Posted in All about TEFL (Courses and Finding work)

What to ask at a TEFL interview

You sit back, take a deep breath and relax. The person sitting opposite you has asked all of their questions and you have acquitted yourself pretty well. Your interview for a TEFL job has been a success.

Your interviewer thinks you are motivated, enthusiastic, creative, professional, responsible, dedicated. You give yourself a mental pat on the back and have the urge to make that ironic, self-congratulatory gesture when you close your palm, breath on the top digits of your fingers and rub them on your chest .

The interviewer turns to you again, peers over the top of their glasses and smiles:

So, is there anything you’d like to ask me?

You think for a moment, an image of a cold beer pops into your mind. In a few minutes, you could be sitting in the sun feeling proud about your performance in the interview, how you didn’t bat an eyelid when confronted with the question about the best way to teach the Past Continuous. All you have to do is say: “No questions actually, I think we’ve covered everything”. Hearing these words, the interviewer will shake your hand and offer you work, starting on Monday.

WARNING – NOT ALL LANGUAGE ACADEMIES HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART AND YOUR ELATION AT BEING OFFERED WORK WILL SOON TURN INTO DISGRUNTLEMENT UNLESS YOU CONFIRM THE FOLLOWING:

What, if any, type of contract are you being offered?

How much and how often will you get paid? Gross? Net? Holiday pay? Sickness? Cancellation by students?

Where and when are the classes taking place? At the academy? On-site? At student’s homes? Will you get travel costs?

Do the students have a coursebook? If not, are there materials available at the school? Are you expected to create your own lessons?

Is there a photocopier at the academy? Reference materials? Board markers? Internet access?

How many students are in each class? Have they been level-tested? Age?

Does the school provide teacher training? Observations? Teaching mentors?

If you feel that the interviewer is being evasive, think twice before accepting a position at the academy. There are some unscrupulous employers in the TEFL industry and asking simple questions like the ones above should help you make an informed choice about whether you want to accept the job or not.

Posted in All about TEFL (Courses and Finding work)

5 things to do before starting your TEFL course

So, you’ve been accepted onto a TEFL course. How are you feeling?

  • Relaxed because you are a fluent English speaker with a good educational background.
  • Perhaps you feel a little trepidation as one of your friends took the course and said it was one of the toughest months of her life.
  • Maybe you’re worried that you’re not going to ‘cut the mustard’, ‘hack it’, ‘pass muster’.

TEFL courses are tough. We try to squeeze 5 weeks worth of input into a 4-week time period. Not our fault as it’s just the way the market has evolved. What can help is doing a bit of preparation before the course starts.

Here are 5 things you should do to prepare for a TEFL course:

In at number 5, read a book or two, some articles even, about TEFL. You’ll experience what it’s all about on your course but a little background reading won’t hurt. Remember that “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”  The Jeremy Harmer book shown above is a great primer and includes a DVD with real-life scenes from a classroom. A cheaper and shorter alternative is from the Teach Yourself stable of guides.

Jeremy Harmer. How to Teach English. Pearson Longman.

David Riddell. Teach Yourself: Teach English as a Foreign Language.

At number 4, find out what a phonemic chart is and familiarise yourself with some of the sounds and symbols in the English language. Why not go to the BBC British Council Teach English website and play around with it:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/phonemic-chart

Straight on to number 3. Brush up on your grammar. Learn what a verb is, a noun, an adjective, a dangling subjunctive participle relative pronoun clause (don’t worry, I made the last one up). You don’t need to become an expert but knowing the basics will mean that you’ll hit the ground running when you start the course.

Michael Swan. Practical English Usage. Oxford University Press.

Martin Parrott. Grammar for English Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press.

Heading down the home straight now.

At number 2, ask the TEFL centre if you can come in and observe a class. If that fails, see if there are any English schools / academies close by and ask if they’ll let you sit in on a class. The most important thing is that you see a teacher and their class in action. The DVD accompanying the Harmer book will help too. You should watch demonstration classes on your course before you teach but the more exposure to the TEFL environment the better.

Finally, at number 1 with a bullet is….have a beer / red wine / coffee / tipple of your choice with some friends before the course. Let your hair down and relax. The course is intensive and you’ll probably have to do assignments and teaching preparation at weekends so partying during the course may knock you off your stride. Besides, once you start the course, you will alienate close friends and family with your endless references to eliciting, correction strategies and, most egregious of all, your constant correction and reformulation of their grammar!!

So, if you are embarking upon a TEFL course sometime soon. Do some preparation and you’ll have time and energy to enjoy it. Good luck.

Posted in All about TEFL (Courses and Finding work), Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

What is TEFL anyway?

What does TEFL stands for?

a) Tax evasion for fraudulent lawyers

b) Talking excitedly to foreign ladies

c) Teaching English as a Foreign Language

If you answered c, you have come to the right site and you probably are a TEFL teacher, a prospective TEFL teacher, or a single male TEFL teacher or prospective single male  TEFL teacher that is frantically googling `Talking excitedly to foreign ladies‘ as it sounds far more exciting!

What about TESOL, CELTA, ESL, EFL etc.?

There is many acronyms and intialisms in the world of English Language Teaching (ELT). Some of them are used in the UK whereas others are used in other English speaking countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia. For a detailed discussion of the precise meanings of these terms, I refer you to Mr Wikipedia. Quite frankly though, I wouldn’t bother, it will give you a migraine. For the purposes of this blog, I will generally refer to TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language as opposed to teaching it to native speakers) and ELT (English language teaching).

Well, what is a TEFL course then?

Again, there is some confusion over the precise terms but they all refer to initial training courses which enable adults to become English teachers to non-native speakers. They can be done full-time (4 long and intensive weeks), part-time (over a period of between 3 and 9 months) and can be done F2F (face-to-face in a traditional classroom setting) or online (like distance learning over the Internet) or as a blended course ( a mixture of F2F and online).

What does the course consist of?

Most course combine input sessions (lessons where you learn about the English language and how to teach it), written projects (such as creating a set of classroom materials or planning a course of study for an individual student) and the dreaded Teaching Practice (where you get to practise your teaching skills on local guinea pigs  before being savagely torn apart by your tutors who observe and obsessively note down every minor mistake you make). BEWARE: 100% ONLINE COURSES DO NOT TEACH YOU HOW TO TEACH! In order to learn how to teach, you have to teach – that’s called experiential learning. I love watching movies, reading about movies and watching documentaries about movies. Does that make me the next Martin Scorsese? If you complete the course fulfilling the requirements – all the assignments, tests and your tutor thinks you can teach a class of learners without physically, mentally, emotionally or linguistically scarring them for life – then, and only then on any decent course, you will be given a certificate and let loose in the ELT world.

What can I do with a TEFL certificate?

In the words of a former trainee, an inveterate inventor of malaproprisms,: `With a TEFL certificate in my pocket, the world is my lobster!’ A cursory glance at a website such as TEFL.com : http://www.tefl.com/ will reveal hundreds of English teaching jobs all around the world. We recommend that you look for work in Spain as there’s a huge demand and, crisis notwithstanding, it’s a great place to live.

Well, there we are. I hope I answered a few questions about TEFL. In future blogs, we’ll be (adopts best David Attenborough voice)  going deeper and deeper into the mysterious TEFL world. Hope you join us..