What the ELT is this job?

I haven’t posted for a while, and that’s partly because there’s been a lot of changes going on. I’m back in the UK, for a start (Yes, of course I miss Spain!), and have landed a job in an area of ELT that’s new to me: teaching international students at a boarding school in the UK.

Although a couple of my teacher friends started doing a similar thing a few months before me, I hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to them about it, and I hadn’t read any blogs about this type of ELT either. At first, I thought it would be a bit like my summer school experience, and in a way it is, with activities, Saturday working and pastoral concerns, etc, but there were some differences which surprised me.

  1. I am no longer the teacher called Emma. I now share a name with all the other female teachers: Miss.
  2. This is the first time since the CELTA that I’ve taught 35-40 minute lessons. I am still surprised at how little you can get done.
  3. Because the majority of the students at the school are native English speakers, most of the time what you hear most of the students speaking is fluent English. That was weird and continued to be weird for some time.
  4. The international students have for the most part been at the school for a couple of years at least and as they live at the school, they practice speaking ALL THE TIME. A focus on fluency is not top of the priority list.
  5. I don’t have to grade my language nearly as much as I’m used to. These guys have a lot of vocabulary that EFL students of the same level just don’t have.
  6. My students seem to have an appreciation of English grammar that matches native English students. They use the second conditional, but they’ve no idea a) what it’s called, b) how to form it or c) how to define when it’s used.
  7. The students have various reasons for learning English at boarding school here: to get by in their other subjects, which are all taught in English, to get the IELTS score they need for university, to improve their English by immersion, and to survive in British culture.
  8. There is yet another exam that Cambridge produced, called the IGCSE in ESL. It’s B1-B2ish in level and has a slight academic focus in that a couple of exercises in the exam are note-taking and summary writing. This reminds me of EAP so I love it. It reminds my students of working hard so they hate it.
  9. Sometimes I have to wear a gown and I feel like I’m in Hogwarts.

As I said, I haven’t been able to find any other bloggers writing about this kind of work, and partly that’s because I’m not sure what to search for. We call it TESOL, even though the students are obviously not learning teaching, but it’s not ESOL either, as that is associated with adults who have moved to an English-speaking country and need to get by doing all the things that grown ups do (that’s the case in the UK, at least). Some schools call it EAL, which is often associated with younger children whose families live in this country but speak their native language at home. Have you heard of any other names for this kind of English Language teaching?

I would be very happy to connect with anyone else who is doing a similar sort of job to share ideas, etc. Drop me a line in the comments if that’s you!



  1. Hi Emma! Congrats on the new job! Sounds like you’re enjoying it.

    I’ve come across this type of work the length and breadth of the country at both primary and secondary level – in each case it’s been called EAL: English as an Additional Language. The teachers I’ve met who work in this area haven’t usually come into it from an ELT background – they’ve all started out as PGCE teachers or Teaching Assistants. For that reason, you might have better luck searching for mainstream education blogs that might have a few posts on EAL.

    Best of luck and hope you enjoy the rest of the year, Hogwarts gown and all 🙂

    1. Thanks, Anthony. I have of course searched for EAL and found some things that can be adapted but, it’s funny – we don’t quite fit into that category either!

  2. You might find useful contacts and info via NALDIC (National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum). Basically it’s the EAL association in the UK. NATECLA (National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults) is also having more and more a focus on teens, as there are more and more ESOL students of that age in colleges and other providers.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I’d heard of both of those but wasn’t sure if they applied to this particular situation. I’ll check them out, though.

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