Becoming an English Coach
Becoming an English Coach
By Verdell Brookens-Capps
The term ‘Language Coaching’ has steadily increased in visibility over the last few years. Before anyone can hope to become an English Coach, however, it is important to be clear on the difference between coaching and teaching.
English Coaching isn’t synonymous with English Teaching and it is not English teaching in disguise. English coaching involves some components of teaching but takes a more holistic approach, while teaching generally requires following a syllabus and often focuses on standardized content, or teaching for a specific purpose.
While English Coaches know how to teach, not every teacher knows how to coach. You must learn to teach before you coach, and as you coach your teaching improves. English Coaching is more involved and is a process that transforms the Coach and the student-client simultaneously. Both parties are affected by the relationship.
It is no simple matter to determine where teaching ends and coaching begins, but by considering what it takes to become an English Coach, my hope is that some of the similarities and differences will become more apparent. That, then, is the goal of this article.
Why should you become an English Coach?
In an increasingly global environment, students who have studied English have greater work prospects in their home country and abroad. As a result, the demand for learning English is high and the demand for teachers is even higher. The English learning industry is projected to reach $69.62 billion by 2029 according to research done by Meticulous Research on the English learning market. English learning is a good market but also very saturated. Nowadays, everyone ‘can’ teach English. You can become TEFL certified in a day through some online companies. However not every ‘qualified’ TEFL teacher has a positive impact on their learner’s outcome.
The online TEFL industry has made teaching ‘easy’- I’m not saying it shouldn’t be easy but sadly, having resources at our fingertips, and being spoon fed ‘how to teach’ lessons can negatively impact a teacher’s development and creativity and limits teacher autonomy. Online TEFL companies remove lesson planning in order to appeal to more teachers but at the student’s loss. Many online TEFL teachers don’t know how to teach a lesson, let alone provide effective feedback to the learner.
English coaches make use of effective teaching methodologies, possess strong language awareness, and know how to plan a lesson. These are the English coach’s foundations, and they have more autonomy to use these teaching skills in addition to their own charisma and personality to customize learning plans for their student-clients compared to an English teacher who often follows a standardized syllabus. English coaches are emotionally and mentally involved in their student-clients' learning process.
Ambitious English learners want results. They value customized learning plans, effective feedback, and practical strategies over ‘standardized’ content and textbook ‘solutions’. In an oversaturated market where everyone ‘can teach’, becoming an English Coach gives you an advantage and will make you highly sought after.
Lights, Camera, Action: Putting on a show
The online EFL market for young learners is often about putting on a show. For adults it becomes a bit more ‘technical’ but still, even the adult student-base through many EFL companies have ‘standardized’ lessons that are often outdated and do not include ‘real’ or relevant English.
In an oversaturated market, how do you set yourself apart? For those whose CV currently contains too little in the way of experience, or too few qualifications beyond initial teacher training, one way to prevent your qualities being overlooked by employers is to focus on the results you can deliver to your students.
As an English Coach your job is to transform your student’s English learning abilities. If you can provide transformational results, you will become a high valued English Coach. When it comes to online English coaching, there is still a stage on which you perform but the lesson also represents a diagnostic center in which you evaluate the student-client. All of your expertise, experiences, and knowledge are put in the spotlight.
Build Confidence: Fake it till you make it?
We often meet learners who are short on confidence, and our job is to help them to discover an awareness of what they can do. But the same is often true on the side of the teacher or coach - impostor syndrome strikes early and often. The temptation is there to fake it until you make it, to enter the classroom with the confidence to teach even if you don’t quite know what you’re doing (you often do, but it certainly feels that way at the outset. I know it did for me!).
But in coaching it is critical that you don’t fake it. Coaching builds so much more on the rapport you develop with your student-client - but it also builds on the skills you bring to the classroom, skills that may have been developed far outside the teaching context. Finding your way, your voice, and your teaching style will happen with time. It is important to recognize your current abilities and be able to identify areas of improvement but do not count yourself out due to fear of the unknown.
As an English Coach your relationship with your student-client is very sensitive. You want to be authentic and honest and to provide accurate information and techniques to support your charges.
It’s not uncommon for a new teacher to be petrified when their students ask questions about meaning or pronunciation. The fear of not knowing the answer or being unprepared is a common concern. The more you teach, the more you become comfortable with not knowing. As an English Teacher you have a curriculum to follow and more guided support. We can think of coaching then as like teaching if teaching was on steroids - as a teacher you could be asked difficult questions about the material in the book, and this is often enough to leave teachers feeling stumped. But as a coach, it is conceivable that your student-client will arrive at the lesson with a question that you could never hope to prepare for. In fact, coaches encourage their students to prepare such challenges - it speaks to the heart of coaching, to the idea that the student-client is central (and not the coursebook or the level that matters most).
I’d advise newly qualified teachers to get a good foundation in lesson planning and understanding various teaching methodologies before launching full time as an English Coach - while it is perfectly acceptable to tell your student-client that you will need to get back to them with a good answer to their question, doing so continuously will erode the coaching side of your lessons, and could leave your student wondering just what exactly they had signed up for.
Despite all my teacher training, my educational background, and being a native speaker, when I first began teaching EFL I was so consumed with fear because of my awareness of how much I didn’t know. It took years before I could take my bearings and become comfortable with my students. Even when you become ‘comfortable’ in your knowledge, continuous professional development is necessary. The English language is lively and evolving, so staying relevant is important. In addition, maintaining an awareness of the pragmatics of language and how these change with time and context is important if you want your student-client to achieve their learning goals.
Once you’ve established the foundational elements mentioned above, the door is open to saying that you are an English Coach, and building a student-client base is the next step. But that is a story for another time…
Meticulous Research. (n.d.). English language learning market worth $69.62 billion by 2029. English Language Learning Market Worth $69.62 billion by 2029 | Meticulous Market Research Pvt. Ltd. Retrieved from https://www.meticulousresearch.com/pressrelease/32/english-language-learning-market-2029 utm_source=PRnewswire&utm_medium=Paid&utm_campaign=Product&utm_content=04-10-2022
Verdell, a Chicago (USA), native began her teaching experience at IH-London as a trainee and continued in the IH network across Europe and Asia. She’s worked in many roles, from teacher to Young Learner Coordinator and in-house trainer. Currently based in Ghana, West Africa she has founded an online coaching service, Emerging English Coaching(EEC). Through EEC she coaches both EFL students and teachers.