachers or for language learners.

For anyone reluctant to join our new group (open only to people who take their CELTA course at IH Barcelona) — or concerned about using social media in general, for that matter — I've put forward the same arguments I've used with language learners:

  • By being on the internet at all, you've already surrendered a certain amount of your privacy
  • We have, nevertheless, done what is possible to make our community private
  • You do need to concern yourself with what you share with whom…
  • But, in the 21st century, you probably do want a professional digital footprint on the internet

A professional digital footprint
In the world of work — which, after all, English language teaching is part of — you probably do want to hide certain things. Who can access what on your Facebook page, for example…? Can a potential employer…? What photos can other people find and see, not just on Facebook but elsewhere, too…? Picassa, for example, is a site where I discovered I was unwittingly "sharing" photos I never meant to.

Unknown userBut you probably do want to be on LinkedIn, for example, with a carefully crafted profile and an attractive profile picture — for the job offers you can obtain through it and so that recruiters can take a good look at you. And yes, for that reason, you want a profile image, not some faceless default image (see example, right).

Somewhere like about.me is another quite good place to post your curriculum (and a good place to link to in your paper or digital CV). Here, to provide an example, is my about.me page — still a work in progress and note that I'm not looking for a job as an English teacher: if I were, I'd most definitely change things there.

Being able to show examples of what your learners have done is also interesting, perhaps work that they posted online (and again, you'd want to concern yourself with privacy and obtain their permission to make use of it). If it's not posted publicly, screen captures on paper in a portfolio would be one way to go.

And you probably do want to be "on" social media, with a blog and/or a Twitter account that you can also show to potential employers (always assuming that what you're posting isn't going to immediately put them off you as a candidate!).

By following other people on Twitter or on blogs or via RSS (my tool of choice: TheOldReader), you (1) get yourself some informal, ongoing social learning — which has got to have a positive effect on the classes you teach — and (2) arm yourself with an immediate answer to the question I'd personally put to all candidates for jobs in education today: "Describe your PLN to me…"

Coming next | Why teachers should use social media with learners

365 tweets: how to stop Twitter driving you insane

455 days ago (according to MetricSpot.com), I started tweeting a maximum once a day (an average of 0.80 tweets/day). When I reached 100 tweets, I lost a small bet to Kate, and have now lost a second by failing to get to 365 within 450 days ("Damn it", as Jack Bauer would say!).

Twitter activity

I am, however,  on Twitter several times a day, and recommend it as one of my favourite tools for teachers. When I did so the other day, someone said Twitter drives her "completely potty" so, for what it's worth, here are 10 newbie tips for using Twitter and retaining your sanity.

  1. Follow something important to you Find some subject or issue that really interests or concerns you and "follow" and engage with that — whatever it is. Two of my big interests outside work are photography and street art and it was when I started following various people on those subjects, ones that mattered to me, that I first thought, "Wow! Twitter is great!"
  2. Twitter is great for images For class, I detest seeing trainees and colleagues using Google-is-Evil Images, as the results — the pictures they take from there — are rarely worth their time, in terms of how much language they are going to get from the images. But following people like @500px or @HistoryInPics or @Life or even @TelegraphPics will bring you brilliant photographs for creative writing, apart from anything else, from which you're going to get so much more language.
  3. It's good for jobs alerts A significant percentage of the people on teacher training courses here at IH Barcelona are taking CELTA courses (or the Spanish teacher training equivalent) and are going to be looking for ELT jobs: if that's your case, even if you followed no one else, following @tefldotcom or @ESLjobfeed, among others, would make it worth your while to be on Twitter.
  4. Favourite things I tend to go on to Twitter on my phone, over breakfast, over a coffee, on the Metro, occasionally at traffic lights; I "favourite" a lot stuff to come back to and read at length, when I have more time…
  5. … and unfavourite things And then I go back and skim-read the articles and so on linked to, unfavouriting if it disappointed, but keeping the really interesting, useful things, so that my favourites are, to some extent, a bank of materials I can turn to for class.
  6. Who follows who Who other people follow is interesting (often who they follow are way more interesting!). It sometimes repays to, for example, go and check out the author (A) of a really interesting tweet that someone you already follow (B) has retweeted — as Person A sometimes turns out to be much more interesting than Person B. You want to "follow" B, you want to follow interesting people!
  7. Who you unfollow is as, if not more, important as who you follow, and you want to start to unfollow people if they start to irritate you, quite possibly with the sheer volume of their tweets and/or the fact that none of what they post ever interests you. Ditch them!
  8. Create your own "unfollow" rules It's actually quite fun to create "unfollow" rules: mine include instantly unfollowing anyone who ever mentions politics, posts a photo of a cat or of coffee, or boasts where they are in the world — whoever they are, including friends and family. With the referendum in Scotland yesterday and another coming up in Barcelona, I've been able to slash the number of people I follow dramatically!
  9. You need to learn to tweet There's a certain amount of "learning to tweet" involved but fortunately Twitter itself is a good place to learn things — like the (unofficial!) rules of engagement.
  10. 365 is a great idea If you're learning something, anything, but it applies particular to using technology, you want to use it regularly, and obliging yourself to use it once a day — whether it's a new camera, or an interactive whiteboard, Google Drive or a piece of new software — is a great way to go about it. I've learnt so much from 365 photography, sketching and writing projects I've been involved in and am happy to say that it got me hooked on Twitter, while my other 9 tips helped me retain at least a degree of sanity!

