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What does an English Teacher do?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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In general, English teachers instruct middle school, high school and college students about reading and writing in the English language. They teach grammar, composition, reading comprehension, literature and more. In college-level programs for English majors, English instructors teach very specialized classes in topics such as middle English, writing short stories, literary theory and more. The job responsibilities of an English teacher will vary depending on the level of the students that he or she teaches.

An English teacher at the middle school level might teach more generalized classes that discuss a variety of topics such as grammar, composition and literature. A high school English teacher might teach both general classes and specific topics such as creative writing. College-level English instructors often teach classes focused on very specific areas, such as American literature, novel writing, journalism and others.

An English teacher might teach as many as six class periods a day or as few as two or three a day, depending on where he or she teaches. Typical daily duties of an English teacher include preparing, assigning and grading lessons and homework and evaluating students and preparing progress reports. They instruct students in the classroom through both lectures and hands-on activities.

English teachers at the middle school and high school levels meet and interact with parents to provide updates on student progress as part of their jobs. At college and university levels, English teachers often have designated office hours, during which they spend time meeting with students one-on-one to answer questions and provide more personalized instruction. College and university English teachers frequently are professionals in language arts fields such as poetry, novel writing or journalism.

Some teachers travel to countries where the native language is not English in order to teach the English language to people there. English teachers instructing in non-English-speaking countries might instruct young students or university students, or they might teach classes for businesses or corporations. Some of the countries that have high demand for English teachers include Japan, Brazil and Spain.

The educational requirements for English teachers will differ depending on where they instruct. At the middle school and high school levels, they generally will need at least a bachelor's degree and a teaching credential. English teachers in middle schools and high schools sometimes are called language arts teachers. College and university English teachers, also called professors, typically have master's degrees or doctorate degrees. To teach English abroad, a four-year degree often is required, and English-as-a-second-language certification might also be required, depending on the country.

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Discussion Comments

By allenJo — On May 08, 2011

There are tons of resources available for English teachers nowadays, much more than when I was in school. You can get lesson plans and worksheets from English teacher websites and connect with other teachers on the web.

By nony — On May 07, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - You don’t have to look overseas if you really want to become an English teacher. Here in the United States there are some alternative paths to teacher certification. Usually they ask you to take some classes to get some provisional certification. They open these programs up in subjects where they really need teachers, like math and science. So if you are an engineer by trade and decide you want to teach you could go through some of these programs and eventually become a math teacher in middle school or high school. If you’re interested I’d check with your local education association in your state.

By SkyWhisperer — On May 06, 2011

@David09 - That’s an awesome experience. I’ve wanted to teach overseas for quite some time myself too. I have a friend who teaches in Dubai and she lives in a compound over there. It’s just like you said, the school pays all the expenses and the rest is gravy. She’s been doing that for over ten years. I don’t think she’ll ever quit; the benefits are just too good.

By David09 — On May 04, 2011

I landed a job as an English teacher in Indonesia shortly after college. I didn’t have a teaching degree or certification, but I did have a B.A. in English, and got the job through a friend of mine. It’s who you know as they say. What was interesting about this job was that it was not an ESL job, though it was overseas. It was a national school following an international school curriculum. This basically meant that they brought over the American curriculum and we taught just as if we were teaching in an American school. I taught 5th and 6th grade students, using the same novels that kids here read. The students were already conversant in English themselves so conversation and basic literacy was not a major problem.

I suppose the thing I liked most about being an English teacher was the respect I got. Teachers here don’t get the respect they deserve in my opinion. Of course the pay wasn’t bad either. My salary there was much better than the average English teacher salary that you would get in the United States for the same amount of work. On top of that, the school paid for most of the expenses. I’d definitely recommend the opportunity to go overseas and teach English for anyone who has the desire. Not all opportunities will pay the same, but the experience is still worthwhile.

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