1. Earn a degree in English education.
It's the traditional route to becoming an English teacher. There are undoubtedly many colleges with quality teacher-training programs in your state. It's best to attend an "accredited" program—one with approval from the the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. In college, the riches of the world's literary tradition will cultivate a larger, more dynamic worldview, a tendency to ask big questions, and a love of learning. Your education courses probably won't seem as mind-blowing by comparison. These courses—psychology of learning, pedagogy (style and technique), and classroom management, to name a few—will remind you that this job will not be all fun and beauty, but is actually quite complex and technical.
2. Hone your English skills in college.
Figure 6.2 If you write 'there' when you mean 'they're,' I don't want to see you." —An excerpt from Mr. Johnston's eHarmony profile
Learn a second language. If you want to become an English teacher, you'll need to know your language intimately. In may seem strange, but learning a second language is one of the best ways to do this. It's also rewarding in its own right.
Work as a writing tutor. Let me count the benefits: 1) As much is learned through teaching, you'll become a better writer. 2) It's practical teaching experience in your discipline. 3) It's something you can put on a résumé. 4) It's a good way to meet and impress attractive peers with your linguistic largess.
3. Intern with a salty English teacher.
Here is where you learn how to become an English teacher. The internship, or "student teaching," lasts for twelve weeks. The first week is usually spent observing your mentor and try, with mixed results, not to panic. Gradually, more and more responsibilities will be yours until you're the teacher, and the mentor observes, critiques, and enjoys a much-needed respite (look it up, English teacher).
4. Obtain a teaching licence.
Jump through some hoops like a good circus monkey. States have different requirements for certification, but you'll need to have completed a certain number of credits (classes), your internship, and some competency exams in your subject area and English education. Some states also require that you maintain a certain grade point average, and a few even insist that you pursue a master's degree within a certain number of years after graduation. As difficult as the job is, I think this is a good idea.
5. Get a job, avoid debtor's prison.
Figure 6.3 Edgar Allan Poe—inventor of the detective story and Emo chic.
There are plenty of places to look for jobs. Try your local newspaper, career fairs, your school's career center, or online. If you're willing to move, you should be able to find work. Inner-city schools are in need of teachers, as are districts in rural, remote areas. You could also become an English teacher in another country—the world is hungry for the sweet nectar of our mother tongue.
Try substitute teaching until you land a job. They pay you at least $100 a day, and you don't have to do much. Subbing is a great way to get a job; it gives teachers and administrators a chance to get to know you and your obvious talents (what could replace that semicolon, English teacher?).
6. Advance your career, earn fatter checks.
Go back to school. Get your master's degree. Specialize in certain areas of the discipline. Or, get certification with The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Theses things will push you up the pay scale, but more importantly, you'll become a more effective English teacher. Some English teachers move on to become curriculum coordinators, reading specialists, or even administrators.
Perform more duties in the school. Coach sports, start a book club, direct a play, tutor, or serve on committees, just to name a few options. There are plenty of responsibilities you can take on to earn more money. And most districts pay more for experience. Every year you hang on, you'll make a little more money. This becomes significant several years into a career.
Other Ways to Become an English Teacher
Teachers are in short supply in some areas of the country, and the major of "education" has seen a decline in popularity in recent years. And so, to fill the void, states are putting well-educated (bachelor's degree with pertinent experience) individuals on the fast track to the classroom. Contact your state board of education. They will have a department dedicated to this purpose.