Coming next, my 10 favourite tweets, of which this is one:


Who's the captain of that ship? I've got so much in class by starting with that image, and that question!

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post no more than one thing a day, always and exclusively things that I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

What I learnt from my first 100 tweets

My first 100 twees

I lost a bet on this one (I owe you Kate!): I really didn't think I was going to get to 100 tweets. They were supposed to be one a day but it in fact took me 123 days to get there (stats shown were gathered with metricspot).

The figures shown must have been calculated on the first 99 for some reason. There are more details below but you can see that I probably didn't enter into nearly enough conversations (only 5% of my tweets were "replies") to fully appreciate that interesting Twitter avenue.

What the people I follow tweet
This is actually my second go with Twitter and, though I got to 100 (and beyond!), I'm still not convinced.

Occasionally there's something that makes you stop and think:

And occasionally, amongst all the chatter, there are practical ideas which are actually useful, like this:

 

And jobs! For anyone job-seeking, Twitter does seem useful, with sites like TEFL.com being worth following (see @tefldotcom).

What I tweeted
You can see below what I tweeted most. Apart from posts on my own blog (!), things on TeachThought were most common: what I like about it is that it makes you think about what you're doing in the classroom, particularly with regard to how technology is being used.

Next was The Guardian: I scan it every morning, not because I agree with its politics but for things that might make good materials for class (I loved the idea of learners creating something like this or this for example).

What I tweeted

Among the "mentions" I made, two of my favourite sources of materials for class: Kieran Donaghy's wonderful Film English and Luke Neff's brilliant Writing Prompts.

Twitter with learners
But what I was really interested in when I began back in June is discovering ways in which learners could use Twitter. Getting them to "follow" celebrities Kate tells me "works" for some but by no means all learners, with a big drop in interest after a week to ten days. There were several other projects we came up with but in the end — due to considerations of privacy (we're talking teens) — used Edmodo for them.

One that has worked really well (though again not with all): having teens "follow" feeds pumping out "inspirational quotes" (like @DavidRoads, for example), which really got learners — especially the girls — interested in reading (albeit in 140 character lots… or less!). Thanks to Sandy for trying that idea out.

And this idea for creative writing with Twitter is one I like a lot.

100 tweets later…
So, all in all, I'm surprised that — despite the appalling amount of frankly pretty pointless tweeting that goes on — Twitter actually can be useful; I am going to continue my one-a-day tweets (@Tom_IHBCN); but still think an RSS reader (I've been using theoldreader, since the demise of Google Reader) is way more organised and more useful.

Writing a decent CV

Among the many useful things waiting for me in my RSS feeds when I got back from holiday, there was a link to a post on Lifehacker explaining how to Avoid These 10 Resume Annoyances. You want to get the job, write a decent resume (aka curriculum vitae).

They are actually refering to an article on AOL which explains 10 Ways Your Resume Irks Hiring Managers:

#1 Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors

In another life, I was a "hiring manager" myself, employing people to work as English teachers. You spelled "English" without a capital letter on the CV you sent me? I trashed it immediately.

#10 A lack of professionalism [including] childish e-mail addresses

That's one I see a lot in my current occupation — ie. e-mail address that were probably funny when you were at college, but aren't going to impress the Director of Studies (DoS) in the average language school, like [email protected] or [email protected], for example. You've got one like that? Get yourself a new one!

Include a good photo
One thing I strongly disagree with in the AOL article: I think you definitely should include a (decent) photograph of yourself. If you get as far as an interview, don't expect a job offer on the spot. In a fortnight's time, the DoS is not going to remember everyone on his/her shortlist. That's what the photo is for!

Don't look like a mad axeman/woman!

See also:

>> Revamp your resume (Lifehacker.com)
>> Writing a good CV (celta-course.com)