TEFL Things I wish I had known before starting the course.

To embark upon yet another career at the ripe old >?age of 51, may seem like madness to most people. However, most >?people would not have given up a successful 27 yr career in Nursing >?as I had done 7 yrs previously. This was to take a fitness >?qualification that enabled me to have??a “midlife” crisis, and >?become a fitness professional and eventually a Club Manager.

>?However, the realization that advancing middle age was not >?conducive to teaching aerobics classes forever, led me to the >?beautiful island of Phuket in March 2007. My plan was to qualify as >?a TEFL teacher and remain on the island for a year at least, >?practicing my newly aquired skills. Yes, I could have done it in >?England, but where was my spirit of adventure? (I wish I had known >?how hot it was going to be!) ?I wish I had known that it may not be >?as easy as all that. Teaching jobs are harder to find on the island >?and the government has recently cracked down on foreign teachers to >?rightly protect standards. I had done no really solid research into >?the course, after all, everyone I had spoken with thought it was a >?great idea! Hmmm! Not exactly research based evidence! I knew it >?would involve some grammar and some teaching practice…….nothing I >?couldn’t handle!! My well- meaning friends had forgotten to tell me >?just how intensive the course would be; that I would be learning >?grammar points I had never heard of before, and that teaching real >?live students would begin 2 days into the course! The first 2 days >?we were lulled into a false sense of security. A couple of gentle >?input sessions, and time to observe the experts at work. Halfway >?through that first week ……teaching! Now we get down to the real >?stuff, lesson planning and the delivery of a 43 minute lesson >?taught via the ESA methodology.

>?I wish I had known that I would have to wear proper shoes whilst >?teaching! Every lesson I taught was observed by a different >?trainer, who helped with the preparation of the lesson as well. >?There is a structured system of very positive feedback as well, and >?the lessons are ongoing throughout the course, varying the student >?levels so that you gain experience of teaching different groups.

>?Second week……..GRAMMAR! This was the part I had been dreading. It >?had never been this difficult during my schooldays! Verbs, nouns, >?pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, present, past and future tenses, yes >?they were all familiar. But hold on a minute! What’s this past? >?perfect continuous bit? Future perfect? Present continuous? Better >?knuckle down and get the grey cell activated. Worse was to come! Ah >?yes! The wonderful International Phonetic Alphabet. Now I am >?struggling with symbols as well as tenses. At the end of week 2 I >?am slightly shell shocked, but optimistic. I have practiced my >?tense table(invaluable) and learned my phonetic vowels and >?consonants(voiced and unvoiced), but still have to conquer verb >?usages and dipthongs.

My optimism was dashed at the start of week >?3. Thrown into the mix were conditionals, reported speech, modals >?and the cherry on the top passive voice. Now it was really >?beginning to sound like gobbledegook! To make matters worse our? >?overly cheery trainer??kept assuring us that we would all be >?getting high marks in the exam on Monday. ( I wish I had known >?before I took the course that the trainer would be a manic, >?caffeine addicted American!)( But he’s great really) Not only a 3 >?hr exam, but at least 3 more teaching sessions, plus a student >?profile to complete, not to mention some ridiculous research >?article to write.

Now strangely enough by the end of week 3 >?an unnatural calm had descended upon me. I had done quite a lot of >?study, and I had also managed a good teaching practice with plenty >?of positive feedback that had bolstered my spirits. Pennies were >?beginning to drop regarding the grammar points and the phonetics >?looked almost readable….something must be going in after all. Maybe >?I would be o.k. on Monday after all? All in all a great experience. >?If only I’d got my visa extended before I’d come out here. I wish >?I’d known that before starting the course.

>?I knew grammar would be tricky, I wish I’d known just how tricky it >?was for me personally. I wish I’d known how great all??the trainers >?were, and how encouraging. I’m so glad I did it!

Author: Fiona Gough

Date of post: 2007-04-18