With the rise and rise of social media, we’re constantly warned of hiding our internet profiles from potential employers; setting photos of nights out to private, and avoiding boss bad-talk online. But within the ELT industry, this tide is quickly turning – social media is no longer a hindrance, in fact, it’s an advantage. TEFL teachers are leveraging its power on a mass scale, not only to attract top-notch job offers, but to collect classroom ideas and connect with colleagues around the world. So, with that in mind, here are a few ways that you can market yourself as a TEFL teacher online:
Twitter is a rapid-fire community for the tech-savvy TEFL bunch, where teachers go to create, collaborate and discuss their industry. Joining in on the Twitter trend is as easy as piggy-backing a hashtag; there are countless specifically created for chats between teachers.
Don’t mix business with pleasure, however; keep a separate Twitter profile just for TEFL – use your full name, and specify your job and relevant interests in the bio. Make sure your photo is professional-looking and keep your tweets strictly business. By tweeting at the right people and sharing clickable content, you can establish yourself as a well-known industry voice.
Take Marisa Constantinides, for example, a CELTA and Delta tutor and moderator of the weekly #ELTchat discussion. She’s amassed over ten thousand followers, hundreds of which engage with her content on a daily basis. She shares interesting articles, photographs and lesson plans, as well as self-produced content across a number of blogs.
It’s all well and good to share other people’s articles, along with a piece of witty or insightful commentary, but the true TEFL Twitterati create their own content. Whether it’s a place to share lesson plans and ideas, a creative outlet, or a group project with students, professional looking and constantly-updated blogs are a great big gold star when employers type your name into Google.
If you’re not ready to start your own writing website, there are also a number of well-established, multi-author ELT blogs that welcome guest writers, such as EFL Magazine, ELT Jam and this one, right here!
One good example to follow is Angelos Bollas, who writes a variety of reflections on teacher training courses, classroom activity ideas, and his own thoughts on the industry. Similarly, there’s Lizzie Pinard: another insightful ELT blogger who’s won several awards and a great following.
Create an About.me
About.me is like an online front page for your résumé. Connected to your Twitter bio or blog, it gives potential employers a more in-depth look at your experience, qualifications and interests.
Most TEFL teachers with any kind of online presence also have an about.me page, where they’ve got a recent copy of their C.V, their current location, links to online social media and blogs, and their area of teaching expertise.
Once again, Marisa Constantinides’ About.me page covers all the right bases: she’s included not only her current work, but online and print publications, past volunteering experience, and several means of contact.
If you’ve got a lot of thoughts you want to get out (but very little time to actually type them), then creating a podcast is as simple as clicking ‘play’ on SoundCloud.
This online audio sharing tool is the perfect platform for recording and uploading your own, personal podcasts; whether you’re sharing ideas, discussing issues or just thinking aloud, it’s an easy way to create content. Plus, future employers can hear what you’ll sound like in the classroom – making it an especially great tool for non-native speakers needing to demonstrate their proficiency.
As an extension from their original blog, TEFL Reflections, Delta-qualified teachers Marek Kiczkowiak and Rob McCaul produce The TEFL Show; a series of half-hour long podcasts that tackle TEFL issues and ideas. It’s a great starting point for potential podcasters, looking for that little bit of starting inspiration.
Find your area of expertise for marketing yourself online
Whether it’s technology in the classroom or teaching children in Spain, pick an area that interests you most in the world of English teaching, and make it your thing. There are so many thousands of ESL teachers out there tweeting and blogging about generic TEFL issues and ideas, being specific is akin to standing out.
While not exactly a personal blog, one good example is ELT Jam. It stands out from many other TEFL-related blogs because it focuses specifically on the use of technology in teaching, and implementing apps and online tools in the classroom.
By becoming a name in your specific area, you stand out to employers as someone with a great deal of knowledge and – more importantly – a bucket load of passion.
A few social media don’ts
- Don’t connect with your students on social media – it’s important to keep this kind of professional relationship offline and in the classroom only. Sometimes, it’s ok to become online friends with ex-students after graduation, but it’s still best to check with your school’s internet policy to avoid any discrepancies.
- Don’t complain about your workplace in public. A wise man once said that anything written online is never really deleted – especially with readily available tools to screenshot and archive tweets and Facebook updates you thought you’d gotten rid of. If you need to vent about your school, work conditions or disruptive students, tell it to your (non-ELT involved) friends, or write it in a journal the old fashioned way (just make sure it’s non discoverable either).
- Don’t use social media during work hours. Unless it’s part of your job description, it’s best to avoid logging into your online networks while working. While your employer may not see you hiding that smartphone under the desk, there’s a tricky little thing called a timestamp that’ll give you away every time.
The best Twitter hashtags for TEFL teachers
ELT Chat originally started in 2010, when teachers around the world began using the hashtag to collaborate and connect. Now, for an hour every Wednesday afternoon, it’s a hive of activity: often hundreds of teachers, trainers and bloggers are online, all discussing that week’s pre-selected topic. Then, one of the involved Twitter users writes up a summary at the end of it, which is then shared across a number of blogs.
This hashtag is specifically for the booming TEFL industry in Australia, but usually covers a variety of topics relevant to teachers worldwide. Much like ELT Chat, Aus ELT picks a predetermined topic to discuss each week. It’s also an online space for Australian-based teachers to connect and share ideas.
While not specifically targeted at English teaching, Ed Tech is still a brilliant hashtag to follow for current and aspiring TEFL teachers. It basically looks at all different elements of incorporating technology in the ESL classroom, with more tips on social media use, helpful apps and computer programs to aid learning.